Saturday, December 22, 2012

2012-13 Ice Fishing Kickoff!

On Thursday, I saw the news I have been waiting for anxiously for the past couple of months.  While browsing through Facebook I couldn't help but notice my friend Adam Soper had posted photos of ice fishing!  I quickly contacted Adam to get the scoop on conditions.  He replied that Panguitch Lake had 4" of ice and fishing had been amazing that day; nearly 100 fish between 3 people!  I had to do some thinking, 4" is a little sketchy for me, although most die hard ice fishermen I know will tell you 4" is fine.  Still, the lake had open water last week, and even with a few days of sub-zero temperatures I was skeptical.

First step, try to find someone to go with me to ease m concerns!  If I had a partner in crime then surely I had no reason to be chicken of the conditions.  I called my grandpa, Marvin Porter, and after some discussion it was agreed that if fishing was that good we needed to go give it a shot.  I let Adam know that we would be joining them, and next was trying to use a little finesse in convincing my wife that I really needed to go!  I have been talking of ice fishing for months, and I have a feeling she is dreading it, as it is easy to find the time to go with few work commitments this time of year, and it seems like it is no trouble arranging at least an every other week trip.  Maybe it was the fact that I have been home way too much over the past month, but she had no problem with me getting out of the house!

Turning to the weather at about 11 PM that night I was shocked to find a forecast of below zero temperatures that night, with wind chill pushing to near -15!  Daytime temps looked to rebound into the low 20's, however wind chill factors of -7 were still predicted.  It was too late now, and my wife made it clear I would get no sympathy from her as far as my fears of extremely cold weather.  Now I had to go just to prove I was tough!
Gitzit tube jigs

Six AM found us on the road, and just before 8 we had arrived at the lake.  A few fishermen were on the ice, and we found most of the ice covered in a light layer of snow.  I don't know why, but the snow always comforts me.  In ice under 10" thick, having the snow to hide the cracks and all seems to calm my worries.  As we approached, we could see John Harding and Kim Soper pulling out fish already.  We quickly rigged, and in no time at all we were into the fish!  My day started off with a 10" rainbow, met with a lot of laughter as John had just pulled out a 22" cutthroat.  I was hoping that wouldn't be a pattern for the day.  Not at all, as I began to pull out several fish in the 16-20" range.

John had the catch of the day with his 22" cut, and I was fortunate to catch a couple of very fat 18" rainbows that gave me a great fight, and we were able to keep them to take home.  The highlight of the day had to be when Adam  showed up with his son, little Jack Soper.   Jack was able to help dad and Grandpa (Kim) pull in quite a few nice fish.  He gave us a few laughs for sure as we watched the little guy fight the fish.  As for the weather?  Early morning was fairly cold, but the day turned out to be very nice!  Late afternoon a slight wind did kick up that was a bit bitter, but all in all it was a perfect day.

We found success on a variety of jigs, both in color, size, and style.  My best luck was on "Gitzit" tube jigs (3") and white padddle bugs.  Also, I had a good streak on a very small orange jig.  I caught most of my fish on meal worms, and a few of the other guys also had great success tipping jigs with shrimp.  When the fishing was the best, I actually caught several fish without bait on my jig at all.

Early in the morning, we had very fast fishing; so fast that in fact it was almost impossible to fish with 2 poles!  Later in the morning, as noon approached, the fishing slowed considerably but was still fairly good throughout the day.  Everyone did really well.  As for myself, I stopped counting at 15, mostly due to the hectic pace of trying to manage 2 poles during the hot streak, and trying to help others pull fish in.  I did manage to go through an entire container of 30 meal worms, and part way through I began to cut the worms in half!  I'm guessing I was somewhere between 25-30 fish, with several on that I was unable to land.  This was hands down one of my best days of ice fishing!
Paddle Bug jigs

Panguitch Lake is very easy to access in winter, as the paved highway is plowed year-round.  The highway and adjacent North Shore Road provide a very easy access to the lake just less than 100 yards from pavement.  Also, fish tend to cruise shallow here in the winter, for an example we were only in 8 feet of water yesterday.  As fishing pressure increases, fish will scatter to parts of the lake that can be harder to access, and Panguitch Lake can definitely go from hot to cold fishing in a short period of time.  It is very common for the lake to experience a couple of very poor months of fishing mid winter.  The bite can also be very light at this lake!  You really have to pay attention to your line and use some finesse in hooking them at times.  I have also found that quite often the larger fish have the softer bite and can be harder to hook into.

The great thing about Panguitch Lake is that most fish you catch will be fairly nice.  Most of our catches were around 18" and fat, probably weighing 2-3 pounds, with a few pushing 4 pounds.  Panguitch Lake has a slot limit requiring all cutthroat and tiger trout between 14-22" in length to be immediately released.  This has created an abundance of fair sized fish, although you will have to release most of the fish you catch.  When I experience good fishing at this lake I have no trouble supporting the slot limit!  In fact, I wish they would reinstate the same regulations on the rainbows, as we caught very few rainbows at all, and most were smaller fish.

Several other lakes are getting close to being fishable as we speak!  Otter Creek has capped and should be fishable within 2 weeks if it stays cold.  Fish Lake is a little further out this year, but if it stays as it has been the last week, I would expect fishing within 3 weeks, at least on the south end.  Snowfall has restricted access to a lot of higher elevation lakes, but if you have a snowmobile there are plenty of high country waters available to ice fishing.

Check out this short video of a few of the highlights of our day.    

Stay tuned to SUH&F as we will highlight how easy and inexpensive it is to gear yourself for ice fishing!  This is one of our favorite family activities, and though so many people think that you would have to be crazy to bear the winter conditions and sit on a frozen lake to fish, most days are usually very nice and enjoyable.  Thanks again to all that showed up to fish yesterday, as well as those that just stopped by to say hi.  It was good to see so many friends and to share some good times.  Good luck to you all as you hit the ice this year.

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