JOE DOUCETTE Elko Fly Shop
It’s a tale of two lakes. Wildhorse is completely covered in ice that looks safe. The ice at the state park boat ramp was about six to seven inches earlier this week and recent reports from anglers put the ice in a different part of the lake at about nine inches. Trout fishing was just right last week through the ice here.
South Fork, on the other hand, still had plenty of open water from approximately 300 yards south of the main boat ramp to the dam last Thursday, December 8th. The ice on the west side of the lake ranged from two to five inches on the same day and while anglers have been on the ice and caught trout through the ice, anglers are advised to stay off the ice here.
For anglers new to ice fishing, it’s relaxing, fairly easy, and much more social than its warm-weather cousin. Contrary to popular myth, ice anglers can use pretty much the same gear they use during the summer with only a few minor exceptions.
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To start ice fishing, you basically need a rod, terminal material, a way to make a hole through the ice, and something to de-ice the water in the hole. Anything else, fishing gear-wise, is a plus.
Ice fishing rods are generally 18 to 30 inches in length and have a small reel loaded with fishing line developed to stay limp in cold weather. Lighter rods are for fish like perch, while a small, sturdier rod can handle the force of a 20-inch trout’s fight. Ice fishing combos start around $20 and go up from there.
If money is an issue and you already have a full size rod, it can still be used for ice fishing. You need to stay farther from the hole and may need help landing a larger trout that can’t be lifted out of the water by the line. In Nevada, an angler can have two fishing rods in the water at the same time, doubling the chances of catching a fish.
In Nevada, for ice fishing, the maximum size hole you can cut in the ice is 10 inches. There are two types of hand augers, the bucket auger and the blade auger. Most prefer the blade as it seems to cut ice faster and with less effort and sharpens easily. The trick is to keep the blades sharp and rust-free, which is easier to do with a blade auger.
There are two types of electric drills, gas and electric. Gas drills start around $250 and go up from there. Power bars start around $300 and go up from there. Anglers can also purchase an adapter that connects a cordless drill to hand rods. They start around $20 and go up, but anglers may want the more expensive adapters to help manage the rig. An 18-volt cordless drill is the minimum recommended size, and 24-volt drills handle the job better. If using a cordless drill, keep batteries warm between uses for best results.
The next question is, where should the ice hole be cut? If you don’t know a lake, it’s best to ask someone who does or look for areas where lots of holes have already been cut. Those holes are likely there for a reason.
Therefore, the hole is cut in the ice. now what? To target trout, fish in water 6 to 15 feet deep and suspend a hook tipped with PowerBait, worms, corn, or marshmallows several feet below the ice midway between the ice and the background Place a small plume 8 to 10 inches above the hook to help lower the presentation into the water column.
When fishing for perch, head for deeper water. Generally 25 to 35 feet deep and fish right on the bottom. Using a small soft plastic jig tipped with a piece of worm, place the presentation about a foot from the bottom. Perch bites are very light. Holding the rod will give you an advantage in detecting the bite and being able to react while the fish is still on. Due to the perch die-off in Wildhorse, anglers can expect few perch through the ice this winter.
The water in the ice fishing hole will soon begin to freeze, making fishing difficult. Fishermen will use a ladle specially made with holes to clear the mud from the hole. An inexpensive slotted vegetable spoon can be used with the same results. It is recommended that the spoon or slotted ladle be tied to a chair or sled, as it is not uncommon for anglers, especially smaller children, to drop it down the hole in the ice.
Other considerations for ice fishing include the all-important act of staying warm. Well-insulated waterproof boots are a must. For those on a budget, many department stores carry reasonably priced felt-lined snow boots. These aren’t great for hiking, but they work well when standing or sitting on the ice waiting for a strike. Obviously, you also need a good coat and woolen gloves. Your hands will get wet and wool will still hold heat when wet.
A plastic sled to carry the equipment on the ice makes life easier. Sunscreen and sunglasses are especially important on sunny days, as your face will get a double whammy of sun when it reflects off the snow or ice.
The great thing about taking your family ice fishing is that it’s simple, there are usually other families around and if the kids get bored of fishing, they can play in the snow, go sledding, or build a snowman.
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