As the hardwater season ends each year, it is always a sad occasion. It is my favorite outdoor experience and I always try to stretch out the last trips until it is no longer safe to venture out anymore. And each year, the last trips have been getting pushed later and later thanks to more experience on late ice and sporadic cold weather to help keep things frozen a bit longer.
Indeed, as my social media account past moments pop up, mid-March used to be my last trips several years ago. Now April is always the goal. However, the same safety measures that were there for first ice are back in place--safety rope, ice picks, boot spikes, spud bar, and always bringing a buddy along.
This year's last trip was April 17th, the latest I had ever been on the ice. As I walked along the shoreline with my friend Jordan and his sister, Julia, who was on her first ice trip ever, I prodded along looking for better ice to get on at.
The ice out past the shore was at least 16"-18" thick, but access becomes an issue as April heats up. Once we got on and walked to the spot I had picked, the condition of the ice became evident quickly as my Kdrill took no time to cut through the ice, which was very blocky and honeycombed.
With warm weather on tap, it was the last trip. After I got Jordan and Julia set up with rods and Vexilars and showed her how to use it, I set out some Arctic Warriors, then grabbed my trusty St. Croix CCI rod paired with a Picsifun ICX5 reel and tipped with Aurora's lucky Panfish Leech Flutter spoon and set to work. Unfortunately for us, it was a slow bite of a morning.
Jordan managed to catch a few rainbows and perch and Julia caught her first iced fish, including the best one of the morning, which I unfortunately missed the fight because I was searching for a better bite on the opposite side of the bay. But I saw the result and she was pretty darn happy! I managed several small rainbows and brook trout, but it was a bit disappointing. But looking at the positive, it was mid-April and I was still on the ice and another first timer had caught her first iced fish, including a very nice specimen. I really could not argue too much with the morning.
So as I have now cleaned and stowed away my sleds and hubs, taken reels off of rods and unspooled the line off of most (except for the ones I'll use this summer), washed my Ice Armor suits, and oiled up the blades of my Kdrill, I reflect back on what was a long and productive ice season.
From Nov. 2 till Apr. 17th, I was on the hardwater at least once a week for just over six months! Not too shabby of a stretch. From groups to individuals, many first timers to the sport came out with me to give it a try. Some new personal bests were set. New lures and techniques were tried. Getting to participate in Hooked on Hardwater for the first time was one of the best highlights of the season. It really was an excellent time on the ice! And now, the open water season has started, and new opportunities await!