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Little Horseshoe Lake Ice Fishing Report

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We actually never made it out on the ice last year and I was excited to get the kids back out again. We try to keep it fairly simple and go for either some bluegill or crappie. We had been on Little Horseshoe Lake ice fishing a few times in the past and caught only bluegill, but I knew there were crappie in the lake after losing one at the surface on our last canoe fishing trip on Little Horseshoe Lake. I wanted to see if we could find them through the ice.

Some folks were driving trucks out on the ice at this point, but I wasn’t ready to do that quite yet. We’ve had a mild winter up to this point and I hadn’t been on the ice yet myself. I knew it was plenty thick enough for us to go out, just not comfortable driving out yet.

At anyrate, I got the ice fishing equipment pulled out of storage earlier in the week in preparation to go. I had fired up the auger to make sure it was good to go and arranged our gear on the sled to make sure it all fit. I don’t have an ice fishing specific sled, but just a solid backyard sled that is still sturdy enough to haul a little bit of wood on it and works pretty well for ice fishing when I go by myself with the small shelter. I would have to pull one of the kids’ play sleds with some of the extra gear so I could fit the larger shelter on my main sled.

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Little Horseshoe Lake Ice Fishing Day 1

I was suprised when we arrived to actually find quite a few people out on the lake. It wasn’t packed, but there must have been 7 or 8 vehicles parked near the ramp and another 7 or 8 out on the ice. This isn’t a lot, but I’ve only seen a couple other folks any other time that we’ve been out there.

We packed up our sleds and headed out on the ice. I know there is a deep spot of 40+ feet, but have never fished it in the canoe. We usually fish the shorelines in the canoe, but we headed for the hole with our ice gear. I pulled both sleds, while the boys took turns with our rod box.

We stopped where I thought the edge of the hole was, cleared off the ice, poured some water down and hit it with the fish finder to find marks suspended around 20 feet! I immediately got the auger out and went to work on some holes. On the last hole, I realized that my blades might be dull as the auger stuck hard just before breaking all the way through and spun the motor handles right out of my hands. I really wish I had been wearing gloves…

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As the handles spun out of my hands, they took a chunck of skin with, leaving me dripping blood on the snow. The boys got a little freaked out by the blood and were asking if we had to go. I stuck my hand in the snow to see if I could freeze it up. It took quite awhile and every time I lifted it from the snow, the blood would start to drip again. I eventually got it to stop bleeding between icing it and holding it against my carhartts.

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We got the shelter set up, the heat going and our lines all set up. The marks were definitely fish, but they were a really light bite and we had hooks on for crappie. I couldn’t find the minnow bucket at home and ended up just getting wax worms. We had a enough stuff to haul out on the sled as it was. At anyrate, Reid hooked into one that turned out to be an 8″ plus bluegill. I was a bit surprised as I expected those suspended fish to be crappies.

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One of us downsized hooks for bluegill and the focus began… The bite was slow, but I eventually reeled one up myself. Not quite as big as Reid’s, but darn close and a nice size fish. Kyle gets real serious about his fishing and his focus was about to burn a hole in the ice as the bites became more and more silent. He did have a good jerk on his line at one point and ripped on the pole like he was setting the hook on a shark and pulled up an empty hook.

I started laughing and told him he probably ripped the lips right off that fish. Reid thought that was the funniest thing ever and that became our joke for the next 20 minutes about Kyle ripping the lips off all the fish. They joked about how there might be a fish swimming around down there with no lips on it.

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As time passed, we joked around, had some good laughs and just enjoyed hanging out. Life gets busy and sometimes we don’t take the time to just sit and enjoy each other’s company. It was nice to have my boys out on the ice with me.

It was starting to get dark and we were discussing packing up. As what usually happens, we started getting some bites as we were getting more serious about packing up. We just couldn’t get anything to stay on the line and the bites were really light. They eventually slowed back down and came to a screeching hault and we decided to pack things in for the night.

The boys were great at helping me pack things up and Reid took an interest in helping me pull down the shelter, which I can do myself in a couple minutes. I was just telling him to watch where he was walking when Kyle shouted “watch out for the holes” right as Reid stepped in. I saw it happen and was on it quick, plucking him back up. The ice cold water scared the crap out of him more than anything, but I knew we had to get moving up to the truck before the cold started setting into his foot. The temperatures were dropping off once the sun set.

