The winter hard water expeditions were fun and productive without a huge amount of impressive fish, but there were a few highlights of note. A three pound brookie was icing on the cake on one trip.
As our group walked towards the bright orange flag pointed to the sky the spool made several promising turns signaling the bait thief was still present. My brother Tony carefully lifted the trap free and set it off to the side of the hole. The started to make a run and his hand quickly set the hook starting an epic tug of war. Finally after a minute of so playing the fish he was able to get the fish headed up the hole and with a quick swing he intended to fling the fish free of the watery hole that was it's retreat. As he did our stomachs sank as the line came free from the fish and it flopped back into the hole. Tony tried a frantic grab, but it was futile as the fish was quickly headed down. Completely dejected he sank back and I leaned forward to peer down the hole. There to my surprise lay the tired fish in the 6 inches of water below the two feet of ice. Without thinking I shot my arm into the hole and about the time I had my whole arm under water my fingers felt a different texture and I worked to pin the fish against the ice. Keeping pressure on the fish I slid him up the side of the hole and flung him through the air to put distance between him and the hole. After a minute it sunk in that the last ditch effort had actually worked and we went to admire the fish. All 19 inches and 3 pounds of brookie was absolutely beautiful and stunning. The colors were truly awe inspiring and it dwarfed the rest of fish we had been fortunate enough to land. It was the perfect cap to a great day!
Here's hoping that 2018 will be filled with big fish! I have talked to some guys who have shacks out on a couple of the smaller lakes and the smelt are already hitting, so stay tuned, but please use caution as no fish is worth risking your life on thin ice!