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Monday, December 13, 2021

Late fall fishing first ice

Looks like safe ice will be later than normal this season. By mid December, many of the water bodies I fish in winter are safe enough to access. This season, most are still fully fluid, save for the few select spots where I normally get my season started.

My first spot typically freezes up by mid November. As the zone that it's in closes to all fishing between December 1st and the end of April, my only chance to ice fish there is on early ice. The relatively small lake doesn't have any public access. A property owned by a friend of mine that lets me park on his land and launch onto the lake is my only option for access.

Having done very well there on ice last fall, I was eager to get out on the lake for first ice again this year. I finally got up there to ice fish the lake on November 25th. Needless to say, knowing the waterbody you fish is crucial to safety this early on. Never venture out on thin ice without a good spud bar, and preferably a survival suit.  Lastly, when in doubt, always remember that your safety is more important than catching fish.

While I was lucky enough to find safe/solid ice in the 3 to 3.5 inches range, there was no snow cover at all. Being on a shallow, clear lake with this ice and no cover, had the fish very spooked. Only manages to land 8 perch and a couple sunfish.

The big story of the day was a visit from the local police department, after I noticed a few cars stopping to call them. They weren't able to access the lake from their parking spot due to feeder creek, I had launched from a friend's private property. They left me alone after they figured out that I knew what I was doing, they even asked in I had any history of mental issues.

I've come to expect this kind of thing anytime I fish early ice. I typically go up to small towns at elevation in cottage country, the second anyone sees you on early ice, they call the cops. Luckily, provincial and federals laws stipulate that all lakes are public property, and that we have the right to fish them during their respective open seasons.

The problem becomes access and parking. If I access a lake from a municipal parking spot, I may run into issues. Others claim to have bi-laws regarding ice safety, got kicked of such one lake by the fire dept a few years ago.

I've figured out that showing confidence in your knowledge of your rights as well as staying relaxed and friendly, will go a very long way in order to get them to understand. Last winter, I got checked at same spot, ended up inviting the cops onto the ice. As he was a hunter, he obliged, and all ended well. This time, after they realized that I was wearing a floating survival suit and managed to walk all over the lake without going through, they relaxed. I invited them to join me, but they refused...

I waited until November 30th for my next attempt at fishing a bigger lake not too far away from the lake I had been on a few days earlier. I pre-empted the police by calling them in advance to let them know I'd be ice fishing in the area. They appreciated the call, and I didn't see them all day.

Unfortunately, the lake I planned to fish only had 2.5 inches of solid ice, and about 2-3 centimeters of snow. Too sketchy for my nerves, I headed back to the smaller lake I fished a few days earlier, knowing that there would be a solid 4 to 4.5 inches of ice, and that I may have better chance at success with the thicker ice and snow cover having the fish less finicky.

My theory proved accurate, I ended up landing 21 perch and a sunfish, including 8 perch that I kept for breakfast the next morning.

As the zone for the winter closed that night, that will be it for me fishing anywhere in that area until summer.

After taking a weeklong trip to South Florida, (see my previous blog post), I was ready to try a spot closer to home on December 12th, hoping for some crappies and possibly a good bass or two. Again, I was lucky to find a good 4 inches of solid ice after some heavy rain the previous day. While access was tricky to to thawing edges, everything else was safe enough to fish. 

While I did well numbers wise, catching 17 perch, 6 crappie, 5 bluegills and 3 largemouth bass, I was not able to catch anything sizeable, with 9 inches being the biggest catch of the day.

By the looks of the weather forecast, I doubt I'll be out on ice again before the official start of winter regulations on December 20th. At that time, the use of multiple lines as well as dead bait fish will be permitted.

Looking forward to another action packed hardwater season, hoping you all stay safe and warm out there.

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