Modern technology saves the day on recent ice-fishing trip
Modern technology has certainly revolutionized ice fishing. From high-tech sleds and insulated portable shanties to flashers, graphs, GPS units and underwater video cameras, ice fishing is nothing like it was when I was a kid and sat for hours on a five-gallon bucket fighting the wind and elements more than the fish.
But that technology sometimes comes in handy for more than just putting fish on the ice.
After many trying adventures with $20 to $30 ice fishing combos, I decided to put a little coin down on the counter and purchase a decent rod and reel for ice fishing. I didn’t spend a ton, but I did put more money into this rod and reel than I have my past three or four combos combined. I realized the benefit of quality on my first bite as it was a smooth and easy process to reel in the fish – completely unlike the herky-jerky retrieve I got with the poorly-crafted drag systems on the umpteen other combos I’d used.
I fish from an old Frabill Ice Shuttle, which has nylon walls on three sides surrounding the sled, which doubles as my seat. I fish out of the open side and the nylon walls provide needed protection from the wind. It’s light, compact, and extremely mobile, so hole-hopping is easy and convenient.
I’d set out a tip-up, put down a minnow on a dead stick and was actively jigging for bluegills with my new combo. About midway through my first trip onto the ice with my new rod and reel, I decided to go check my tip-up since it hadn’t produced a bit of action. I left the deadstick in the water, but reeled in my new outfit so a pike or something large didn’t come by, hit my teardrop, and pull my new rod and reel down the hole.
I carefully laid down my new combo on the seat next to my tray of ice jigs while I went across the small bay to check my tip-up.
About the time I reached the tip-up I heard some commotion back at my shuttle. I turned around and saw that the wind had blown it over.
“Aw *%@#!” I thought. “Now my jigs will be all over the ice and snow.”
I freshened up the bait and adjusted the depth on my tip-up and headed back to the shuttle to find the exact mess I’d suspected. But as I was crawling around on the ice picking up my teardrops, I realized my new combo was nowhere to be seen. My deadstick – the cheap combo – was there on the ice, but my new St. Croix was missing.
When the shuttle tipped over the rod and reel slipped straight down my jigging hole, now resting comfortably on the bottom in about 22 feet of water.
I figured it was probably right down at the bottom of the hole, so I drilled four holes surrounding my original jigging hole in hopes I could snag my combo and bring it back to the surface.
I used the tip-up line and attached the biggest treble hook I could find and started swinging it around on bottom in a futile attempt to retrieve my gear. I switched from one hole to the other, but all I kept bringing up was a couple twigs and big gobs of brown, slimy, decaying aquatic vegetation.
After an hour or so of swinging that treble around in a blind attempt to hook my rod and reel, a light went on inside my head.
My buddy Dean Caddick has an underwater camera. Maybe he’ll bring it over to the lake and we can try to locate the combo that way.
Dean was tied up that afternoon, but agreed to meet me at the lake the following morning.
We went back to the scene of my misadventure. Dean dropped his camera down the original hole and within two minuted we saw the end of my spring-bobber sticking up off the bottom. I dropped the treble down the holes surrounding the camera until we saw it on the screen, then maneuvered it toward the spring-bobber and, voila, I set the hook – carefully, of course – and pulled my combo up through the ice.
Surprisingly, when I got home and took the reel apart to drain any water from inside, I was pleased to find that none had seeped in. The interior of the reel was as dry as a bone. I added a dab of reel grease, just for good measure, reassembled the reel and I was back in action – thanks to our modern technology.