Leaning against the counter at my wife Heather’s staff party, I listened to tales of hiking trips, caribou hunts, broken ATVs and fishing trips good and bad. With the plethora of personalities involved we heard many perspectives of a similar story, until the topic of ice fishing came up.
Even the least experienced outdoors person has a story about ice fishing – a common ground for new and old Yukoners alike. Being early December, you can run into all kinds of ice problems. This year was cold early and a bit of ice formed before the snow came, which helped with freeze up; a little snow also makes for easy walking.
For the first outing of the year I don’t care where we were going, lets just go.
Ice auger, sleigh, rods, tent and clothing were all in different places but fairly easy to find, then off we went to the lake.
We didn’t arrive at Little Atlin Lake until nearly 1 p.m., and when we got to the pull off it was like an eerie movie. The fog was rolling in from the south like a tidal wave continually consuming the lake. By the time we got the sleigh out of the car, the fog had landed on shore and we made our way across the lake blind to our surroundings.
Four little kids appeared out of the fog playing on a distant, large crevice created during freeze up. Running back and forth they would appear and then vanish, reappearing 20 feet from where they were.
The walk was nice, as the snow hadn’t yet built up. At several points along the way we had to stop to try to see where we were. Most times we couldn’t even see shore although it wasn’t more than 500 yards away. With an extensive knowledge of the lake we decided to drill a hole to get a bearing of where we were from the bottom.
The first hole turned out to be shallow, possibly a couple of feet so we changed course and headed to what we thought was the middle of the lake. Little Atlin is very shallow for a long way out, so again we drilled a hole after a few hundred yards to check the depth. The water was about five to eight feet and was the place for our first day on the ice.
We could see fish swimming past our hooks with no interest; my white and green spoon was not the flavour of the day, obviously. White fish had no desire for a big hook they couldn’t bite, so I changed hooks again, and again. The odd pike would come by, stop, look for a bit then swim away. The game of cat and mouse went on till the sun dipped behind the mountains bringing with it frigid temperatures. By this time I had thrown the entire tackle box at the fish with no luck.
With this first trip in the bag, it reminded us of things that were nice to have out there. Chairs make for a more comfortable afternoon, and proper bait may have helped. In the end it really doesn’t matter that we didn’t catch any fish, this was the warm up run.
Since mid December we have seen a tremendous amount of snow, and conditions have changed. With almost 2 feet of snow there is a lot of pressure pushing down on the ice causing overflow, some lakes are worse than others, be careful and prepare for a wet walk.