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1-24-05 - I know it doesn't look it in this picture, but the Pike was completely frozen over.

1-24-05 - Wisconsin Winter Wonderland

Waters Fished: Pike River, Root River
Fish Caught: 0/2 (if you count smolts)
Outing Date: 1-24-05
Weather: Sunny!
Air Temp: 40's?
Water Temp: Frozen :)
Water Level: Low...Root seems EXTREMELY low but still flowing at least 20-30 cfs.
Water Color: Root was clear, visibility 3-4'.
Fish Species: Smolts of undetermined species!
Pattern Fished: Spawn Sacs on the pin
Pattern Color: White Mesh
Fishing Quality: more like "scouting" than fishing.

I found myself driving from Lake Como to Chicago in the early afternoon; a week of web-work lays ahead of me but none of it is really ready to get started yet. Instead of heading south on 94, I instinctively went under the bridge and headed north!

15 minutes later I was at one of the first bridge crossings upstream on the Pike River. I figured that the best place to search for any open water would be downstream of the confluence of Pike Creek and Pike River...despite the spring influence the Pike has, I found the river completely frozen over!

Looking down the hill at Quarry Park...that snow is all hip deep.

A 180-degree Panoramic view of the Root River at lower Quarry Park. Check out the enlargement above or feel like you're actually there with the 3D viewer (approx. 2 MB).

Determined to find open water, I left the Pike in favor of the Root. Something told me that I'd find open water. If I could find open water over the deeper holes, I might just get lucky and find some steelhead!

I pulled into Quarry Park around 2:30 PM. The park had been plowed as a single lane circle...no parking spots so I did my best to pull off to the side in case someone else came down. I looked around at the snow between myself and the Root River...it was the most pristine, untouched snow I've seen this year. More importantly, it told me that I was the first one here, at least since Friday, so if I found fish they'd be unmolested!

After peaking through the woods and determining there was some open water, I geared up with my centerpin and made my way down the hill. I wasn't going to mess around with fly gear today...the water was assuredly hovering around 32F with all the ice...my only real hope was to cave and drift bait.

Talk about a winter wonderland...it was simply gorgeous. The sun was out, the air was deceivingly warm, I put away my gloves and rigged up. It's time to go FISHIN!

My first view of the Root is breathtaking.

I turn to the left and it's just as gorgeous!

Time to float fish with my centerpin - my best hope for perhaps hooking up today.

Despite my best efforts, the fish, if present, eluded me. I worked the entire pool below the shelf...somewhere in there I was confident there's a steelhead, but I never found him. I paid close attention to drifting slowly along the edges of the shelf ice - no luck. I adjusted float height, no luck. I worked unlikely spots...surprise...no luck.

Ducks as always are my only company today.

More ducks came flyin' in to join their friends.

Somewhere around 3:45 PM I opted to head downstream, just to see what was going on. In Lincoln Park, there was only one slit of open water directly below the weir. A good spot perhaps as the open water was above some bank hides. For some reason I wasn't confident in the spot, so I kept moving. Brose Park - iced over. Island Park - not an open spot to be found.

After talking with Chromeseeker on the phone, we concurred on hunches and I headed upstream to Horlick Dam. Again, untouched, pristine snow laid before me at the access points! I made my way carefully down the bank through snow that was, at times, thigh deep.

Upon landing in the river, I immediately noticed how LOW it was. It was "LOW", I mean real low, spots that are normally knee deep were ankle deep. Despite being low, it seemed that there was still quite a bit of water moving downstream...easily 20 or 30 CFS but perhaps as much as 50? Strange.

Upper Quarry Park.

Sheets of shelf ice formed on pretty much every exposed rock. It makes for beautiful surroundings.

I looked downstream and noticed that upper Quarry Park was relatively ice free. As I've never personally even HOOKED a fish at the dam, I instead waded downstream to my honey hole. Now, it's not a sure hole like some of my other ones (which were ice over today) but it's a consistent spot. If there were any fish upstream, this was a good place to spend time.

