Hunt Smart, Fish Hard

My buddy Pete and I were going ice fishing when we got done working for the week. I bought the three extra tip-ups from Pete he had. This time I was going to use my own tip-ups instead of sharing with Pete. What we did was set out six tip-ups and kept our eyes on them. I guess you can say it just felt better knowing when the flag went up on the tip-up it was your tip-up with the fish on it.

We decided to go to the big lake about five miles from where I use to live. Lake Mince had a lot of coves in it. It had snowed about six inches earlier in the week. Being new to ice fishing Pete told me that the snow was no problem. Pete picks me up around eight in the morning. There was no need to get up any earlier. We stopped at the bait shop and bought a bunch of minnows. Pete said if the fish are biting you don’t want to run out of bait.

We pull up to the lake and Pete opens the trunk to his car. He pulls out a plastic toboggan. I had no idea what was going on with the toboggan. I thought we were going ice fishing not snow playing. It took a minute and now it all made sense. Pete loads the toboggan with all the stuff we need, the ice bucket, tip-ups, the ice spoon (to dip out ice in the hole), the auger, shovel, and the bait. Pete smiles and says it so much easier this way. Pete pulls the toboggan behind him to the ice. There were plenty of fishermen on the lake that day. We had a cove all to ourselves. 

Now the hard work started. Pete would start to walk in a circle and stop at a spot and point down at the ice. That was his way of telling me to shovel the snow off the ice. After I got all the snow removed we put the ice-tip-ups next to the spot that was clean. Now it was Pete’s turn to show me how to dig a hole in the ice. Pete thought I was going to dig out all the ice holes. I played dumb. Every time I tried digging I would tilt the arguer on purpose and make a mess. Pete didn’t get mad but he wanted to hurry up and get them dug out. Pete did five of them and I felt guilty and told him I will try again. After buzzing through the ice Pete said I would pay for that.

Pete sets up the first tip-up. Pete took the string and ran it through the holes in the button. Pete tied a weight on the string. Pete let the weight drop threw the ice hole and kept moving the button up on the fishing line. Now the weight hits the bottom. Pete sets the button so when you let the line out and the button shows up on the spool you know you are at the bottom. Pete now resets the bottom so it stays about six inches or so off the bottom. We did this with all the tip-ups. Pete puts a split shot about twelve inches from the bottom of the line to help the minnow get to the bottom once we send it down the hole. Some of them we set deeper because of the depth of the lake. It was time to put the minnows on the hooks.

I remember this like it was yesterday, once you grabbed a minnow and baited the hook your fingers got very cold in a hurry! It was time to fish. We uncrossed the tip-up legs that look like a big letter X across the ice hole and pulled the flag back and set the tip-up. The tip-up was set across the ice hole. On the bottom of the tip-up was your spool. On the spool it has a little point on it. When the fish takes your bait the spool spins around and when that point comes to the top of the spool it triggers the release of the tip-up and the flag ‘pops up’ and it flaps back and forth. When that happens you got a fish on.

By the time we were ready to set the last tip-up Pete’s first tip-ups flag is flapping back and forth. We run over to it and Pete slowly pulls up the tip-up and the spool is spinning. Pete says I don’t know what’s on but we are going to find out. Just that fast Pete jerks on the line and starts to pull the fish up. Pete says he isn’t sure what it is. Pete pulls a nice size sunny through the ice hole. Just as we put the sunny in the ice-bucket Pete’s other tip-up goes up. Pete pulled up a small trout about nine inches long. Pete said it was a good size through the ice. We set the last tip-up now and wait. The coffee is almost gone. Both of our thermoses are almost empty. It was getting colder out but every time the tip-up went off the weather didn’t seem to matter.

We had a lot of fun that morning. Remember Pete said he would get even with me for not drilling through the holes in the ice? Pete told me when we get to his house I got to clean all the fish. I thought my fingers would get frost bit trying to fillet all the sunnies and three trout we caught. I would not trade it for nothing. As I look back on it now, all those ice fishing trips were “Price-less”. Until next week-H.S.F.H.-L.M.