"The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope." John Buchan

Sunday, January 25, 2015

3 Trips to Strawberry Reservoir on the Ice

So I've been slow to write these up so I'm combining them into one post.

This all started on January 16th (Alex's Birthday) where he and I headed up to Strawberry to spend the morning together ice fishing.  We got started a little slower then we wanted to but we still got up to the Strawberry Marina and onto the ice by about 10:30am.  We had had some advice sent our way via a PM on BigFishTackle that suggested we take a right at the bottom of the marina boat launch and head into baddger bay.  We were to target about 30' of water and fish between 12' and 25' down.

We got setup in 40' of water (there was a minor city forming up where we got told to try) as that was about as close as I felt was "polite" to be to others.  The finder showed a number of fish marks that came through at various depths so we got our poles setup to try different levels and see what would happen.  We probably stay'ed in that location longer then we should have, but it took until about noon before anything actually happened.  Within about a 5 minute window I had one of my poles bend and I hooked into a nice ~18" Cut and a group just next to us also (at about the same depth as us) hooked into a Cut as well.  Looked to be about the same size.

 That was about as much action as we had (or anyone around us) for a while more.  So we stayed there till just before 1pm and then we figured we would move and try another spot until we headed home.  We moved over to just east of the boat launch a few dozen yards and setup in about 12' of water.  Again about as close to others as we felt comfortable.  We were there for less then 15 minutes before I had another on my line that was fighting quite well but before I could get it's head into the hole it broke off.  Looks like it broke at the knot.  I'd guess it was near the same size as my last fish, though it looked to have had a whiter tone to it's belly, maybe a rainbow?  Anyway a bit after that Alex had a big bit on one of his lines and he missed the hook set.  That was it until it was time to head home for the rest of our plans for Alex's birthday.


The next trip was on the 19th.  Alex, Max and I headed back up to try again at Strawberry.  We got an earlier start and got up to the lake and on the ice by about 9am.  We didn't go to the same spot as it was already overrun with people.  So we took the road that goes up to the "dry storage" area near the marina that gives you a view down toward Mud Creek.  We parked along the road and pulled the sled down to the small bay north of the marina.  There were only 2 - 3 other groups on the ice there and it looked like an interesting place to fish.  We setup just on the outside of the bay on the southern end in about 20' of water.  Goal for the day was to get both Alex and Max to land something, and a bonus would be that some of them might be rainbows we could take home for dinner.

Alex had his first fish landed by about 10am.  It was a nice slot Cut so we snapped a couple pictures and sent it back.

Then about a half an hour later Alex landed #2 slot Cut.  Even though Alex was only 10' over from Max and me it got me wondering what kind of a difference that might be making.  Alex had had a strike or two that he had missed along with both of these nice fish and Max and I had had nothing.

Finally about 20 or so minutes later we had a fish near one of the poles Max and I were running that we saw on the finder.  We watched it slide up to our lure and the pole tip dipped down.  We set the hook and Max started to bring the fish in.  Landed his first slot Cut for the day with a big grin on his face.

Things slowed down after that and just after noon we decided to move.  Some of the other groups had left so we moved over to the north side of the bay and we were able to come back into the bay a bit.  We lined up near a point and setup in about 12' of water.  While setting up Alex found he was over a weed bed so we had him make sure he kept his lure just above the weeds and Max and I were weed free but about the same depth just a few feed further out then Alex was.

We had Max's pole get anther light bite that just dipped the tip every so slightly (and we were just lucky to be watching).  So we set the hook and Max was at it again bringing in his #2 slot Cut, with just a bit more of a grin then the first.

The weather had been quite nice the whole day, though we learned Max's boots left a lot to be desired (hole in one let moisture in) but we all quite happy with the time spent on the ice.  Max was also quite happy with the transportation arrangement he was able to negotiate for the trip back to the Jeep.

Then to finish the trip off here is a set of nice panoramics from up near the Jeep first looking north toward Mud Creek and then panning around to looking toward the marina.


The last of the 3 trips was on the 23rd.  Jason and I planned to head up without any of the kids to do some fishing and see how well we could do.  We got up to the lake and headed out on the ice by about 9:30 ( a bit slower then we intended, but due to technical difficulties we lost at least an half an hour ).  The badger bay area was a small city when we got up there so we looked north toward mud creek and chose to go that way from the road up to the "dry storage" area at the marina.  Similar to my last trip with Alex and Max.  Though instead of going to the small bay just north of the marina we were going to go down to the "corner" that looked right north into the main lake body and toward Mud Creek.  We chose to head to the SE corner where the point comes out into the water.  We found an area and setup in about 21' of water.

