Well...it's the second week of the 2012 hard water season and for the sake of convenience and safety, Tackle Shop and I agreed to return to last week's venue...the Town of Gilford on the south west shores of Lake Simcoe. Last week we had found 3.5 inches of ice and an inexhaustible supply of small, willing to bite perch and our plan for this week was to further explore the thickening ice sheet and locate the schools of "jumbo" perch that this lake is famous for. Apparently we were not alone in our plans.
The line of parked cars started well over a mile from the shoreline as all manner of hardwater angler make the pilgrimage to the big ice. The boat launch was a whole new experience in chaos as a line of vehicles patiently awaited their turn to expel their load of equipment and people, families and friends, abandoned on the roadside waiting for their drivers to return from their quest for a nearby parking spot. At the launch a hut operator was selling minnows in a style reminiscent of a scalper selling tickets for a Maple Leafs hockey game back when they were good..."I got what you need", he'd say in a hushed voice as you passed. On ice sanitary needs...tackle and food vendors...an on ice taxi service!!!
While TS was finding a place for the van, I stood at the center of activity, looking out on the ice in amazement at an ice fishing city that had sprung up overnight...New Perch City. A conservative estimate put the population at over 1000 in just a few square miles of ice giving it a higher population density than most of the local towns. I was trying to pick out Waldo from the mass of humanity when I was reunited with TS. Neither one of us was comfortable being inner city folk so we headed for the suburbs, choosing a sparsely populated area on the SE edge of the city, drilling our holes in 7" of lightly snow dusted ice atop of 10' of water.
It was immediately obvious our quarry was in a negative mood, holding tight to the bottom with only the occasional small perch willing to rise to our offerings. Our neighbors seemed to be having equally dismal luck, idly standing around waiting for any signs of underwater activity. We stayed at that first location for nearly an hour, landing only a dozen small fish in a five minute flurry of activity, before moving out into deeper waters a few hundred yards farther out from shore.
Our second location was in 12' of water with a healthy weed bed covering the bottom. I'd decided to take a more active approach in locating a school and drilled a half dozen holes 20' apart covering a variety of depths. Once again we spent an hour with little to show for our efforts. I'd come to the conclusion that all the on-ice activity had spooked the fish...with the constant drone of power augers and the roving squads of kamikazes on their ice chariots desperately seeking a pressure crack or patch of open water with their name on it.
While scanning the idle crowds for any sign of activity, Tackle Shop spotted a lone angler several hundred yards away who was landing fish consistently so we pulled up stakes and moseyed on over. The first thing that struck me was the large, 8" deep snow drift. I immediately remembered a similar difficult day on the ice where the only place to get a bite was in an area where a shadow was cast by a drift. Too bad this epiphany didn't occur earlier but it seemed we'd found our spot now as we both hooked into a keeper as soon as our bait neared the bottom.
The next few hours were spent trying to find a lure that wouldn't catch fish. As with the previous week, once we found actively feeding fish, I'd given up on using live bait and eventually settled on a 1.5" pearl Jigging Rapala. At one point the fish were so aggressive that I managed a true double headed...two fish on the same lure at the same time. Although the numbers were good, the average size was still a bit of a disappointment. Tackle Shop did manage to catch what he claims to be his largest perch to date...only 12" long...but also 12" in girth!
Ominous dark clouds obliterated the sun as it was nearing the horizon, sparking a mass exodus off the ice. We'd been blessed with a beautiful mid January day out on the ice...cold temperatures offset by a blazing sun with little to no wind, and difficult catching conditions overcome by a little luck and old lessons relearned.
In the immortal lyrics of Pete Townsend..."We won't get fooled again!"