Originally created 01/07/01

Dedicated fisherman braves cold



My friend Herb called the other day to talk about fishing.

With temperatures dipping into the teens here in Georgia, a lot of people are complaining that it's too cold even to THINK about fishing. I'm one of them.

"You're better off in your basement watching football," I told Herb.

He disagreed.

"I went Thursday morning," he said. "Caught a whole pile of big bluegill - and some perch and walleye, too."

Before I get any farther, I need to mention that Herb lives in Michigan.

He proceeded to tell me about January bluegill fishing at his favorite lake just outside of Lansing.

"The lake has a name," he said. "But you can't print it. If anybody found out how many bluegill we caught, it would look like a carnival out there."

A cold January in Michigan is somewhat different than a cold January here in Georgia.

"It was 7 degrees and windy - chill factor of 18 below," Herb told me. "There's 30 inches of snow on the ground."

Herb and his fishing partner load their gear onto a sled, which they pull onto the frozen lake. Then they dig through the snow to get to the ice.

"We use an auger to drill holes in the ice," he said. "It's like a giant corkscrew."

Once the holes are dug, you need a rubber skimmer to keep the ice from re-freezing.

"We have favorite spots, and we drill holes there," he said. "But if we fish a new lake, we'll drill 50, sometimes 100 holes in a day."

Rods used for fishing in the tiny holes are short and stubby - designed solely for ice fishing.

"You can use a foot-long rod on an ultralight reel," he said. "It all depends on how complicated you want to make it."

You don't find crickets and nightcrawlers in Michigan in January. The fish probably wouldn't touch them anyway.

"We bait up using a maggot or a waxworm," Herb said. "They sell them in the bait shops up here."

Those tiny baits work just fine on bluegill.

"In the wintertime, their metabolism slows down," Herb explained. "They're looking for smaller meals. The smaller the bait, the better."

Once you're set up, ice fishing is a lesson in simplicity.

"You catch the fish and they come up through the hole," he said. "But sometimes, like if you get a pike, they won't fit through the hole and you have to chop a bigger hole in the ice."

Ice fishing also has its pitfalls.

"Yeah, I've fallen through a few times. If it's not 5 inches or more thick, you best not go out on it."

Once caught, the fat bluegills quickly freeze as hard as plywood.

"You have to take them home and thaw them out to clean them!"

Herb e-mailed me a photo of a pile of frost-encrusted bluegills, thawing on his kitchen table. "You oughta come up here and try this," the e-mail said.

I was impressed, but I think I'll wait until springtime, when all I need is a cage full of crickets, a willow tree in the corner of a farm pond and a little sunscreen.

Maybe I'll invite Herb down to Georgia.

HUNTING MEETING MOVED: A meeting Wednesday to allow sportsmen to discuss changes in Georgia's hunting seasons and regulations has been moved - across the street.

The Wildlife Resources Division will hold the 7 p.m. public meeting at Thomson-McDuffie County library instead of at the county courthouse. The library is just across the street from the courthouse.

Department of Natural Resources biologist Vic VanSant said a scheduling conflict at the courthouse prompted the move. Anyone wishing to suggest changes or discuss current seasons and regulations is encouraged to attend.

DNR also will accept any written comments, which can be sent to: Wildlife Resources Division, Game Management Section, 2070 Highway 278 SE, Social Circle, Ga., 30025.

Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119.