First fish came in at about 11am.  It was a nice slot Cut that we got a nice photo of and sent it back home.

Next fish came about 25 minutes later on my other line.  This one again was a nice slot Cut that got sent back.

The flasher/finder wasn't showing many fish at all, both fish caught came out of nowhere and hit.  So we were not sure if we were at the right depth or location.  So we started to spread out a bit.  I setup one of my poles in closer to the shore, south of us, in about 10-12' of water.  I was right over some weeds.  The pole was maybe 15 or so yards from my main chair and I had the pole strapped into the holder for a bit of safety.  While Jason and I were talking I kept an eye on both poles and then noticed the far pole was starting to curve, then bend, then as I started my dash toward it it tried to topple over into the hole (I was both glad to have the pole attached well to the holder as it would not have gone through and also happy I got there in time to grab it before I had to put the holder to the test)...  Anyway after a really nice fight I brought up the first and only Rainbow that would later make a nice meal.

The rainbow measured out at about ~18" long and as the picture shows it was quite healthy looking.

Jason had during this time drilled another hole to put his second line in to increase our area.  We kept watch for a while and I missed a strike on my pole near the sled (Jason saw the hit), but I was oblivious and it didn't give me a second chance.

The wind started to come in pretty strong from the north during the day so we had to bundle up to keep warm.  This made it harder to watch your pole for a light bite.  It also both helped keep the holes from fully icing over due to the wind but also seemed to help freeze at least parts of the holes faster from how cold it chilled things down to.  Ice was looking really healthy for all the holes we put in it.  Thickness ranged from about 9" to closer to 11".

We hung out for another hour after the rainbow was caught and then called it a day.  The wives had some evening plans for us to get back to (dinner at Texas Roadhouse.... Mmm ribeye steak!) and we were happy to have had the day out.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

First trip of the year to Manuta, January 2nd 2015

Jason, Alex and I set out for our first fishing trip to Mantua.  With the cold spell over since Christmas everyone seems to have been on edge waiting for reports of their favorite body of water to ice over and build up enough safe ice so that everyone can go try out their new toys they got for Christmas or just get out and scratch an itch that's been nagging for some time.  For us it was a bit of both.  Last year was our first real run at any ice fishing and we had some great times.  Mantua was very good to us last year so it was fitting to want to target it again this year.

Reports for the last week had everyone expecting that by the 2nd or 3rd of January that Mantua would have enough safe ice for people to get out on.  We made plans to get to the lake between 8:30am and 9:00am, not trying to be there too early nor too late to get a good start.  We again parked in the area on the west side of the lake very near the highway turnoff.  This is where we also parked last year.  There were a lot of people already out on the lake when we got there, much like last year.  The 2 main areas that had people were the SE corner with people spread along the shoreline and also near the boat ramp where people were more spread, not just along the shoreline.  There were also a few groups setup north of the point along the east side and a few along the west side (near where we parked), but nearly nobody in the central part of the lake or north of that.

Last year we fished in about 9 FOW in the flats about 150 yards south of the north shoreline about 1/3 the way from the west shore.  We did well on our first trip last year and still pretty good on the second to nearly the same place.  I did not want to get ourselves into the thick zoo where moving around would be somewhat harder so I suggested we start in about the same place as last year.   As we were not in the middle of everyone we punched a few holes as we moved to our spot to keep an eye on ice thickness.  It was between 4-5" each time we tested.  We got setup and punched a couple holes for each of us and started to get out lines in the water.  I had my new Showdown 5.6 Dual beam to try out and was very eager to be able to see how it worked out.

Shortly after getting both of my lines down my 2nd line went bend with something pretty eager at the other end.  A short fight later the first fish and first nice rainbow was brought to the surface of the ice.  While trying to remove the hook from the rainbow my other line had some action and the first perch of the day came up as well.  Not a bad way to get started at all!

Then a short bit later I had 2 more fish on the ice as well.  Another perch and another rainbow.  Both perch looked quite healthy and were probably between 10-11" long.  I did not put a tape on them to measure.  The second one (the one below) had eggs that were coming out as we handled the fish on the ice.  The second rainbow, in hind sight, I should have sent back to grow up a bit more, but by the time I thought of that it had been on the ice long enough that it would not have been right to have returned it to the water.  I was quite surprised at how quickly thin wet flesh (the fish's fins) were freezing up.  The air temps were in the ~9 degree F when we got to the lake.

