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Ice and Real Silence

I'm back on open water now, and that’s comforting for a couple of reasons. Even though I was able to spend considerable time on ice for the first time in my life, I always had a nagging in the back of my mind with every step or scoot of the snowmobile that a sudden crack, pop and sink COULD happen. It didn’t. The ice was two feet thick and very safe. The second reason that I'm comfortable on the home lake is familiarity. Thousands of hours on these waters have me launching the boat without a specific game plan, nothing more than a targeted species in mind. I can launch, fire up the motor and head out without marking a boat ramp or even turning on the Garmin units until I'm near my starting point.

I do plan a return to the frozen country though. The people in Minnesota were so friendly, welcoming and enjoyable...the fishing was pretty darn good too. When drilling an eight inch hole to catch fish on a lake that's eighty miles long, you better know what's under there...could be a very long day of hit and miss without open water knowledge of what becomes rock hard ice late fall through winter. Woody Woods know where to set the auger to work. He’s been fishing Rainy Lake, Minnesota on the Canadian border for 45 years. He has fished so well that his peers put him in the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. That’s a big part of why I chose Woody as a fishing partner on this trip. His knowledge along with his easy going personality made him a slam dunk decision for me. His business is titled “Woody’s Fairly Reliable Guide Service”; his motto, “90% of our customers come back alive”.

When the engines of the snowmobiles die down, 8-10 miles up a frozen lake in late February, the silence...REAL silence starts to creep into your ears. No planes, highways or boat motors. Just a light breeze through the pines, that stretch from the thousands of islands that dot Rainy. The latest snowfall buffers the sound and it’s the perfect soundtrack for the incredible beauty that surrounds you. The only disturbance was a bald eagle that landed on the ice about 100 yards away in hopes of stealing one of our fish. He did too! Swooping in so close behind me that the flapping of his massive wings raised my eyebrows and spun my head around.

I've fished all of my life, from the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf, to freshwater from Florida to the Rockies. This was a totally new and exciting experience. I've never been anyplace more beautiful. Put it on your bucket list, plan it and follow through. Here are a couple of tips...

Before you go...

  • Take good care of your feet. You need to keep them warm and dry. I wore waterproof Rockies with heavy insulation-1400 gram thinsulate, heavy! They were perfect.
  • Layers for your body. It can vary out there. 20 below with a wind chill of 50 below, 28 and sunny is possible too. When the sun pops out, you may just shed your gloves and head wear. Really! I layered up with a t-shirt, thin long sleeves on top of that, heavier sweatshirt on top of that, heavy waterproof Cabelas Guidewear jacket on top of that.
  • I wore shorts mainly for the pocket space, sweatpants over the shorts, uninsulated fishing bibs over the sweats. Perfect.
  • Summer or winter I always use a fishing scarf. The tubular neckerchiefs that slip down over your head to protect you from dangerous sun exposure also do a remarkable job at keeping you warm when you pull it up over the nose and ears. It worked very well on the ice.
  • Get licensed before you go. You can do it all online these days, and it saves an hour of fishing time when you’ve reached your destination and are chomping at the bit to get at it. Also, if you are fishing Rainy Lake, or any other international or border waters that require a Canadian license, the last thing you want to hear is “no” at the last minute. They can say that for any reason, or no reason. Plan ahead with the legal stuff.
  • Fish with someone that knows the lake well. Like I said, an eight inch hole in an eighty mile lake is a mighty small target. No trolling, no casting. Go with a proven pro that knows where to poke holes in the ice.
  • Be open-minded and enjoy it all. We jigged for crappie, set out "tip ups" for northerns and fished from a heated, well built fish house for walleye. All new and great experiences.

Fondly,
Billy Kinder
BBKOradio.com

MARCH 10, 2017



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