He wanted to take his boot off, but I tried to explain to him to keep it on or he was just going to expose his wet and cold skin to the open cold air and make it worse. We had to get off the ice and get him in the truck before he took his boot off. I stuffed the tent in its bag and quickly threw the rest of the stuff on the sleds.

The entire time, Reid was crying and scared about the cold and Kyle had asked a few times if he was going to survive… I told him, he’s gonna be just fine. We weren’t that far from the truck. Aside from asking if Reid was going to survive, Kyle was extremely calm and told us all a few times that everybody needed to stay calm. I was calm, but Reid was in a bit of a panic. I think all my previous warnings about being careful on the ice and why I don’t take them out until people are driving on it, had him freaked out about going in the ice cold water, even though it was only knee deep.

We were headed back to the shore and only a couple hundred feet from the ramp when our gear came apart on the sleds. I turned to Kyle and asked if he could just hang here with the stuff and I’d get Reid to the truck and then come back and get him. I was a little worried about Reid’s feet sitting in those cold wet boots too much longer. Kyle was really calm and said he was fine. I picked Reid up and carried him up to the truck.

I pulled his boot off once he got in the truck with the truck running to find his feet cold, but far from frozen. He was gonna be just fine, but hopefully learned a good lesson. I had measured about 14″ of clean solid ice when we cut our holes, so I went ahead and drove the truck down on the ice to where Kyle and our gear were at. Kyle had everything packed back up on the sleds and ready to go. I was impressed how well he took care of things. We threw everything in the back of the truck and headed home for the night.

Little Horseshoe Lake Ice Fishing Day 2

The temperatures were in the high 20s today, making for another great day to get out on the ice. We decided to go a little earlier and then pack up before dark to get home. We had initially talked about going to another lake, but knew that we could catch bluegill on Little Horseshoe Lake and decided to give it another shot.

We basically imagined a straight shot from yesterday’s holes over to the point where we would catch bluegill in the summer. I cut 2 holes at about the halfway point and let the kids start fishing. From there, we’d either work deeper again or go shallower where I knew we’d catch plenty of bluegill and sunfish if deeper failed.

Kyle immediately brought up a small sunfish. Reid couldn’t help but check out Kyle’s fish and of course, takes a couple steps backward to get back to fishing again and steps in his own hole… Not quite knee deep this time and I saw it about to happen and yanked him out pretty quick again. He stayed calmer this time and since it was mild temps, I had him sit down on a bucket and pull his boot off.

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I knew he had packed an extra pair of socks in his bag. His socks were wet, but not all the way to the toe and I decided to set up the heater and start drying his boot out in front of it. I got his foot dried off and a dry sock on him and then let him rest his foot in a rubbermaid container from the sled to keep his foot off the ice while his boot was drying out in front of the heater.

Meanwhile, Kyle was catching a few fish and I think had 4 or 5 fish on the ice by the time Reid’s boot dried out. It was obvious that his boot was going to dry out and we were going to be able to stay out, so I cut a couple more holes and set up the portable ice shelter and cranked up the heat inside.

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Once the shelter was set up, it seemed as the fishing quieted down a bit. Any bites that we did have were all very light and you had to pay close attention. At one point Reid had his pole just sitting on the ice and didn’t event know he had something on it. I think he lifted it up or went to reel it in, because they always have to check their hook… turns out he had something on the hook! He reeled it in to find a 12.5″ crappie on the end of the line. Now things were getting serious…

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Kyle was back at piercing more holes in the ice with his laser like focus and Reid… just chiling and figuring out what snack to eat next. I reeled in a few myself over the course of the afternoon as well. At one point, we all stepped out to investigate a couple more holes outside of the portable with no success. This effort was led by Kyle in his determination to out fish Reid. If one guy catches a big one, then the other guy needs to find an even bigger one or fall back to the, “but, I caught more fish” story…

We were all back in the shelter and pulled in the occasional fish and most were a mix of smaller crappie and midsize bluegill or sunfish. We enjoyed the company and had a great afternoon out on the ice. It was getting close to dusk and we had enough fish for a couple of meals. We packed things up and headed home.

Little Horseshoe Lake Ice Fishing Summary

little horseshoe lake icefishing

Whether we caught any fish or not, the best part was unplugging and getting out on the ice for some good quality time. We had some good laughs and also learned some good lessons… a couple times! Anyways, we’ve caught a lot of panfish out of Little Horseshoe Lake in both the winter and summer, along with northern pike and smallmouth bass in the summer and crappie now added to the winter catches. It’s a great little lake for taking a canoe out and small enough to walk out on in the winter.