Darnit, foiled again...nothing! As the light started to fade...sunset was approaching, I waded back upstream towards the dam face. In my hurry, I decided to step out of the crystal clear, shallow water, and try to get around a fallen tree on the "shore". Well, lesson learned - STAY IN THE WATER. I totally bought it on shore, falling through some ice that was covered in snow, landing all contorted on the ground....and it all happened in slow motion. Just one of those times that you know you're going down and there's nothing you can do to stop it!

Horlick Dam, the tree in the river, and what I thought was "land" at the left...turns out the mound was ice (with nothing underneath).

A large sheet of ice is surpisingly moveable...YES I can actually fish the deep hole!

After regaining my composure and retrieving my line from the brush, I went back into the water and finally got to the edge of the deep hole at the dam face. This had been a productive spot in late December, so perhaps I'd have luck?

First things first, the hole was covered with a huge, semi-truck sized sheet of ice. Surprisingly, it wasn't attached to anything - I could simply push it out into the stream with my foot for a while until it eventually returned back to where I stood. I really, really wanted to just send this huge chunk of ice downstream, but a rock was blocking the ice sheet.

Meanwhile, I'm still not having any luck until my float enthusiastically disappears at the edge of the ice sheet. I come back on the rod hard and watch the water where my float was...the float comes flying out at me and a small, less than 6" silver flash disappears back into deeper water. Smolt!

Now it's getting full on dark..the sunset has definitely happened, my time is limited! As the ice sheet comes floating back to me I don't kick it away, but instead start stomping on it, breaking off pieces which I then feed downstream. Thankfully I'm standing in less than 6" of water so I know I'm not going to suddenly find myself up to my neck in ice cold water (and drowning).

Another Smolt gets my heart pounding for a second, and then as the darkness grows I realize this day is done. I've broken up the ice sheet pretty well, but now it's all collected immediately downstream. Not wanting to be stuck wading out through chunks of ice in the darkness, I figure that 0/2 on smolts is still 0/2 on fish...not what I was hoping for but between the beauty of the day and the simple fact that I'm out paying my dues, I chalk this one up as great day on the water.

Well, at least I had a great day on the water. After leaving, I stopped at the Shell Station at 94 and 20...pumped my gas and went inside to pay. The woman behind the counter swipes my card and says "it's been declined". What? That can't be, I checked the balance yesterday. So she runs it again, this time as debit. Declined again! WTF?!

I take the card and go to their ATM to check my balance...did I forget something and accidentally screw up my account? Well, when the reciept comes out of the ATM, there's no balance, instead it reads "Bank Unavailable". I relax a bit, thinking that it's a problem with my bank. We wait a minute and she runs the card again...DECLINED.

So now I'm embarrased, heck the only time I've even bounced a check was when my employer forgot to sign our paychecks and I didn't notice it when depositing! So I get on the phone with US Bank...surprise surprise...there's been a straight $500 charge towards my card from some company I've never heard of. So now I'm on hold, and the woman behind the counter offers her sympathy. Apparently she used to work in a credit card fraud department, and as she puts it, "This is usually how most folks find out that there's been fraudulent use on their card." GREAT (yes, that's sarcastic).

Well an hour on hold and 4 women later I find out not only is there one charge, but a myriad of others for items as little as $1. Whoever had my card number completely wiped my account out. And the worst part, this has all happened while I've been fishing! US Bank has been trying to get ahold of me at home (which I disconnected when getting the cell phone) and at work (where I no longer work!) all day. The've known about this going on even before I found out.

Thankfully, US BANK was great. They even figured out how to allow the gas station to charge the gas, while I was on the phone, and then lock my account back up! Talk about great customer service (except for the wait). And now that I'm home, I find that I even have notifications from companies who suspected my card was being used fraudulently. This saga isn't over, but man, what else really could go wrong? I've been reduced to eating Peanut Butter and Jelly! At least the fishin' is good!

  MP 

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