1-10-04 - The ULTIMATE Ice Fishing Experience...
Waters Fished: Lake Michigan (WI waters)
Fish Caught: Capt. Mike's boat - 20 landed with a limit (15) creeled,
6 more lost. FAT's boat - 6 creeled with at least as many lost.
Outing Date: 1-10-04
Air Temp: Around 34F
Water Temp: 32 to 42 depending on location
Water Level: Normal
Water Color: Big Water Blue
Fish Species: Brown Trout
Pattern Fished: Stickbaits / Crankbaits
Pattern Color: Assorted Naturals
Fishing Quality: INSANE!
Brennon is back in the area, home from Minnesota,
and we've been planning for the last month to go ice fishin' with
Tim S. and FAT. Saturday is the day; it'll be my first experience
Ice Fishing. So Friday night I'm still at the office when I get
a call from FAT, which goes something like this...
"Matt, can you get up at 4:00 am tomorrow?"
"Sure, I think I can do that if you give me
a wakeup call...why?"
"Well, I got a call and we're going to the
lake...the browns are HOT!"
Somehow I make it to FAT's around 5:00 am, and
after 30 minutes of looking for some downriggers we get on our way
to meet up with Tim and Brennon. Yes, if you haven't guessed it,
we're not "ice fishing" in the "traditional sense".
We're going to brave the ICE on Lake Michigan! After gassing up
the boat and the Bronco, we rendevouz with Tim & Brennon at
the McD's. A couple steak, egg and cheese bagels get the blood pumping
and we're ready to go.
We then met up with Capt. Rich, his son Alex, and
Capt. Mike. Apparently we'll be waiting for someone to come down
and open up the park gate, so in the meantime we start preparing
Fat's boat. Alex decides he'd like to fish with FAT, so a trade
is made; I will fish on Capt. Mike's boat with Capt. Rich and Mike
Finally, the police come down and open the gates,
and it's a mad-dash to the launch. Apparently Capts. Rich &
Mike have been taking care of the launch all week in an attempt
to keep it open. Now THAT's what I call DEDICATION! Capt. Rich has
even brought the snow plow and gets to work clearing the launch
of both snow and ice. You may hear so often about the "Hard
Core" Winter Steelheader...I think these guys have the stream
steelheader beat hands down. I think these Winter Trollers catch
more fish too...
But the fun doesn't stop there; Mike will be first
to launch this morning. He brings the boat down and into the water,
but unlike the usual it doesn't slide off the trailer. In fact,
the trailer is floating? It's frozen to the boat! We first leave
it in the water a few minutes, and it slowly thaws, first at the
front, and then with the help of just about everyone, it's loose
(but still frozen). FINALLY, FAT gets on the tongue and is able
to push the boat off the trailer with his feet!
We're definitely running "late" as it's
probably 8:00 am already, so without waiting for the others we're
in the boat and headed out of the harbor. It's a slow ride at first,
as we are running through chunks of ice until we're finally clear
in the lake. Mike kicks in the 200+ HP engine and we're flying (and
freezing) for a moment, but then we power back down to navigate
another field of ice.
FINALLY we're there, and within just a couple minutes
Mike and Rich have some gear in the water while I'm at the wheel.
Literally minutes after we've set out, Mike turns to me and says
"take this"...FISH ON ALREADY!
Well, it continues like this all morning. We all
do some driving, rigging, and landing of fish...a very "team
effort" which honestly I really got a kick out of. Each of
us land several fish, no one is really keeping track although if
you asked me, I think Mike and Rich may have handed a few extra
to the "new guy"...thanks guys!
I'd have to say the morning was simply a blast;
it seems that at almost any point there was at least ONE fish one...several
times two. I do recall at one point holding a rod in each hand,
both with fish on, while Rich and Mike were clearing lines that
they had been sending out. INSANE!
One of the more memorable moments was when I was
sending out a port planer board...I was just about to set it into
the holder when the board shot out of the water...FISH ON!
Just before 10:00 we had our limit in the well
and had landed several more fish so we called it a day. Throughout
the morning we never got a "full spread" out...that's
how active the bite was on Mike's boat. Capt. Rich had the fish
counter to 14, and as we were bringing in we hooked up with another
6 fish, so all of the lip-hooked fish were let go...and the last
fish rounded out the limit.
So now it was time to see how the Crew on Fat's
boat was doing. As we closed in Tim held up a nice brown...that's
good news. Alex was probably enjoying himself a lot, being the boss
on this boat instead of 2nd mate! They definitely weren't to their
limit yet, and I asked Capt. Rich and Mike why that could be. While
I'm not giving away any of Capt. Rich's secrets, the jist was that
Alex had been running them just a touch too deep...only a foot or
We spent some time photographing and videotaping
the FAT crew while they rerigged and hooked up with a couple more
fish. After that it was time to head in, it was about 11:00 am.
The FAT crew had a fair day and came back in with 6. Mike, Rich
and I had a phenomenal day with 20 landed, 15 kept, and 6 or more
The morning was rounded out back at Mike's place...taking
some pictures and Alex, Mike and Rich cleaned the catch like a factory
crew...it was done in minutes! All in all what a morning!
So there's MANY more pictures than words today..and
honestly I could've taken many more if I hadn't been so busy landing
fish! My left arm STILL HURTS from fighting fish. In many respects
I'm glad I didn't have a day like this FLY FISHING...I would have
been dead. All the same I did sleep for the next 16 hours or so!
I'll leave you with this; I was simply awestruck
at the level of skill and knowledge displayed by Mike and Capt.
I'm left with the impression that they were so well-prepared that
basically the moment the rods hit the water the fish started biting
and never let up. I learned a LOT about trolling in Lake Michigan
and yet I know that information is just a minute slice of what they
know. I can't think of better guys to book a trip with, so if you're
considering that at ANY time of year, give them a shout! And while
it wasn't quite the "ice fishing" Tim, Brennon and I had
in mind, it was definitely ICE fishing all the same!