By Darrin McGrath | Cabin Country | Vol. 31 No. 49 (February 20 2019)
This winter is an ice-fisherman’s dream. The ponds and gullies are frozen solid, the bogs are like cement and there is little snow. You can get around easily. There will be many trout taken this winter as ATVs can reach out-of-the-way gullies and ponds. And, the new Nalcor roads on the transmission lines also allow access to many ponds.
Someone once said to me that, “There is no sport in ice-fishing.” Ice-fishing for trout is vastly different than fly-fishing for Atlantic salmon on a big, roaring river such as the Humber or the Exploits. And, fishing for sea-trout using a “nail” is very sporting when you’re fighting a big brown trout. But there is something about ice-fishing that has me hooked.
When I was a kid my father told me that when trout are really feeding they will strike at anything. If we ran out of worms, Dad would cut the belly fin off a trout and use it for bait. We caught a nice few trout on belly fins. We often used cut up hockey sticks for our lines.
Sometimes when the trout are really hitting good, you can pull one up, take it off the hook and then drop the chewed up worm and hook back down and get another. This can be repeated several times if the trout are there and hungry.
I’ve had a couple of meals of trout so far this winter. They taste a little different than the mud trout caught in May, but they still make nice table fare with some bread and butter and a cup of tea.
One nice thing about ice-fishing is that it can be a solitary affair of just a few hours, or a day long trip with family or friends. For example, getting together to go ice fishing is a great way to connect with a cousin who you don’t see much of, or even having a conversation with a relative about fishing is interesting.
Ice fishing can take you to the back country, or to a gully on the side of the TCH where the hum of traffic keeps you company while you fish.
My brother Pat, his son Bernard and girlfriend Caroline, and Bernard’s daughter Meaghan recently spent a couple of days at the cabin ice fishing and rabbit hunting. They caught a meal of trout and bagged a couple of bunnies.
I can remember years ago hearing about a guy who used to go into a small gully surrounded with woods. He cut three holes and put out his lines. While he was doing this he’d let his beagle go in the woods around the pond. By the time the third hole was cut and the line ready to set, the dog was often howling on a rabbit. He’d take his gun and go wait for the rabbit. Sometimes the rabbit would come out along the edge of the woods and run along the ice making for an easy shot. In this way you’d get a few trout and maybe a brace of rabbits.
One guy I did a lot of ice fishing with was Robert Adams. We’d strap on snowshoes and hike into a pond and spend the day fishing.
I remember one trip ice-fishing many years ago when Steve Chafe and I were having a boil up on the side of a pond, when a cow moose walked out of the woods and crossed the frozen pond. It was a nice sight to see.
Speaking of seeing things on the ice, my brother Jim and I were talking about years ago when you’d see people drive up Angle Pond to their cabins on the frozen pond. You don’t see that too often now. This is a good winter for ice, but I don’t know if it’s as good as years gone by when winters seemed colder.
I recall a time when I was fishing in a gully I hadn’t fished before. I was drilling with the auger and brought up solid on a rock. Needless to say that ended that day’s fishing. And, I stifled the urge to fire the auger up in the woods.
Sometimes after a mild spurt, there may be some water on the ice. One time I was fishing when I caught a trout and dropped it and it was swimming around in the water on top of the ice.
Here’s a story I heard some years ago. After a day of ice fishing the angler returned home with his catch which of course had frozen while laying on the ice. He put the trout in a sink full of water to clean them and one of the trout’s gills started to move and it began to come around.
I knew a guy who had an old dog that went ice fishing with him. The dog was a pet and would follow him from hole to hole as he checked his lines. The man had to be careful because if he left a trout flopping on the ice, the dog would grab it and eat it. One of my beagles loved trout. In fact, any time I fried up trout I would always save one for Ranger. Another beagle I had called Snoopy, used to go ice fishing with me. That dog would follow me anywhere, and she didn’t seem to mind the cold.
Once in a while you hear of an angler who hooked a trout so large that it couldn’t be brought up through the hole that was cut. That’s the thing about ice fishing because even in a small gully you might strike some nice trout, and the odd one or two-pounder.
I was getting a few pan-size trout one day, and the sun was beginning to set. I was fishing in about eight feet of water when suddenly my line brought up solid. I thought I had hooked into the bottom of the ice. Then the line started moving and I realized I was hooked into a big trout. I was using black fishing twine, which is stronger than monofilament and less easily frayed on the edge of the hole. Anyway I started pulling up the line hand over hand and a big trout fell on the ice. It weighed over two pounds and was as pink as a salmon. Now that got the adrenalin pumping, and my cold feet and hands were quickly forgotten. Who said there’s no sport in ice fishing?