Ice Fishing

Despite our recent warming trends, we are well into the ice fishing season. In fact, one multi-day local tournament has already begun.

The Still Cold Open Tournament began on Big Lake this past Jan. 13 and will continue Jan. 27, Feb. 10, Feb. 24, and March 11, concluding on Championship Sunday, March 12. This is a team tournament, requiring two people per team with registration fees. According to the rules handout: “This is a catch, photo, and release tournament. All Rainbow Trout and Arctic Char are to be released immediately after the photo is taken.”

Only photos of up to six fish 12 inches or longer can be entered per day. For a complete list of rules, fees, and requirements, stop off at Sportsman’s Warehouse in Wasilla or check with Burkeshore Marina on Big Lake. Burkeshore Marina is the headquarters for this tournament.

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In conjunction with this multi-day event, Alaska’s Healing Hearts will benefit from a portion of the proceeds raised through the sale of tickets for various prizes to be awarded in a drawing scheduled for March 11. Some of the individual prizes are valued at over $1000. For more information, contact Jim McCormick at 907-398-8927.

A second ice fishing derby is scheduled for Feb. 3 on Finger Lake near Palmer. Derby headquarters will be the Elks Lodge #1842, located on the shore of Finger Lake. This fourth annual MDA Ice Fishing for a Cure Derby is a fund raiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Awards will be presented to the top three rankings in two categories: adult and youth (ages 5 to 12). The awards ceremony will happen following the fishing event.

Information and fee costs for this derby are also available at Sportsman’s Warehouse in Wasilla. Registration begins at 8:00 am the day of the derby at the Elks Lodge on Finger Lake. The fishing event runs from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm.

This past weekend, Gnarly Dan, his grandson, and I met at a small, unnamed lake between Wasilla and Big Lake to try and catch some rainbow trout. Gnarly had been there before and said he had caught nice sized rainbows, in the 15-inch size class, in previous visits. We had hopes of duplicating those results this day.

I had been going through and organizing my ice fishing gear prior to this, my first trip of the season. We didn’t plan to drive out on the small lake, so I was selecting my gear to pull out on a plastic sled. Gnarly was bringing the auger, so I left mine at home.

After arriving and parking our trucks off the access road to the lake, I loaded my sled. Gnarly’s grandson carried the two buckets of gear they brought and Gnarly carried his auger. The wind was blowing harder than we had expected and, while the temperatures weren’t bad, the wind chill made it downright chilly while sitting and fishing!

I was fishing with a new rod and reel set-up and used a small lead-headed jig tipped with a little piece of shrimp. Instead of my usual ultra-light spinning reel or the small baitcasting reel I favor, I was trying one of those newer style “sorta looks like a fly reel on steroids” models. Gnarly and his grandson were both using baitcasting reels and jigging lures tipped with shrimp. Gnarly added a single red egg after a while as well.

We started jigging about a foot off the bottom hoping to attract a bite. No such luck! We tried jigging about a foot below the bottom of the ice and Gnarly had a soft bite but not enough to set the hook. After close to two hours of fishing and Gnarly’s single bite the only action, we decided to call it a day. I was getting cold, so the respite was appreciated.

I had dressed for the temperature but not the wind chill. That was my undoing. Had I worn my insulated snowmachining bibs, I would have been just fine! After I got home, I found my bibs and laid them out where I wouldn’t overlook them a second time!

Ever since they came out, I’ve wanted a propane-fueled power auger. I lucked into a barely used one the other day. When I asked why the unit was for sale, I was told it didn’t work correctly. The powerhead had been factory checked and was fine. One of the auger blades had been installed upside down. I think I found the problem!

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