Let the hard water exploration begin! January 1st marked the opening of ice fishing in my neck of the woods. The ice conditions were sketchy at best on opening day, so I had focused my attention on finding moose antlers (to no avail if you haven’t read my previous post). By the second weekend I had confidence that the ice thickness was sufficient to plan an expedition. I made arrangements to go with a couple of friends to a favored location on Long Lake. Arriving before daylight, we had all of gear lugged onto the ice and were getting the auger warmed up as daybreak struck. Making quick work of drilling 15 holes, we proceeded to start setting our tip-ups or “flags” as they are frequently called. After setting roughly ¾ of our tip-ups, we were rewarded with a flag. For anyone who doesn’t ice fish, this means that a fish has taken line, and triggered the flag to go up. As I approached, my friend had already set the hook and almost had the fish to the hole. The fish was a good one, a salmon probably around 3 pounds. The lake has a one fish limit over 16”, so we opted to release the fish and hope for a bigger one. Not removing the fish from the water (a key to successful release of a fish in the winter), we snipped the hook off close to the mouth and sent the fat, silver-sided beauty back down the hole. We re-baited that tip-up and finished setting the rest of our flags before settling down to wait. Luckily we hadn’t waited long when the action started. It was non-stop, with the salmon offering us little rest before chasing yet another flag across the barren ice. The fishing was the best I have ever seen, with a total of 19 salmon being caught! The largest was a beautiful 25” female that weighed in just shy of 5 ½ pounds. The second largest was a ridiculously fat 22” female that weighed in over 4 ½ pounds! That was truly a “football fish”. We had seven others that were in the 2 ½ to 3 ½ pound range, and 10 fish that were from 11-15” and in the neighborhood of 1 pound. The majority of these fish were released, with us keeping only the two largest, so there should be lots of fish to grow for next year. All in all everyone I talk to says the lake has been extremely slow, but for some reason we hit it just right that day, and reaped the benefits of a great day on the ice!