First Ice 2020 – Chain Lakes

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Ice fishing season has arrived, and I’m so glad it’s here! Before this trip, I was going through some serious withdrawals. I hadn’t been fishing since early October and it was starting to show; I was irritable, couldn’t sleep, and I was always thinking about fishing.

Like most early ice anglers, I turn into an amateur meteorologist when we’re talking ice formation, wind and snow reports. I have been keeping a keen eye on every news source possible, hoping to confirm what I’d been estimating. Finally, on November 15th, I was confident the lake I wanted to hit first had frozen over with enough ice that I wasn’t going to go for a swim. This is now the earliest I have been out ice fishing. I know a few brave folks were out closer to Halloween, but I’m not willing to test my luck out on thin ice.

5:30 am – I’m up early and dragging my (loaded since October) Frabill Flipover out to the truck, only to find the whole thing frozen shut. From the doors to the tailgate I could not get the thing open. That’s what I get for not using it since before the snow started falling. It took me 45 minutes with the heat gun to finally get it open. Talk about a slow start.

9:00 am – I pull up to the lake. For the high number of trucks out on the back roads I expected to see more than the few anglers that are here. I guess hunting season is still in full swing. For a number of reasons, I didn’t bother this year, but I did see quite a lot of wildlife on my drive, including a pair of moose!

I’m a good photographer, I swear!

On this trip I was playing the role of “Guide” for my friends Huyfishin and ForFishSakes. I say “Guide” because that’s something I’m not, as they will find out in short order! Both Huyfishin and ForFishSakes are accomplished anglers but neither have fished Chain Lake before, so I’ll be giving them the tour and hopefully putting them on some of the tiger trout this lake is known for. As I’m rushing to unload, they are already set up and fishing a spot not far from the launch.

The lake was glare ice, which makes getting around fairly easy. I suggest we move to an area that I’m confident will be productive and, using my Helix with Autochart, we make our way down the shore to one of my secret waypoints.

It wasn’t long before I hooked into a healthy tiger trout, although the bite isn’t what I expected for first ice. On any other trout pond, first ice trout are aggressive; but this lake is very different. Throughout the year, Chain Lake sees a lot of angling pressure, and as a result the trout are wise to our usual ways. It took some serious convincing to catch every trout, but if you are patient, observant and ready for any situation, you can find success.

One of the coolest things about ice fishing Chain Lake is that the water is as clear as can be. We fished in 6-8 ft of water and it was so clear I swear we could touch bottom. Being able to see the fish interact with your lure is the most exciting way to fish. We only needed the electronics to save our necks from staring down the hole all day.

As the morning turned to afternoon, the slow bite became even slower. Luckily for us, the weather was cooperating and we had a great afternoon visiting, cutting holes, changing lures and catching the odd trout. It’s great to be fishing and back on the ice.

Social distancing at its finest.
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