Ice Fishing - Mobile Style!
Author: Gary Clancy
Tired of idly sitting over a hole in the ice? Get mobile to increase your odds and pleasure this winter.
Rainy Lake sprawls for miles across the border country shared by the
province of Ontario and the state of Minnesota. For the most part unspoiled,
this land of rock and pine, spruce and birch, is home to more moose and
timber wolves than people. The dark, but clean waters harbor hordes of fish.
I've come here in the dead of winter to try to catch some of them. But even
though catching fish was my goal, I knew that first morning, as the
snowmobile carried me deeper and deeper into the heart of this country and
further and further away from the last vestiges of civilization, that even if
I never caught a fish, this trip was already a huge success. I've visited
Rainy Lake often in spring, summer and in fall. My family and I have had the
pleasure of making several houseboat vacations on Rainy. But it's a different
world in winter, everything cloaked in a deep, soft blanket of white. It's
clean and pure. And when we finally shut down the snow machines at our first
fishing spot the silence is what I heard first. No traffic, no sirens, no
nothing. There are not many places left where you can listen hard and hear
Mike "One Doggie" Lessard broke the silence when he jerked the power
auger to life and began drilling holes through three feet of solid ice. I
followed behind with an ice scoop to clean out the holes. With a dozen holes
drilled around the edge of one of the hundreds of reefs which dot Rainy Lake,
One Doggie shut down the auger and proceeded to go from hole to hole with a
portable FL-8 depth finder. "Fish down there alright," he announced. " I'm
going to start with a Jigging Rapala."
"Okay," I said, "then I'll go with a jig and minnow. Two-bits on the
Thirty seconds later I was flipping a quarter through the air in One
Doggie's direction as he hauled a fat walleye through the hole. Then it was
my turn. I felt that wonderful little "thump" and set the hook into a fish
which did not want to move. I like that feeling. I knew the fish was a good
one, so I played it carefully and several minutes later led the snout of a
six pound walleye up through the hole in the ice. I slipped the jig from the
fishes jaw and let the golden fish slide back down the hole.
The reason why
Rainy Lake is one of North America's premier walleye fisheries is that a
strict slot limit insures that the larger fish will live to fight another
day. Fish in that three to six pound range are common and Rainy is one of the
better bet's for a coveted "tenner." Yet, catching enough fish under
seventeen inches for a shore lunch.....or is that ice lunch.......is not a
problem. Pull out the Coleman stove, fry up some spuds, heat up a big can of
beans and slip ultra- fresh walleye fillets into sizzling grease. I
guarantee, walleye have never tasted better.
When the fish quit biting, there is no sitting there for hours waiting
for another school to move in. Simply crank up the snowmobiles, motor out to
another reef, punch some more holes and catch more fish.
"Our goal is to provide an ice fishing adventure for those anglers who
want to experience something more than sitting in a fish house for eight
hours," says Woody of Woody's Fairly Reliable Guide Service, who along with
One Doggie, guide anglers on day trips on Rainy Lake.
"For many of our guests, enjoying the scenery and the wildlife is as
important as catching fish. For some, just riding the snowmobiles is a new
and exciting experience. But we also cater to die-hard anglers, and rarely do
they go home disappointed."
I don't know how they could.
Although walleye are the main attraction on
Rainy Lake the winter fishing is outstanding for big northern pike and chunky
lake trout as well. And although not many people realize it, some parts of
Rainy Lake harbor impressive populations of slab crappies.
On a two or three
day trip it is possible to catch numbers of each species.
The secret to success is mobility. Snowmobiles provide that mobility.
Don't worry if you have never driven one, it is easy. A portable canvas ice
house is towed behind one of the snowmobiles. If the weather is nasty or
extremely cold, the ice shack and propane heaters make for comfy fishing.
Woody and One Doggie know every reef on the lake and as One Doggie said,
"Somewhere, the fish are always biting. All we have to do is find them and by
staying mobile, we usually do."
For more information contact the International Falls Visitor & Convention
Bureau at 1- 800-325-5766 or CVB@rainylake.org.
Woody's number is (218)-286-5001 and One Doggie can be reached at (218)
Gearing Up For Adventure Ice Fishing
Woody and One Doggie have plenty of tackle to go around, but if you want
to bring your own, I suggest you bring two or three ice rods, one ultra-light
for crappies, a medium action for walleye and a beefier model for tackling
pike and lake trout. The Cabela's XML series of ice rods will fill the bill
nicely. I like two or four pound test on a small spinning reel for crappies
and six or eight pound test for walleye. For pike and lake trout go with a
no-stretch super line in fifteen or 20 pound test. A Cabela's soft-sided
tackle tote is ideal for this type of fishing. In one plastic tray I carry an
assortment of walleye jigs in everything from 1/16 to 1/2 ounce. Chartreuse,
gold, fluorescent orange, hot pink and combinations of those colors are all
good. In another tray I carry a few Jigging Rapala's, Swedish Pimples and
jigging spoons. A third tray has small jigs and ice flies for crappie fishing
and in a fourth tray are white bucktails and airplane jigs for lake trout.
There is still plenty of room for pliers, hook sharpener, steel leaders (for
pike) sunscreen and a couple pairs of dry gloves. Throw a camera in there
too, you are going to want to take pictures of this adventure.
If you don't have a snowmobile suit, don't rush out and buy one. I wore a
Cabela's Gore- Tex Guidewear Parka and Bibs over long underwear, wool pants
and wool sweater and stayed warm and dry even when we bogged down in slush
and had to manhandle the snow-machines out of natures version of one giant
sno-cone. The Guidewear is much more versatile than a snowmobile suit, I wear
mine often during open water fishing.
Good boots are a must. The Cabela's Trans-Alaska III Pac Boot is rated
down to minus 135 degrees. Thankfully, I never had to find out if that rating
is accurate, but I can vouch for the fact that they kept my feet toasty warm
at 20-something below zero.
Bring several pairs of gloves to wear while fishing, but for on the
snowmobile, you will find mittens to be much warmer than gloves. Your guides
will provide you with snowmobile helmets and liners. I put a couple of those
disposable chemical handwarmers in each pocket of my parka. While jigging
with one hand I wrap my other paw around the heat generated by these little
miracle packets. Pure heaven!