January 09, 2012

The Dead Sea

Rockaway Bay 01-07-2012

Over the weekend I had the good fortune of a bit of time to spend on Lake Winnebago (a.k.a.:  "The Dead Sea").  During the summer, work and home obligations keep me away from "Winnebagie",  but I'm cool with that, since I have a particular fondness for hard water fishing.  A frozen Lake Winnebago is awesome, and days in which I can poke a couple holes in her are fine indeed, though I never catch a damned thing.

Here's some speculation about the Dead Sea from Wikipedia, and some background from a reputable source HERE.

The early part of every winter after "first ice" is dedicated to hunting perch (probably the best tasting fish in the world) in the bays.  Later, when the cold lingers and the ice grows thick enough to support vehicles and "permanent" shacks, Winnebagie bustles with ad-hoc fishing villages as people chase walleye.  Thousands and thousands of people hang out to fish or ride around on the lake when we have good ice, and the sight of thousands of shacks in temporary villages is something to behold, especially since nobody ever catches a damned thing.  I've never actually tasted the fish from this lake, but I love it here, and our climate and home is a blessing.  Thank G-d.

Perch on IceI hooked up with my buddy "the Prison Guard" at sunrise this past Saturday to hit the North part of Stony Beach.  Sat for a while before we heard from our friend "the Tavern Owner" who was pretending to be on the perch up at Rockaway Bay.  We joined him for a couple hours on four-inch-ice under overcast skies with a chill 25 mile wind.  I caught a few small imaginary perch on my jigging rig while "Prison Guard" caught nothing.  I won a buck for the first, and a buck for the biggest fish as we nipped Jack from my flask.  Around noon we broke for lunch and chores, then later I set out to the same place for the afternoon to join back up with "The Tavern Owner".  We, along with a couple other locals each pulled a couple make-believe fish out of the Dead Sea by the end of the day (photoshopped above, and click to embiggenify).  It was a fine time, although nobody caught a damned thing.

lil' botnetSunday, Mrs. botnet gave the O.K. for lil' botnet to join for her first ice fishing of the year.  It's tough to keep the little ones focused and patient for something so slow and sedentary as ice fishing, but snacks, music, and pretending to see a fish once in a while go a long way toward making trips fun for the young'uns.  We had a number of ghost shad and phantom white bass swim right past our bait, but the excitement of pretending to catch some hungry perch when an enormous school didn't come by made it worth the while.

Most importantly, lil' botnet said later that the time was enjoyable, and in our climate anything you can do to get out of the house during the winter is time well spent.  Much better than playing "Barbie" where it's warm and you can take your soaking boots and mittens off.

She'll be a good fisherman, and I look forward to many more trips on the ice with her, though we'll not catch a damned thing.


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January 02, 2012

First Ice Fishing Winnebago: Damn Global Warming™

Today I hit Lake Winnebago for the first time this winter.

It's difficult to recall a year in which the lake (which we locals refer to as "The Dead Sea") hadn't frozen by January, though I guess that's because I like to drink whiskey and Milwaukee Best.  I guess if I concentrate I can remember 1998, but thinking is such work.

This year I used my fantasy football winnings (I'm Number One!) to buy a used two-seater flipover so lil' botnet can join when I hit the ice.  ShackHere's what it looks like.  Flipovers make good sense for people like me who like to hit the ice early (and late) in the season.  The light weight is good for thin or poor ice, and their portability alleviates the worry of some asshole stealing your gear out of a permanent shack.  I'm pretty excited.

The bay I fished today had about 4 to 5 inches of ice, which is actually pretty good considering the lake is open for miles and miles just beyond the breakwater (100 yards from where I fished).  In a typical year, we have sufficient ice to enable those inclined to drive a vehicle from Oshkosh to Stockbridge over the lake, but this year you'd need Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.    Winnebago Ice 2012-01-02

If you look closely in the holes (click to embiggen) , you can see what I estimate to be about 5 inches of ice.  I'd not drive a four-wheeler on this, let alone a vehicle, though some do.  I'm not that crazy, and I love my family.  Please bear in mind that about 100 yards from here is open water.  Today was cold and windy, and it can be a bit spooky as the ice moans and cracks due to temperature and wind force.  Good times.

Sure, the ice is confined to the bays and is still thin, but we've hit a patch of cold weather and it's "makin' ice".  There are a lot of people who want to get out on the main part of the lake, and if the cold continues we'll have good ice in a week or so.  Or else Global Warming™ has finally kicked in and I should have bought a boat instead of an ice shack.

The wifey made me promise not to bring lil' botnet out this weekend because of the fear of poor ice, and I was probably more disappointed than the lil' one since we upgraded our fishin' shack just this past week.  I'm looking forward to next weekend and hoping that our recent cold spell continues.  I've got the hard-water itch, friends.  I hope the winter lasts a long time.

And as for the fish?  Saw a ton of uninterested white bass on the camera, and had a nice perch spit out my hook.  I never catch shit, but thankfully the time you spend fishing doesn't count against your age.

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