Sunday, February 22, 2009

Houghton Lake Trip Day Three

The final morning arrived without us freezing to death. Jake was sweating to death in the top bunk so I moved him down to my bunk and I began to cook the breakfast for a king again. We ate and I began to get our gear together for the trip home. We still hadn't caught any fish, but we weren't giving up just yet.

Me Cooking Again! Camp Cook For The Weekend!

The day was really windy again, but at least the snow had stopped. It was a bright and sunny day with a stiff blowing breeze. Michael kept bait on the tip ups while we got packed up and ready to go. Jake and I began to make trips back to the shore with all of our gear put in the trailer on the atv. After about five trips we had almost everything back on shore at the truck.

Looking Down An Ice Hole In The Shanty

We still hadn't got any fish when all of a sudden a flag on the tip up went off. Mikey ran out and checked it. Nothing on it but the bait had been cut in half! Finally a fish had bitten one of our lines! We had watched a couple of other shantys that weekend catch a few fish but nothing to write home about. But we finally had something to tell, at least something had hit one of our lines. That whole weekend we had thrown every lure at them that we had along with the kitchen sink! I knew the fish were there, but the weather had them all messed up.

One Of The Smaller Ice Houses In Shanty Town

We didn't catch anything but I didn't go for the fish, I went for the experience of sleeping out on the ice! The fish would have been icing on the cake! We got all of our gear out and loaded back into the truck and trailer so we could head home. Before we left we gave Dave and Chip a tip of $20 each. They looked at us like we were crazy, they told us no one has ever tipped them before! I couldn't believe that! These two guys were very helpful to us and when ever we needed anything they brought it to us. I couldn't have left there without showing them our appreciation. If you ever have someone helping you like that on a trip, take the time to tip them even if it is a small amount. Something like that goes a long ways. They told us to come back this summer and they would take us out on the lake and put us on some fish! I think we will take them up on that one!

Before we made it to the freeway to head home, Chuck and Mikey persuaded me to stop again at Jay's Sporting Goods store. It really didn't take too much talking to get me to stop there again for them. We had a wonderful time there and I would do it again next year. I'm looking forward to taking more people up with us next year and trying it again. If you would like to reserve a shanty or even a sleeper shanty at Houghton Lake, be sure to check out Lyman's on the Lake website for futehr information! Thanks Lyman for all of your help!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Houghton Lake Trip Day Two

Morning came early and cold! At least Chuck and I were cold, the boys fared pretty well sleeping on the top bunk, heat rises! I got up and began to cook some breakfast on the camp stove. It wasn't long until the shanty smelled of bacon, sausage and eggs! A breakfast fit for a king! We all ate our fair share of good food that morning! Hey if you not catching any fish, you might as well eat good I say! By the time we got up and around andthe breakfast dishes done, the weather had changed drastically!

Breakfast On The Stove

By 9 or 10 am the snow began to come down heavily and the wind was something fierce! By noon it was a complete white out! The snow was coming down and blowing so hard you could barely see the near shore to the south some 300 to 400 feet away! The north shoreline was completely gone! You couldn't tell where the ice ended and the sky began! It came down like this for the entire day! We did go to shore once during the day to see what was going on at the bait shop, Lyman's. Chip and Dave were there working along with Lyman Foster the owner. We sat and talked a while about the bait shop and the fishing there. They apologized about us not catching any fish, I told them they couldn't control the weather, but they felt bad that we weren't catching anything. I told them it was all about the experience any ways! Chip and Dave had caught a few fish for a tv crew that was coming up to do a story, since the crew had left they gave us the fish to eat that night! I thought that was pretty cool of those guys. Only problem was that we didn't have any cooking oil, so I went to town and bought a bottle.

I thought we were going to have a good ol fish fry that evening. Fellow Up North Journal Pro Staffer Jim Stephan came up with his wife and another couple to fish for the day. They weren't catching anything either, so we invited them to join us for a fish dinner. Time slipped by quickly and they headed to shore for the evening so we didn't cook the fish up.

