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... :)