Well, as sad as it is to say, the ice season here in the Black Hills has officially ended as of this past week. The only remaining lake that had accessible ice left, Deerfield, doesn't have it anymore, but I was able to get one more trip on it before this happened.
The shorelines were just starting to thaw, but I could still get onto the thicker ice. As with any late ice trip, especially this late, safety was the priority. As it was just me, I had my spud bar, as well as ice picks, boot spikes, and safety rope within reaching distance should I have fallen through.
The ice itself was still over 18" thick, but after the first few inches, the ice was very chunky, and my K-Drill drilled through it like a hot knife through butter. It was definitely the last trip for me once I saw that, but I was still on the ice until the middle of April, which beat last season's mark by almost a week, so I was happy to say that much!
Using assorted Clam Pro Tackle jigs and Maki plastics, the fish were hungry and aggressive, usually returning to the jig if they missed it on the first or second strike. My St. Croix Walleye/Perch St. Croix Custom Ice rod helped to make jig control easy and the backbone helped me control the fish to get them topside while the Piscifun ICEX-5 reel was ultra-smooth and performed flawlessly as it has all season.
I'm looking forward to getting this combo back on the ice next season! While I didn't catch real big rainbows, I still had a blast with those that showed up on my Vexilar screen and soaked in one last morning on the hardwater and now it is time to put all the gear away.
That means stripping reels of line (except for two rods I use in my pontoon for open water), separating rods from reels connected with Cold Snap Reel Wraps, airing out my Clam hub and flip-over sled to ensure they're dry and clean, making sure my gas auger has fresh fuel in it with Sea Foam additive to ensure the seals stay moist (this was the first season I never turned it on even once), and making sure all batteries have a full charge before they go into storage.
Taking these steps will ensure the gear works properly next season when the weather turns cold again. Until then, I'll have the memories and photos from another great season on the ice to get me through the hot days, lawn mowing, and general yard work of another summer. But open water season is here and time to gear up if you haven't already!