During the day it was extremely hard to keep the tip up holes cleaned and free of ice. It was an every 15 minute job to go and clean holes. One fisherman nearby drilled a hole with his power auger down about half way through the 22 inch thick ice and left his auger standing in the hole. It didn't take long for it to freeze in the hole. Mikey was kind enough to head to shore on the atv and grab an ice spud for the couple. They freed up the auger and then Mikey gave them both a ride back to shore. The couple gave him $10 and their leftover bait to use. It pays to be a good Samaritan!

Ice Build Up On The Tip Ups

As I mentioned the ice was about 22 inches thick, there were vehicles all over the ice. You could hear the ice crack everytime a truck drove past the shanty. It got my attention on more than one occassion. Before evening set in we asked Dave from Lyman's for a shovel to bank in the shanty. He brought one out for us on one of his shuttle runs. We took the snow around the shanty and filled in around the shanty to keep the wind from blowing in that night. It made a huge difference in how warm it was.

Looking Out Our Window At A Car On The Ice

Evening set in and the winds died down a little but the snow continued to fall that evening. We must have gotten about 6 inches of fresh snow. The snowmobile riders loved it, they were zipping all over the lake that evening. It sounded like a bee hive around there. We all bundled up and turned in for the evening by around 9pm that night. We slept much warmer that evening. Although Jake woke up burning up. He was in his underware and no sleeping bag! Remember heat rises. I thought I was going to have to flip him over like a piece of bacon, but we made it through the night.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Houghton Lake Trip Day One

After months of planning the day finally came to head out on our first Up North Journal Team weekend outing. Somehow I let fellow Pro Staffer Chuck Parr talk me into sleeping on the ice out on Houghton Lake in the middle of Michigan's winter season. Chuck did this same trip last year and told me how much fun I would have and that I had to go this year and have a great time. So I let him plan this years trip and told him I would go along for the ride.
Chuck talked with Lyman's on the Lake about securing a sleeper shanty for the entire weekend. With Lyman's help we set up the date and began to make plans for the trip. We headed out on Friday morning at about 7:30am. It was Chuck, Mikey, Jake and myself with a truck and trailer full of fishing and camping supplies for three days of Michigan winter fun! We made our first real stop at Jay's Sporting Goods in Clare Michigan. We couldn't pass through Clare without stopping at Jay's. We bought a few more provisions for the trip and I had to finally pull Mikey and Chuck out of the store so we could be on our way.
Another hour on the road and we were pulling into Houghton Lake. We first had to stop at the local Wally World store to buy our food for the weekend. A basket full of hotdogs, beans, bacon, sausage, eggs and SPAM!!!! Yes I said, SPAM!!! and we were on our way to the ice! As we pulled up to Lyman's I could see shanty town out on the ice about 300 to 400 yards off shore. It was a beautiful clear blue sky day and the temps weren't too bad either. I thought to myself this is going to be fun! Chuck went in and took care of the reservations and I began to unload the trailer to get the atv out and hook up the small trailer to it. Then Chuck came back and one of the guys from Lyman's came out on a 6 wheeled atv with a huge trailer. We piled most of our gear onto his trailer and the rest in my little trailer. The boys and Chuck piled onto the trailer with all of our gear and I drove our atv out behind the 6 wheeled buggy onto the ice to our home for the weekend.

Mikey & Chuck Getting Ready For A Weekend Of Ice Fishing

As we pulled up I saw this huge box on the ice that we would call home for the weekend. It was about 8 x 20 and sitting right on the outter edge of shanty town. There must have been about 20 - 25 shanties out there and ours was the biggest! We unloaded our gear to the inside of the big box and then the guy (Dave) from Lyman's yelled to another guy on the ice to come over and help. This was the other helper from Lyman's. This second guy (Chip) grabbed a power ice auger off of the atv and went into the shanty and drilled four holes for us to fish through. Now we were all set to fish!

As we began to get our gear in order, we heard a snowmobile come to a stop just outside our door. Then there was a knock on the door with a voice saying, "DNR officer"! What did we do, I thought to myself. I opened the door and there stood an officer in his snowmobile suit and helmet. He asked us if we just arrived and how long we would be there. We told him and we began to pull out our fishing licneses. He told us no need to show him, that he just wanted us to know that he was on the ice if we needed his assistance. I told him that the atv had the appropriate stickers on it and he said, no worry on that either. He also commended us on bringing the boys out to enjoy the fishing as well. I was pleased at his attitude towards us, this was my first experience with a CO in the thirty plus years I have been participating in the outdoors.

