For the past four ice seasons, my end-of-the-hardwater goal is always to be still on the ice into April. And each of the past few seasons, I've been lucky to still have decent ice to get out on, though shoreline access can be a bit of an issue.
A couple of times, we either had to jump from the ice to the shore to avoid the open water that showed up at the end of the trip or we needed a spud bar to find shoreline ice that was strong enough to walk on.
Like first ice, late ice is nothing to fool around with. All the safety precautions that were in place at the start of the season--ice picks, spud bars, float suit, boot spikes, safety rope--are brought back out on every trip. And most importantly, bringing a buddy or two along.
This season, thanks to a cold March that didn't see too many warm days, there are still a couple of lakes that have ice on them and are still accessible. Deerfield Reservoir is always the last to melt due to the elevation it is at and how thick the ice gets by March. And that is where I've been heading since April hit.
This first trip of the month brought a slower bite than we'd expected, but we each managed to reel in some fish. Our deadsticks produced most of our catches as the trout seemed to prefer a minnow to our plastic imitations or spoons.
At the beginning of the season, I was using Northland Tackle's new Mini Predator rig on my deadsticks, but something more subtle is currently needed. With plain hooks swallowed more often, I've opted to use Clam Pro Tackle's Blade jig on my Arctic Warrior setups. They add some color and flash to the struggling minnow but have shown to be far less likely to be swallowed by the fish.
If you're one of the fortunate ones to still have ice and your outdoor activities haven't been curtailed by shelter-in-place restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, continue to practice safety on the last bits of ice as well as maintaining our social distancing responsibilities in these uncertain times.
Warm weather will be returning this weekend to the Dakotas and the forecast looks to herald the end of the season very soon. As I ready myself for what will probably be my last excursion on the ice soon, preparations are being made for those first open water trips soon after. But not just yet!