Saturday, February 10, 2018

Altered Tip-Up Placement Makes a Difference While Ice Fishing

Taillights in the darkness. I pass two vehicles pulled aside on State Highway 183, turn right into the driveway of Stanhope Bait and Boat, and get out of my Honda to see Oliver stepping forward. We went inside, surrounded by at least half a dozen men getting buckets filled. As we left--service was real fast--I asked the proprietor about ice fishing on Lake Musconetcong, situated immediately behind the shop.

"It's been good in the back."

I asked her about pickerel and she nodded yes, despite the chemical weed killer of fairly recent years, that they're getting caught.

After we made the left, me following Oliver's SUV, onto the road leading directly to Tilcon Lake access, we saw two or three vehicles pulled over, men getting gear together in the dark. Oliver pulled over, as if we would park. "I think there's a way to get to the back of the lake," I said. We continued on that road, Oliver following my Civic now, neither of us ever having driven further onward before. At a T-stop, we turned left, driving at least a half mile, light beginning to fill out shadows, the lake dimly visible through trees, until a pull over appeared and I could tell we were at the very back of the lake. We parked and agreed that I would follow an icy trail and find out if access is practical. It is. And as I had hoped, a short walk compared to the long haul from the main gate got us and our equipment down and onto ice, where I pull-started my power auger, cutting through that ice to be sure of safety, getting deep with the new blades. Then I measured about 10 inches of thickness.

So much nerviness about the ice fishing scene of late. The important thing is that we did it this morning. Judging by the forecast, it seems as if ice fishing will last into March. Oliver and I got out there cutting more holes, and as light increased, we could see all the way to the front of the lake, dotted by at least a dozen other people out there underway at trying to catch fish.

A couple of guys fished in earshot of us, having parked at the same pull-over, seemingly speaking Russian. Before we caught our first pickerel, they had caught three, carefully put back into the lake.
At first, I had run a straight line of tip-up placements from the corner where we entered all the way to out in front of an island, depths about 18-25, maybe 30 feet. Soon I took the auger and cut holes right up against the shoreline, not even five yards out, feeling my fish sense telling me that if anything would work, this placement would do it. And it did. The first flag went up where I most expected one might. Not a salmon in 10 feet of weedy water, no. The second flag went up maybe 20 yards from shore straight out from the right angle of that corner I mentioned. About 18 feet deep.

Pickerel seem to move off weedlines sometimes. Pickerel caught by the guys next to us hit about 50 or 60 yards from shore in deep water. I know pickerel cruise distance under the ice, because in the past, single fish have taken one shiner from a tip-up, and then a second shiner from the next tip-up placed maybe 10 yards or more distant. Will they leave weeds to take a shiner making vibes they pick up on their lateral lines?

We fished two hours and then I had to go do a long job shift. On our way out past the main access point of Tilcon Lake, we witnessed about a dozen or more vehicles parked, some men just then preparing to get out. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Looks Like Saturday

Laurie hasn't sent out a report, so not too many have been out on the ice, but she told me again this week it's six to eight inches thick at Great Cove. This is a pretty good season, since ice fishing's been going on since back in December. Other seasons have lasted well into March and whether this year's ice will last that long is yet to be seen.

Waiting on reply from Oliver Round. I want to ride up to Tilcon Lake Saturday. The lake is deep, mostly about 30 feet, and the shorelines drop steeply. We could have a problem with ice melt right at the edge. We could have any number of unanticipated problems, also, but I haven't fished for more than three weeks now, so I'm prepared to at least try.

Tilcon is not Hopatcong. Ice varies place to place. Plans Tuesday were to fish Hopatcong. Joe Landolfi apparently found he had to work to do at the last minute. We talked on the phone repeatedly and then lost touch, so he was surely busy. Had said he might be.

I could have gone alone. Mike was sick. But I got loads of writing done.