Rhon Bell of Backwoods Plaid, treats every cold morning in Maine with the same excitement and enthusiasm as Christmas morning. He knows that with the company of a good friend, some warm food and a few cold beers he can bear the cold and catch his 17-inch prize waiting on the other side of the ice.
Reaching inside the closet for the last ice fishing trap, my thoughts drift to the frozen lake and landing the largest trout I’ve ever seen. Fishing a new body of water brings excitement to any man’s mind, much like a child anxious for a birthday surprise. Making room for the last trap inside the gear bag, I move the cook stove and cans of chili to the zippered compartments. Jumping into the cab after packing the last of the fishing supplies, I take off the down the road watching the steam roll off my coffee mug. The clock on the console reads 5:45AM.
After two quick pit stops, one for a fishing buddy and another for a pale of shiners, we arrive to a deserted lake in Western Maine. Making quick work of setup, we haul the shack to what we think is a perfect location for trout – a distant shoreline, next to a point of land extending into the lake. Working as a team, I drill the ten holes allowed by law as Peter diligently sets up each trap at varying depths.
Ice fishing is a waiting game. So that is what we do. Conversation drifts from topics of weather, recent fishing excursions, favorite outdoor gear, to beautiful women and finally beer. The latter tends to go hand in hand with being on the ice. But anyone who’s watched Grumpy Old Men already knows that. Glancing through each shack window, we keep an eye on our scattered tip-ups, looking for a raised flag – in hopes of a trophy rainbow or brown trout.
As the sun begins setting on a full afternoon, our stomachs are quite the opposite. I dig through that zippered compartment for my chili and stove. Minutes later, a hot meal helps us forget about the redness in our cheeks brought by a cold wind. Our feasting is cut short by a 17” brown trout launching the first flag of the day. It’s a keeper and looks like tomorrow’s lunch.
Darkness falls and we ready ourselves for the return home. My lone thought is warming my hands in front of the old cast iron wood stove in the living room. Even if we were to leave empty handed, we’d still be thankful. Any day on the ice is a good day! Simply enjoying Mother Nature and the peacefulness she offers is good for the soul. Below are a few tips for a successful and prepared day of ice fishing.
Purchase and carry spare auger blades. One strike on a rock in shallow water will ruin your ability to drill more holes. Devastating in a remote location.
Understand how to extricate yourself from the water should the ice break. Elbow-roll onto solid ice and kick your feet.
A skimmer removes chunks of ice from the drilled hole. Hint: a fishnet used for bait will help remove smaller ice particles that contribute to the freezing over of the hole.
Build supports under your trap with mounds of snow. This eliminates setting the tip-up directly onto ice (where it can adhere to the frozen lake).
Use a line marker after checking water depth to indicate how much line you need to reel in before setting the trap.