Having heard about some of the lower ponds in the Hills starting to ice, I started looking at some ponds with trout in them that I've had my eye on at the higher elevations for possible good ice to walk on.
Having the morning off in the middle of the week, I planned to go to one of these ponds, but first I had to find someone who was available to go out. I asked Brandon, a new fishing buddy I'd made through work, if he was available and he said he'd come out.
One thing about first ice is that you never go out without someone else. Even if you have all the safety gear, it may not do you much good if there's no one there to help you out. So, the night before, I lined up all the safety gear you should be bringing out with you at first ice--safety rope, such as the one from Clam, spud bar, ice picks, boot spikes, a life jacket, spare set of clothes, and, if you have it, Clam Outdoors Ice Armor Lift Suit or the new Ascent model with buoyancy properties that keep your head out of the water should you fall through.
You can never be too safe when it comes to your first trips onto the ice. Your life is worth more than any fish, so be safe above all else and don't go out if the ice doesn't look good.
When we arrived at the pond, Brandon and I looked for the best place to get onto the ice and once we found it, I proceeded first with the spud bar and drove it into the ice every few feet to see if the ice was hard enough.
As I made my way out, the ice proved safe to walk on. Using my new K-Drill to cut through the ice, we measured the ice at just about 4". So, after drilling a spread of holes, we checked the depths, which indicated it was very, very shallow, being only 4.5 feet deep at its deepest point.
After tying on a Clam Outdoors Pro Tackle: Caviar Drop Jig and putting on a Maki Plastic, Brandon started jigging while I used a Clam Drop Jig paired with a Maki Jamei Plastic. Within five minutes, Brandon hooked into a good fish judging from the fight that ensued and the runs the fish made.
After a bit, I helped him haul an extremely nice 20.5" rainbow trout onto the ice, the first fish of the season. After some measurements and photos, we released the fish to be caught another day.
The rest of the morning produced no more catches for either of us despite seeing a few more marks on our Vexilar screens. We didn't mind so much because we just happy to be on the ice again and much earlier than normal.
We played it safe and made it off the ice without any problems and counted ourselves lucky to get on early ice and catch a nice fish in the process. We'll be back, and the fish he caught, made the morning worth the trip. The 2017-18 hardwater season has officially begun for me and I'm looking forward to a safe, long and productive season on the ice! Be safe everyone.