Written by Joy Leisen, 2/18/2013
After a long hiatus from fishing, Josh and I finally got a chance to wet some lines this weekend since it was Free Fishing Weekend in Michigan. Even better, we arranged to meet up with Professor Fish and Carly for an afternoon- it's always fun to hang out with fellow roughfishers!
Josh and I got started on Saturday morning on Higgins Lake near Roscommon, MI. It was a calm, sunny morning and the lake was abuzz with snowmobilers and people enjoying the annual WinterFest near the boat launch. Armed with a lake map, we trudged about a mile out, then wandered around drilling holes until we found the shelf we were looking for, with a depth of 80'.
Despite setting out lively baits and performing some spirited jigging, we were completely snubbed at this spot- not even a nibble.
By about two or three o'clock, Professor Fish and Carly had gotten their shack set up nearer the boat launch, and we trekked over to join them. We had a nice afternoon/evening of conversation and hot chocolate sipping, but alas, the targeted smelt were elusive and sly and avoided our baits flawlessly. Even though the action was slow (nonexistent), Josh and I had a great time and were super glad to have met two like-minded anglers.
On Sunday morning we sprung out of bed, ready to give it another shot. This time we headed out with our friend Garrett to a different spot on the lake. We consulted the lake map and headed for a ridge near a sunken island, about a mile from shore.
Within ten minutes of setting up a tip-up, a flag sprung up and Garrett landed a nice lake trout. Encouraged, we got the rest of our lines out and hunkered down for some serious jigging. Luckily it was another gorgeous day and there was hardly even a breeze, allowing us to peel off some layers and fish in comfort.
After about an hour, Josh's tip-up flag heralded the arrival of a fish. Unfortunately it must have felt the hook and spat the smelt, so Josh dropped the bait back down.
Soon afterward I tired of jigging and felt inspired to drill another hole. Since I lack manly upper-body strength, it was a rather pathetic ten minutes before, breathless and exhausted, I finally succeeded in breaking through the foot-thick ice. I threaded a large headless minnow on the end of a heavy spoon and dropped it down. Apparently my laborious hole-drilling paid off, because after ten minutes of enthusiastic jigging, I felt something. When I set the hook, the line started whirring from my reel and we knew there was something monstrous on the other end. After a nail-biting 15-minute battle, I pulled my first lake trout out of the hole.
It was a magnificent beast. I wish I could have let it go, but it was bleeding quite a bit and wasn't going to make it. I always struggle with a guilty conscience when I decide to keep a fish, but I try to remind myself that we have to eat something, that it's just part of the circle of life, and that the meat will be well-utilized and enjoyed.
After the excitement of adding the lake trout to my lifelist, I really wanted Josh to catch one too. Fortunately he got the chance about an hour later, when he noticed a rod going and grabbed it just before it got pulled down the hole. He landed this nice lake trout:
Josh let this one go. Now that all three of us had caught a laker, we were all satisfied, agreeing that any more action would be just icing on the cake. I was able to bring one more to the surface, and this was actually my first-ever fish caught on a tip-up:
This one was also released to swim another day. As darkness fell we took one last photo and hiked off the lake, satisfied with a perfect day of fishing.
It was an excellent weekend. We were so thankful to get the chance to hang out with Prof Fish and Carly, to log some hours out on the ice, and to add lake trout to our lifelists. We're looking forward to March 1st when our fishing licenses will take effect, so we can really get back into the swing of tracking down new lifelisters! Next on the list- burbot and smelt!