As it turned out Santa was a stingy old elf this year, so taking matters into my own hands I hit the Boxing Day sales with the intention of increasing my on-ice safety and comfort. My first purchase was a survival suit, a one piece snow suit with a foam interior for added insulation and buoyancy. The second gift to myself was a new set of extreme winter boots, rated at -100C or -148F. Two of the three things guaranteed to spoil a day of ice fishing are frozen toes or a surprise swim. The third thing... I'll touch on later.
While fighting the crowds of bargain shoppers at Bass Pro Shops on Boxing Day I ran into a vaguely familiar face, Lee, whom Tackle Shop and I had met on Little Puslinch Lake last February. Lee told us the disturbing news that access to Puslinch was closed this year due to the blatant disrespect shown by some of the users last winter. Because of an unusually mild December only the small shallow lakes had safe ice as of last week and with Puslinch closed the best bet was Little Lake in Barrie, where reports were of 4" to 7" of ice and average catches of pike and the rare walleye. Late last week TS informed me he'd seen on THE BLUE ICE REPORT (daily ice conditions with on-ice interviews by a local ice hut operator) that Cooks Bay, the south arm of Lake Simcoe had several inches of ice.
But there was one more thing TS and I had to tackle before we could head out...renew our licences. Sounds easy...right? With typical bureaucratic wisdom, the MNR took a streamlined system of licencing and added several layers of BS. As it turns out, in an urban area of nearly six million people, there are only five or six outlets where you can renew your licence and because of the new procedures the sales staff are inadequately trained and prone to mistakes. It took us close to an hour to complete a process that could have been done last year in five minutes at an automated kiosk in a mall.
I gave up on using minnows immediately, unwilling to risk permanent damage from freezing just to feed the greedy thieves below the ice, and opted for a durable rubber spike. As soon as it neared the bottom, 10 feet below, it was attacked by the ravenous school and after several attempts at setting the hook I finally landed my first fish of 2012...a scrappy 6" perch. It was probably one hundredth the size of my last catch in October...but no less welcome! I struggled to remove the tiny hook with all the finesse and dexterity of a boxer tying his shoe laces with his gloves on, finally releasing my catch seconds before being flash frozen.
There's nothing better than first ice.
Glad to be back!