|Our first trout of the day|
The weather lately has been frigid – single digits or less – but today broke warm (18˚F) and windless, so my son and I packed up and hit the lake for our first ice fishing this winter. Ice fishing season in Alaska begins as early as October, and runs through March before the ice becomes too soft. Many local lakes offer not only rainbow trout, but landlocked king salmon, silver salmon, dolly varden (Arctic char), burbot, and grayling.
We have two lakes within a few miles of our house. One of them is full of pike, and Alaska Fish and Game attempts to purge it every few years without success. The other lake is stocked with lovely little rainbows, so we favor that spot. Our bait of choice is cocktail shrimp, the stinkier the better. I’ve known people to fish with small chunks of herring, last year’s salmon roe, even kernels of corn or cheese puffs. (And, of course, there is always Power Bait, but I’m cheap.)
The snow over the lake wasn’t deep, but it had the fine, sandy quality only weeks of extreme cold can create, with a wind-blown crust over the top. Walking to a suitable spot was like walking on sand, and I had to take off my parka before we stopped to set up. Sweating in cold temperatures is dangerous, because once you cease moving and cool off, if your clothing is wet, you can chill too quickly and develop hypothermia. Luckily, I wasn’t that hot, and soon had to bundle back up with a cup of hot tea at the fishing hole.
We don’t have an electric auger, only a hand crank, and the ice this time of year is around fifteen inches thick, which makes bringing along a robust teenage boy a must. The ice below the snow pack was nice, solid black-ice. We routinely drive our vehicles onto the lake without a second thought (although today we hoofed it.) For safety, ice should be a minimum of four inches thick for one person ice fishing, seven inches for a group of people, and nine inches for vehicles. The National Weather Service posts ice thickness predictions, and this time of year some places in Alaska may have ice as deep as 48 inches! I wouldn’t want to hand auger through that ...
We only fished a couple of hours, until our fingers were numb, but we brought in plenty of little trout. And we had a great time hanging out, which is rare these days now that the kids are older.
Tam Linsey is a lifelong Alaskan who writes science fiction romance. When she's not writing, she enjoys gardening, hunting, fishing, and foraging. You can read more about her on her website at www.tamlinsey.com