So for a long time I've thought about Ice Fishing as a possibility but usual turn off my interest due to perceived costs of gearing up properly to be able to go. Mostly I could look at the costs of augers, poles, sleds, and all of the other accessories that one might use and see it quickly add up for something that I might not find all that much fun.... Well I guess I had shared my thoughts a few times with my boss at work to the point that he one day said something along the lines of, "you know it doesn't take much more then an auger to go and those are not that much if you don't focus on the top brands"... Well a few weeks later that turned into a comment from my boss along the lines of, "I'd be happy to share the cost of an auger with you"... Then later to, "Hey I bought an auger over the weekend and no you have no more excuses"... Well I guess I didn't. So we made plans to hit up Rockport and give things a try.
I made a couple strike indicator tips to use on our 5'-6' long ultra light poles that were the best options we both had. I simple took my wire I use to make spinners and made a loop about the size of the eye at the end of my poles. Bent it at 90 degrees to act as an eye and then powder painted the eye and the last 2" of the indicator blaze orange. I then used a stick of hot melt glue to make a "clamp" to attach the indicator to the pole. Simply I cut a 3/4" piece and drilled a hole down lengthwise. Then I cut through to this hold down one side again lengthwise so that it could open up like a "C" down the whole length. I then took the end of the wire and pressed it into this modified piece of hot melt glue stick so that it went down the length at the back of the "C". Now I just had to open up the "C" channel in the stick and let it grab and hold around the end of my pole. This was really just a poor mans mockup of a product you can find in the stores... But I made it and it worked well enough for us.
We both found a snow sled we had for our kids to use as our gears transportation. They clearly were not the dream option but they worked well enough for our trial run at ice fishing. I also modified up my fish finder so that I could use it from a small cooler I have that I also use from my small aluminum boat. The big change was how the transducer clamped on so that I could clamp it to the cooler and then let the cooler sit next to an ice hole with the transducer down in the water. This also worked pretty well.
So the way things worked out we didn't try to be there too early so that we would not have to deal with things being overly cool as well as we had seen reports that the morning bite might be later in the morning. I think we got to the lake just before 11am and had picked and made our way down to the water by about 11:30am. Reports had said that fish were in about 20' of water and we questioned if that meant the water was only 20' deep or if regardless of depth of the water the fish were only 20' down... So we simply took inventory of the existing holes in the ice where other anglers had been in the days before. We picked on far enough from a few other anglers on the ice but close enough that we could watch what others were doing and see if we could not learn a bit.
The fish finder marked fish every so often as they moved through under us and we started to have a few light hits. The home made indicators proved very useful for seeing those light bites. However we were both newbs when it came to being prepared to be on the mark to set the hook and we missed a good number of opportunities. We ended up moving around a few more times getting closer to the shore and continued to see fish move through and a few light strikes here and there. I managed one fair rainbow onto the hard deck to take home cleaning the smell of skunk from at least myself... ;)
I think we headed off the water sometime before 3pm. The edges where clearly softer then when we had come out in the morning and the value of waterproof boots and a bit of a jump helped get out without too much trouble. The sleds proved to be less optimal for the trip back up the hill to the vehicle as we both had a spill or two on the way up but we made it regardless. Either better sleds or a better tie down setup is needed to keep things on the sled. Here are a few pics of the trip:
In the end I'm very interested in doing this again and owe that to Guy for being bold enough to just buy the auger and leave me with little/no reason not to give it a try. I've already picked up some closeout poles from Cabela's to use next year. That was mostly because in the end the most annoying thing was using to long of a pole over the ice holes. Well second to that would be needing better pole holders then just trying to prop your poles over your sled and above the ice hole. So I figure I'm ready to see how this might pan out over time.