The past few weeks seen the Black Hills region experience well below normal temperatures and had given me a serious itch for some hardwater action. On my last open water excursion of the season on Oct. 30th, two anglers got onto the ice for the first time on a small pond! That really got the blood pumping at that news.
Two days later, I got some very temporary relief by getting on the same pond, but only for a half hour because I had to wait for a couple of friends to show up. I still had to work that day, but there was no way I was going out without some friends. Rule #1 on early ice for me is never go without a buddy! I didn't catch anything but drilling holes with the K-drill and turning the Vexilar on again felt great!
Three days later, after receiving some news from another friend of mine that Sylvan Lake was iced over with a few inches in one area, two of my early ice buddies, Matt and Beau, and I headed up there for a couple of hours before I had to return back to town again for work.
Using my spud bar, we poked along the area where my friend had been since his holes were visible and found where the ice was good and where it was thinner. We had better ice within 20 yards of shore before it decreased significantly. Over the two hours we were there, we were rewarded with a terrific trout bite, icing dozens of them on maggots and Clam Maki plastics, including the new Polli XL. The larger size and long tail drove them nuts and many times, the fish screamed in and slammed the bait! It's going to be a good trout plastic for this season for sure. None of the fish were huge, but it was a great way to officially kick off the 2019-20 hardwater season!
While we had our Clam Outdoors Ascent suits on and had a life jacket for Beau, we had no desire to test out the flotation features of our suits and used the spud bar a lot to prod along. I also had my safety rope, ice picks, and boot spikes with.
Ice picks are probably the cheapest insurance you can buy for first ice. I like to keep them tucked under my hoodie, but others wear them over their suit. If you don't yet have a float suit, then be sure you always have some ice picks around your neck! They could save your life should the worst happen.
While the ice was certainly enough to hold us, we didn't stay close together either. If you're willing to get on first ice before the recommended 4" has formed, you must exercise the most extreme caution and spare no expense for safety gear. Bring or wear what you have and never go out alone. As other areas in the Ice Belt are now locking up, be sure to take all precautions before venturing out onto first ice. A long ice season is upon us! Let's enjoy it safely.