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Good Times on Early Ice

With the unseasonably warm weather that is around right now, no big lakes in the Black Hills are anywhere close to locking up right now. Some of the smaller lakes and ponds fortunately were still frozen when I arranged an early morning trip for myself and my friends Steve, Beau, and Andi a few days ago.

Rumor had it that Sylvan Lake had four inches of ice on it and I decided that we would check it out first and determine if we'd try out another smaller pond that is shaded for the most part of the day and would have walkable ice on it.

Andi was excited to get back on ice, something she hadn't done in years since she lived in Michigan. That excitement is always contagious, even for someone like me who absolutely loves the hard water.

I made sure everyone had the proper safety gear with or on them before we hit the lake. I went first with the spud bar to check conditions and popped a few holes to measure ice thickness. It was 4" of good ice all the way in the area I wanted us to fish on. I just made sure to tell everyone that we should make sure not to fish so close to one another that we added more pressure to the ice.

I drilled a spread of holes with my new 8" K-Drill attached to my Clam Outdoors Conversion Plate and had Andi take a turn as well. It is quite a bit of difference going from the heavy gas auger to the 12 pound conversion kit for sure.

She drilled like a champ! Steve and Beau started fishing while I gave Andi some quick instructions on how to read a Vexliar flasher screen and jigging techniques to try out. Within the span of less than two hours, Steve and I managed to catch several rainbows, including some nice ones over 15".

The lake has plenty of cookie-cutter sized 12"-13" fish. Andi soon caught her first South Dakota iced fish afterwards followed by Beau reeling in his first fish of the season and another nice 15" right after that. Jigging with tungsten jigs in rapid cadences with bigger movements in between seemed to trigger the fish to come in and investigate before smacking the Maki Jamei or Mati plastics we were using.

Andi, though, caught the fish of the day. I heard her say she had a fish on and looked over and saw her rod bent at nearly 90 degrees and rushed over to give her a hand. I knew it was a good size fish from the way it was running and gave her advice on letting the fish run and keeping the line tension tight to prevent any slack.

After about five minutes, she reeled the head up the hole and I grabbed the fish and pulled it onto the ice. It was an extremely big fish for this lake! We quickly took a measurement and it hit 18" on the scale! It was the biggest trout I'd seen taken from Sylvan in my nearly ten years of living here. After getting some pictures with her fish, she released it back into the hole. She was ecstatic with the catch and loved every minute of it.

We moved around for the next hour or so catching some more small trout and enjoyed Andi's ribbing to the three of us guys about catching the biggest fish. I think she may become the newest icehead to the scene after having the fun she did.

We left soon afterwards as the weather was getting warmer and I only hope that the lake will keep its good ice after the next few warm days to get back on it next week. But, this trip was a great time with friends and I was glad to see that everyone caught some fish and had a good time and I'm sure we'll be hearing Andi's fun heckling many more times on the ice this season!

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