After he left, it was then that I realized that I had forgotten that I needed a helmet for the atv out on the lake. I told Chuck I was headed back to town to purchase a couple of helmets for the atv. I couldn't believe I was so stupid and not remembering the helmet laws in Michigan.

After I got back from town, we watched a few nearby people pull out a few small pike from the ice on their tip ups. We got our power auger out and drilled 6 holes and put out some of our own tip ups then, we dropped two lines inside the shanty. We spent the rest of the day trying to catch some pike. We discussed venturing out to a different location to locate some fish, but we decided to wait until the next day to do this since it was getting late in the day.

Me Cooking Up Some Lunch In The Shanty

I fired up the stove and cooked some hot dogs and beans for lunch. The boys thought that this was pretty cool to cook inside of the shanty! I spent the next couple of hours reading a book that I had bought at Jay's on the way up. Nothing like sitting beside the heater fishing and reading a good book to pass the time.

As night began to set in, I new it was time to start thinking about dinner. I fired up the stove again and fried up a can of SPAM for all of us. SPAM sandwiches for the crew! The boys had never had a SPAM experience before, so this was their first time eating it. They thought it was SPAMtastic, Mikey said it was SPAMlicious! So with the SPAM and beans we were set for the night. We fished into the night until we all got tired. I think it was around 8pm when we began to turn in for the evening. We pulled the lines in except for Michael who kept fishing for another hour or so.

Jake Jiggin' For Some Pike!

I put Jake in the bunk above me and we turned up the heater for the evening. What we didn't realize was that the shanty was sitting up off of the ice about 8 inches. The wind blew underneath it and up into the ice fishing holes in the shanty. By about 4am it was getting pretty cold inside the shanty. I had to make sure and tuck in nice and tight to make it through the night. Mikey and Jake did ok since they were on the top two bunks, but Chuck and I didn't fare so well. We would change that the next day!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Day On The Ice With Friends

It has been a while since I've been able to get out on the frozen water, so i decided to call the Up North Journal team to muster them about. I managed to get Tim Ford and his three kids along with Jim Stephan out to hit the Seven Lakes state park. I decided to take them over to Little Seven to hit a spot that Little Mike and Chuck Parr like to fish. We spent about two hours there with no luck at all. Not even one little bite! There were 8 other people fishing the lake and not one of them had a single bite either.

Up North Journal Pro Staffer Tim Ford

Helping His Daughter With Her Ice Rod

Two hours of that was enough, so we packed it in and headed over to the bigger lake Seven Lakes. The temps were in the high 40's that day and the wind was howling. By the time we made it to the boat launch of Big Seven, the water was ponding on the ice. I knew that Tim's kids were going to get wet, but they ventured out any ways. We made our way onto the ice and found a couple of holes left by a couple of guys who had just left the ice.

There was atleast a foot of ice maybe even 15 inches. The water was running back into the holes with all the wind blowing it around and it being a couple of inches deep. It didn't take long until I pulled a crappie through the ice. This was actually the first crappie I have caught in over 10 years. The last one was with my grandfather in Alabama and he has been passed away now for 10 years. About 5 minutes later Jim Stephan pulled a nice large mouth bass through the ice! We were all excited about that one. That was it for the next 20 minutes or so and that is when the kids got wet! It was time for Tim to take them in unfortunately, so Jim and I hung out on the ice for another couple hours. Jim managed to pull about 15 small panfish out but none were keepers. I only hooked one small panfish myself after that crappie.

Up North Journal Pro Staffer Jim Stepha With A Nice Bass

We caught a few fish, but nothing to bring home. Bass season was over and the other fish were too small. We all had a good time getting out on the water and spending some time together. There was some sad news to report on this day though, it was the same day as the big Lake Erie ice floe incident where 131 fisherman got trapped on an ice floe. One died in the process and the rest were eventually rescued. You can read my article on that incident at my webblog Hooks and Bullets.