Nick Goes Ice Fishing - Chapter Two - Major Catchage!

This is a story about transforming the way I felt about something that started after an extremely cold week. The brutally cold temperatures had left everything with even a hint of moisture completely frozen. Because everything was a solid sheet of ice, I decided to take a friend's offer to do a little ice fishing for the second time ever. Well...I suppose if you go way back - almost 20 years ago - when I took a big rock and smashed it into the ice a few times to make a hole, and then dropped a minnow down there, this would be the third time.

Ed with a nice bass through the ice
The target on this outing was table fair bluegill. The location was Mazonia State Fish and Wildlife Area. This place is over a thousand acres and has about 200 different bodies of water. The overwhelming majority of those take quite a bit of hiking through brush, reeds, trees, and steep terrain. Of course, we picked one that required tackling all of those obstacles because the adventure in getting there is half the fun. The even better part is that a ton of these lakes see almost no fishing pressure. It always seems that the farther you get from the parking lot, the more untouched nature is.

By the time, we reached the spot, all three of us had worked up quite a sweat so we started shedding layers before drilling our first holes. Ed was the main hole popper since he had the power auger. Jake and I mainly just fished them. At first, when the Vexilars were deployed, it looked as if the waters were void of life. Thirty seconds later, my tiny jig with a little spike on it hit the bottom and the sonar screen lit up just as I felt a tug. A quick snap up with the rod and the first fish was caught.

Backtrack...the problem that I always had with ice fishing is that the entire idea of spending so much time, money, and energy to catch some bluegills seemed ridiculous to me. On every forum and fisherman's Facebook page around the midwest -usually starting around the middle of November - threads and posts about being so excited for ice take over. Any other time of the year, the idea of catching these little pan fish was completely....senseless and ridiculed amongst most of them. Now, all of the sudden, because the water is frozen, catching bluegill is something to be excited and brag about??  Before the ice, if you posted a picture of a bluegill, people would either not care or make fun of you.

Now that the ice is here, adjectives like "nice" and "awesome" are followed by abundant exclamation points. I truly just didn't get it. It annoyed me. I am not sure if it's the hypocrisy or the personal feelings I have about spending any real time chasing them that bothers me the most...maybe it's probably both.

So, back to that first fish....after I reeled it up from the icy depths and through the little six inch hole, I chuckled and stated, "Yep...that was every bit as uneventful as I thought it would be." This prompted some laughs from my friends but I was serious at that moment. A part of me had hoped that the tiny rods used in ice fishing would make that little 8" bluegill feel like a two pound smallmouth but it didn't.

However, as I continued fishing and learning how to really read and understand the Vexilar, it started to click. This was almost like a video game. I watched time after time a screen that went from blank to being lit up like a Pink Floyd laser light show when I bounced the bottom with my jig a few times to get things stirred up.

By the time the day had ended, I was able to stir the school up, know when it happened, and what fish was gonna be the one who ate the jig. Once the school was active, I would raise the jig from the bottom and there would always be a mark that would leave the pack and follow it up. That was the target. Now all I had to do was lift the jig up and let it fall right past him. It worked 9 out of 10 times. Before I knew it, I was actually having a really fun time catching bluegill!! Sure the fight wasn't very entertaining but the process was. The best fights came from the bass - as you could imagine - but the process was the same for almost every fish. It was a process that I wanted to keep doing over and over.

What the?! How the?! Had I just been converted to one of those people who likes to go ice fishing?!?! How in the heck did that happen?!

Between the three of us, we put a self imposed limit of 30 bluegill for the frying pan. Almost all the ones we kept seemed to be cut from the same 8" mold. Any smaller ones went back in as did all the bass. If I had to guess, we easily caught 60 fish.

When I got home, I filleted my share of the catch and introduced my reluctant wife to try a bluegill fish fry. To her amazement, she loved them.

She liked them so much in fact, she actually asked when I was going ice fishing again. To my shock, I am actually bummed that it won't be for a few weeks as my schedule is filled with outdoor shows. If the ice is still around after that, I will definitely be doing it again!

Of course, I had to make a video of some of the fun! I was playing around with some new editing software and I apologize for the terrible music. It was already in the library...ha ha.


  1. I consider myself a very casual ice fisherman... but I must say if I was better at it and could figure out some consistent producing locations, I would do it a lot more. It is surprisingly fun, even when average Bluegill are the target. Glad to see you out catching some fish on the hard water!

    1. Thanks! It was definitely one of those days that had the power to convert a skeptic. Cleaning the fish was a PITA though. Id probably just throw them back in the future.

  2. Great read! I'd like to try ice fishin' sometime!

    1. Yeah you prolly don't get a ton of fishable ice down by you....you'll have to head on up to the arctic tundra.

  3. I get the same thrill with a game called Simfish, except you get to eat afterwards and I don't. Now, bluegill in the summer is some fun.

    1. Oh hell yeah! I neeeeeed to get one of those for the office!!


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