The second pic you can see the new Showdown toy :).  It was very nice to have had today, though I can say I think that it's use would definitely be of greater use in deeper water.  I was only able to see the one line I had in the same hole as the Showdown.  I would think that in deeper water you might be able to monitor more then one (at the risk of having fish tangle them up I guess).  I really liked the zoom into the bottom which was for 9-10 FOW really only just showing the upper or bottom half of the column, still it was nice to see the added detail where we were trying to hug the bottom.

Anyway, enough about the new toy.  About this time we had a group show up near us ( a bit more out in the middle part of the lake then we were, but still close enough we could hear their conversation ) and they started to setup.  They pulled out a gas auger and it seemed to start up without any issue and then they started to drill holes.  That's where the "odd" aspect came in.  Now I had just drilled 6 holes, 2 for each of us (Jason, Alex and myself) through 4-5" of ice with my Nils hand auger and it took only a few seconds for each hole to get punched.  This other group was spending 20-30 seconds per hole with the gas auger.  There were lots of comments being made about this not being how it usually was.  Jason and I got wondering how bad a blade might need to be to have such issues.  Anyway each time they moved to punch new holes they really had to work to get them made and I felt almost guilty to just stand up and in such short work have my hand auger make a new hole.  Anyway this just further helped me understand that if your auger (regardless of type) is not working as it should it can sure put a damper on any ice fishing trip.  So it will be good to ponder your gear and consider what other single points of failure you might have and consider (over time as your budget allows) how you might protect yourself so that a trip is not wasted due to what should/would have been a simple issue.  Along those lines I did pick up a new cutting head for my Nils this year with some points I had at Cabelas so I have that particular issue in the simple to fix category.

Back to the fishing.  Things slowed down a fair amount.  Alex had by this point a couple fish on the ice, Jason had not had anything yet, and I had picked up another rainbow (this one got sent back to grow up though).  We moved Jason to new holes on the north side of Alex and I (he had been to the south side of us) in a hope to get him on some fish if location was key.

Things slowed down quite a bit.  Jason suggested we move in to a more shallow point so we moved about 1/2 way toward the north shore from where we were.  We were now in about 6 FOW.  Then in pretty close (~10 minutes apart) I pulled in 2 more rainbows that I chose to invite home as they were better sized fish.  I was now done with trout (at least keeping any), Alex was not far behind me.  He needed just one more to limit out and  Jason had also manged to get his first fish (a rainbow) on the ice,

Alex was getting pretty proud of himself ( and I was feeling a bit of the proud dad ) as I watched him fish today.  He was "doing his own thing" but in healthy way.  What I mean is that instead of messing too much with the poles or trying to over do things, he was watching what others were doing and trying them out himself and then also adding his own twist to things.  Such as jigging his lures just off the bottom in short smooth and subtle motions.  He concluded after catching a few rainhows that his "secret trick" was to just a few times and then slowing drop his lure down till it rested on the bottom and then bring it up slowing and that this would produce a trout.  Well I was in no position to suggest otherwise as before the day would end I think he caught and released the most trout.

Other then a few trout the move to the shallow didn't improve things and after a while we opted to move out further into the lake to see if we could get a bit deeper.  So we moved south and a bit east in the direction of the point.  We didn't get anywhere near the point nor did we cross the channel that runs from the boat launch up NE past the point.  I would say we just approached the channel more then we were before.  This water depth did not increase as much as we had thought it might.  We ended up in about 11 FOW.

A slight breeze had picked up at this point and it was cold so we firgured this would be our last spot for the day so we got to it.  While here Jason finished up his limit on trout and also picked up a nice perch.  2 of Jason's trout were quite good looking.  One was a good sized, but had really brilliant colors to it (sorry not photo of this one) and the other was just one of the larger plump rainbows of the day for us.  All perch were close to the same size, 10-11" long all looking to be in good condition/health.  Alex and I also picked up some more trout that got sent back to get bigger before we called it a day.

At the end of the day all 3 of us had a limit of trout and at least 1 perch per person.  We would have wished for more perch and some bluegill, but we are still learning that lake and may very well have not been in a good position for them.  Regardless it was a fun day, the weather was nice enough, and we were fishing... :)