At 4:00am on November 10th, 2013 my alarm went off and I shot out of bed. To clarify…this isn’t a normal occurrence upon me hearing my alarm in the mornings but when I’m going fishing there are no “snoozes” necessary. Especially when it’s to go chase some Cutthroats through the ice…in November!
I grabbed a mug of coffee, some doughnuts, met up with Nate (some of you might know him as Bigassbassman from the local forums), and set off driving to our destination before sunrise. We were making good time and hit the 4×4 trail as the sun was coming up – it made for a fun and scenic drive. As we got to about a mile from the lake we began our adventure. I made the mistake of slowing down while going through a fork in the road and the depth of the snow present stopped my momentum. The tires couldn’t catch enough traction for me to keep going uphill so I reversed back down the hill to try it again with more momentum, but in doing so, I slid two tires into an unseen snow drift. After a few minutes we freed my Jeep from the snow drift, shifted into 4 Low, and continued on through the deep snow and up the trail. After driving about a half mile, the trail started to steepen, as I took a right around a bend, I noticed a lot of ice covering the trail. Thinking that I had enough speed and momentum, I tried to motor up and past it, I underestimated the ice. Shortly after hitting it, all my momentum was gone, and we were now sliding backwards down the trail. Thankfully, there were no drifts, trees, or ledges in our path! The ice was at least nice enough to completely turn us around; so while facing down the trail, we came to the decision to park the Jeep, and hike the rest of the way to our destination.
We arrived to the lake around 8:30am, strapped on our ice cleats, and started punching holes. We found varying degrees of ice thickness: the cloudy ice was about 5-inches while the clear, strong ice was around 3.5-inches. We decided to fish our initial holes to see if we could mark any trout on our flashers. It didn’t take long for Nate to have a fish come in and take a swipe at his Tungsten jig. In the next few minutes we both had brought Cutthroats through the ice, so we then decided to drill 8-10 holes and set up in this area – we didn’t move from this area all day. The trout seemed to really like small Tungsten jigs – in any color – tipped with waxworms. I was using two different Tungsten jigs with great success: a red JR’s Tackle “Jalepeno” and a Firetiger Skandia “Pelkie”.
We fished for about 4 hours that Sunday and each brought around 25 trout to hand (about 85% of them being Cutthroat trout and the rest being Rainbows). It was pretty steady action all morning for us with a noticeable slow down around 11am. If a hole went quiet for 5-10 minutes, we would move to another one. The depth we were fishing varied from 12 to 23 feet of water – the majority of the fish came out of 12 to 15 feet of water.
The bites would come in waves, 10-15 minutes of no fish being marked, and then we’d catch 3-4 fish, followed by 10-15 more minutes of no fish. As the bite slowed down and the fish moved from our area, I decided to up the size of my presentation and get more aggressive with my jigging so I tied on a spoon that I have a lot of confidence in – a PK Lures Flutterfish (in the color Red Dot Glow). In just a few minutes of jigging and ripping the spoon higher in the water column, I had a mark on my flasher come in near the lake bottom. I ripped the spoon one more time and that mark rose 5ft to smack my Flutterfish. I got it through the hole and it was another nice Cutthroat, I thought I had it all figured out. But after 30 more minutes of trying the aggressive jigging approach, I had nothing to show for it. We caught a few more trout on Tungsten jigs and then decided to pack up so we could watch the rest of the Bronco’s game.
It was another awesome day on the early ice this season. It was Nate’s first ice fishing trip of the season and my first time catching Cutthroats through the ice. There is some great open water fishing to still be had, but for those who are itching to get out on the ice, I would recommend doing a little research and making it happen! If not, some larger and more accessible lake options should be locking up in the coming weeks. Tight lines!