Living in the Black Hills, I have had plenty of opportunities to get out on the ice for some trout this year. But, there hasn't been anywhere to go target other species. I had been dieing to get after some jumbo perch this year after ending last year with a few good ones.
I did a bit of online research and got a few tips from friends about some of the glacial lakes on the Eastern part of the state. It looked like about a 6-hour drive and only having 36 hours before having to be back to town for work, I decided to set out at 2am when I got off work.
We "my girlfriend Felicia and myself" arrived at one of the lakes I was referred to, and apparently, I was not the only one who was told that the lake was hot. There were people with hubs popped up every 10 feet anywhere there was safe ice. I'm not a big crowd guy, so we decided to go look elsewhere for some fish.
After a short 45 minute drive we arrived at a different lake that I knew kicked out some good fish last year. Being exhausted from no sleep and 8 hours of driving, I caught a quick hour nap in the car at the lake before hunting down what looked like a good area.
It was a small pushed in bay with some good cover around, high weeds on the shoreline and some trees off to the sides in the water. We ventured out and I knocked out 50 holes right away with my new K-drill everywhere I thought there could possibly be some depth or cover change. I like to drill once if possible and not get the auger back out again until I make a big move so I don’t continually disturb the area. One of the main reasons I don't fish around big crowds, I like to cover a large area.
I never fish without my Clam Artic Warriors, so before I even started jigging I set up 6 for us intended to catch different species. I put 2 out with steal leaders and larger bait for pike, 3 for walleye with a fluorocarbon leader and some bigger minnows, and 1 for perch with the smallest hook I had and a crappie minnow.
We quickly had 3 flags go off, 2 with some hammer handle pike on the other end, and (1) 14-inch walleye. We moved around the holes jigging with a Clam Outdoors Leech Flutter Spoons tipped with minnow heads and Dropkick Jigs with Maki Plastics and was able to catch a few smaller walleyes, but nothing with any size to it.
I relocated a few of the warriors to some holes I found good cover in. It wasn't long before I saw the far flag pop, and since I hadn't touched a warrior yet that day, I took off after it. I picked up the rod but it appeared he had swiped the bait and left me looking like a fool.
I gave the line a few small jigs, and felt the smallest bite. I set the hook expecting there to be a perch or a small walleye on the other end. I was not expecting and immediate 20 yd explosion of line off my reel, I quickly loosened the drag up knowing it was a pike or walleye and with 4lb test, not much room for error with those big teeth.
Several times I thought she had hung me up in some moss or around a tree, she would just come to a standstill but I wasn’t snagged, I just couldn’t move her! Finally, after about 10 to 15 minutes I saw that white tail flash beneath the hole, my heart rate was really going now. I live for topping my own personal bests and I knew she had mine beat.
After 3 or 4 passes by the hole, head 1st and failed attempts at grabbing her, I did what I know I never should. I went for the tail grab "I don't advise this, but in a panic when I saw that tiny hook just barely in corner of the mouth I went for it." I locked onto her with an eagle claw grip and pulled her out onto the ice.
I gave a quick couple shouts and roars, admired her for a second, got my pictures and started the release. I wanted to make sure she swam off strong, so I pulled my sleeves up and stuck both hands under the ice so I could hold her horizontal and get some movement going.
I felt her strength return very quickly after doing this, she gave me 2 or 3 good hard kicks before I let go and watched her swim off. That’s when I really lost it, I YELLED as loud as I could across that lake YEAH BABY!
I love catching big fish, but there really is something to watching them swim off that is so much more rewarding. I also seem to have an incredible knack for catching the same fish multiple times, so maybe she will come back to see me later this year when I road trip out that way again!
New waters, new personal best, just doesn't get any better than that. I have made a lot of road trips this year, all of which have made me a better angler and produced many personal bests. Fishing around home is always great, but every once in a while, it's nice to get out there and see what other areas have to offer.