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Ice Fishing  - Mobile Style!  at Cabela's

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.

Snow machines are the answer for the mobile ice fisherman.
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 nothing.

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 first walleye."

Gary Clancy knows about being mobile for the best results.
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.

a power auger is a must when multiple holes are to be bored.
"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) 875-2412.

Portable ice houses are nice when the wind starts to whip.
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!