Dick Pinney's Guide Lines: How to warm up to ice fishing

By DICK PINNEY | December 04. 2016 12:39AM

IT TOOK us many years to figure out that we really liked ice fishing. For all those years we did it because there wasn't much else to do when it came to our outdoor pursuits.

We tried hunting rabbits and hares in their late season but they were kind of scarce and, without a dog, a lot of the excitement was only when we teamed up with friends who had a dog. There's a certain thrill that is hard to match when one or more hound dogs (mostly we had friends with beagles) would light up the dull days with their exciting barks and yodels!

That seemed like the ultimate way to hunt those bunnies and took both stamina and some keen shooting for a successful hunt. Also it took well trained dogs that could be called back off a track, a very rare event that made all the hours of chasing the dogs seem like useless time!

Ice fishing seemed to be more boring waiting for that tip-up flag to signal that a fish had grabbed the live bait that probably was frozen to death by the time a fish found it. Oftentimes the signal never came.

Even with buddies with many tip-ups set, the excitement was mostly on who could run the fastest to that flag, as we called it when a fish had released it to wave in the wind. Often when responding to a flag up we'd find that the wind had tripped it or that the fish had taken the bait, swam off several feet and then dropped it.

We tried jigging single ice holes for lake trout in deep water and again found that success didn't come easy and that you sure could get cold sitting in the open pumping that jigging stick. Even though we finally bought a portable fishing shelter or as a group built a heavy but warm shack, it was still pretty boring.

With one exception, that only worked occasionally. Our of boredom one day, the Dickster started to cut up and chum with small pieces of our live bait that had died or any panfish that we'd caught while fishing for lakers. In the shallow and clear water of Merrymeeting Lake, we were passing time watching the chum slowly drift to bottom when a nice lake trout swam under us and started to eat the chum. We don't have to go into detail what happened thereafter but it ended with limits of lake trout going home for the four of us who were doing it!

Then we discovered that some (most) of the fish we were using for chum to attract the lake trout were not legal to use and our boring ice fishing was back, only to change when we had caught a fish that was legal to use.

It wasn't until somebody, Chip and Tink at Tink's Bait and Tackle Shop in Wakefield, turned us on to crappie fishing that we really got hooked on ice fishing and we got hooked for good!

Sitting on a bucket and watching a couple of rods baited with either small shiners, worms or cut bait could get exciting when a school of crappie entered the scene! It was more like the exciting smelt fishing we used to experience in the golden days when Great Bay was full of these fish and the ice fishing could be so fast and furious that sometimes you just quit hauling them in from exhaustion!

And if you've never eaten an ice-caught crappie fillet fried up soon after being caught, you've never experienced the ultimate of fish tastes.

We laugh looking back at some of the things that we had to learn about catching crappie when it really was so simple. But the thing that still brings back chuckles to my mind is when wife Jane would cook up a bunch of fresh caught crappie fillets and deliver them to this eager angler's table, then join me with our meal.

"Jane, wasn't there a dozen pairs of fillets off of those fish I brought home?"

"You were probably so frozen and probably so drunk that you couldn't count right," she said as her face was cracked by the biggest smile that you could possibly create.

It was the case of the cat got caught with the mouse in its mouth. She was eating the cooked fillets as fast as she could flip them out of the frying pan. And to this day she just has no way of hiding the fact that each fish comes with two fillets.

Now the Dickster loves ice fishing! We'll tolerate other kinds of ice fishing other than crappie as long as there's enough fillets so that we can get a few mouthfuls. But it's crappie that really make my day, both when catching 'em and then watching the "Wicked Crappie Witch" trying to wipe that smile of her face.

And so it is. We have two very close old-time friends struggling with health issues. Bad ones! Please send up a prayer for KW and EW!

And get out there and get you some!

Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Reach him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.
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Dick Pinney

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