I think everyone in Central Iowa would agree that this winter has been a very unusual one. Back in December I was just hoping to go ice fishing, which happened for the first time on Dec. 24. Winter got off to slow start, well, at least for us ice anglers. There were many ups and downs in the temperatures the last three months, we had a couple of blizzards, one weekend that rained most of the time. Throw in a few 50-degree days, followed by a much colder March than usual, and there you have it the winter of 2012-2013.
With all the ups and downs of winter, one thing remained constant, the ice on area lakes. Most everything was froze in the area by Jan. 1, and have remained that way until recently. Rock Creek was the exception to that, with a lot of open water at the beginning of March. Nonetheless, ice anglers that studied the ice, and kept in tune to the conditions have enjoyed three solid months of catching fish through the ice. This is a rare feat in Iowa, especially for the last couple of years when anglers only got about 6-7 weeks of ice fishing. For me, this winter of ice fishing has brought many great hours spent with friends and family chasing bass, bluegills and crappies. Like all good things, it must come to an end though.
The end came this past Wednesday for me and a couple of my ice angling friends. Don Henry, and David Bowles joined me for one last adventure to find solid ice. We, like many other ice anglers in the Marshalltown area, have enjoyed the ice fishing season and search out for that "one last time." Normally during the late ice fishing season a few variables will allow angler to get on the ice. A protected pond/lake with trees or located in a valley will hold ice much longer than an area that is out in the middle of nowhere. I knew of just a pond like this, and communicated with the land owner. He didn't mind at all if we looked around. As the three of us walked down to the pond we noticed that things looked good, no open water and it appeared solid around the edges. We came to one side of the pond, and things were not good at all, one step on the ice, and one wet boot as it broke right through. Time to try the other side BINGO, walked right out and started testing the ice. I started to quickly drill holes and measure for thickness and quality. We were in business for some late afternoon fishing and our smiles were as big as a 10-year-olds on Christmas morning!
T-R PHOTO BY TODD REED
The sun set recently on the ice fishing season in Central Iowa. Don Henry awaits the next chance to catch that one last fish earlier this week.
We quickly found roaming crappies and bluegills in the deepest water the pond had. We were sitting in 15-22 feet of water for most of the time. The fish would come in suspended and we would pick them off as they approved of our baits. The fish were hungry, they knew spring was coming up, the water temperatures are getting warmer, and the pond water was once again teaming with microscopic life. Fishing was great, and with every fish we caught we knew to cherish it, as it could be the last one of the year. Night was approaching, and as the sun started to hide behind the horizon, we knew that time was just about up for the ice fishing season. We all had a great afternoon/evening of fishing and it will be one to think about until next December.
I have already started to think about the open-water fishing season, but a few things need to happen to ensure that my ice equipment is stored correctly. Here are a few reminders to help you have your ice fishing gear ready to go next winter.
First and foremost you want to make sure all your equipment is dry. I put all my rods, Vexilars, and tackle boxes in front of a fan to make sure all moisture is gone. I find it best to put all rods together and to protect them. I use a PVC pipe to put around the rods, we all know what it is like to break a rod, and this ensures that won't happen in the off-season. Put all that gear in an out-of-the-way area inside, and remember to charge your electronics every month or so to keep the batteries working properly.
The bigger gear must be stored outside. My power auger is a very valuable tool for ice fishing and I take extra care of it. Make sure and drain all the gasoline out of it. Old gasoline will cause your auger to not run at its top performance next winter. I also fog my auger motor to make sure moisture isn't inside to cause engine damage. Lastly, I check the blades of the auger, clean them, and spray them down with WD-40 to make sure they will be ready to cut ice the first time out. Again, store it out of the way so an accident won't cause it to fall over and possibly break or cause injury to an inquisitive young child. The last thing is the ice shack. Make sure everything is dry and fill it up with a box of moth balls. This will keep insets and mice away and allow you to grab your shack next December and go ice fishing without any big surprises.
Ice anglers have a lot of money wrapped up into equipment, be sure to take some time and put things away properly. I am a firm believer that if you take care of things, they will treat you well.
Off to focus on open water, and with any luck, I will have some open-water reports for you in the very near future.