We had about a week of thawing temperatures here recently and haven’t been back out on the ice since this trip. We’ll see how things work out over the next few weekends and hopefully we are still able to fit in another ice fishing trip this winter.

Reference Links

Little Horseshoe Lake

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Fall Camping At It’s Best – Moose Lake State Park

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In my opinion, fall camping is the best camping you will experience. The night air is cool, crisp and perfect for campfires. The sunny, but cool afternoons are refreshing. The leaves have changed colors and are falling while morning hikes are amazing around the mist filled lakes and frosty plantation. I don’t mind putting on a hat and jacket and enjoying the end of the season with a final fall camping trip.

The last trip of the fall camping season, before putting the camper away is always the most bitter sweet. You leave it feeling like it was the pefect way to end a season and transition to another, but you just don’t want it to end. I felt that way as I was going for my solo morning hike on the last day and then again, as I watched the boys cast lines from the dock as we were packing the fishing gear into the truck after our last trip out on the lake. I didn’t want it to end and it left me wanting for more…

Heading Out For Our Last Fall Camping Weekend

We hadn’t packed a thing yet and were a bit disorganized with some of our gear. We hadn’t used the camper since our long road trip of visiting family over the summer and really hadn’t touched it since getting back home. Luckily, we’ve been dialing things back on how complicated we get with our camping and were able to pack up fairly quick. It’s becoming pretty simple for us… Bike and fishing gear for starters, grab whatever we want out of the fridge and transfer to the camper, pack some clothes and a couple other odds and ends and get on the road.

We arrived at camp in plenty of time to go for a short bike ride around the campground to check things out. The boys were most interested about checking out the lake and all they could think about was going fishing the next day. They had all kinds of questions about what type of fish and where we were going to go on the lake to catch them. They of course have their own ideas, but they always want to know what I think… As if I have all the answers on every type of fish and the bottom structure of the entire lake that I have never seen before…

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We started a campfire early and the boys skipped hotdogs and went straight for the s’mores. Who am I to argue… It was our last trip of the year and it would be a bit of a free for all weekend. I love watching their excitement as they anticipate this next marshmellow being the best one they’ve ever roasted, while every other one goes up in flames.

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I had a hotdog and then diced up some potatoes and onions with some coconut oil in tin foil to set over the fire on the cooking grate. I don’t eat potatoes very often, but I love them cooked this way. The night was definitely crisp and we eventually went inside and hung out for awhile before settling down for the night.

I know folks don’t think camping in an RV or travel trailer is true camping… I am totally ok with that. It’s not specifically about the camping for me. It’s about the forced family time and getting out. Whether we pile into a tent at night or pile into our camper for the evening, we’re together and enjoying each other’s company. We don’t have the option to send the kids downstairs to play or head to their room. We get to sit around together for a little bit each evening, even if a movie is playing on the TV. It’s just good family time, the kids will remember it forever and at 7 and 8 years old, they already talk about the trips they want to take their families on.

All Around Great Day Of Fall Camping

It was a cold morning as all of them would be for this trip. I am usually up before everybody else and I fixed myself some coffee and did a little work on my laptop while things were still quiet in the camper. As day light came, I eventually headed out for a walk. I love walking campground roads in the quiet morning, before everybody is up and moving around. It’s peaceful and relaxing. It is one of the better ways to start a day and I was thinking to myself, that I wish we had more fall camping weekends left before the deep freeze of Minnesota winters set in.

Everyone started to wake and I fired up the gas grill to cook some sausage links. Sausage is one of our breakfast treats while camping. We usually just eat eggs for breakfast at home. We actually keep meals pretty simple in general around home most of the time and save some of the extra stuff for camping trips. I think it is these little things that keep camping trips special for us. Even though we’re in the travel trailer and have most of the amenities of home, I try to mix the routine up a bit. I think it is important to distinguish the time differently and the kids each have different things to look forward to when we go camping.

It was pretty cold out still and we enjoyed the warmth of the camper a bit. The kids eventually turned on a cartoon movie on the TV and I put on my running gear and headed out for a run while Lynn enjoyed her coffee and the warmth of the camper with the kids. I just started doing some trail running. This might be a little off topic, but most folks that follow me closely around social media know that I have been diving deeper and deeper into mountain bike racing the last few years. But, I am looking to test myself with some trail running in the future. I’ll put a link to my fitness and endurance training website (Endurance Path) at the bottom of this post. Anyways, it was a fantastic run. The trails were not very technical and offered some great views around the lake.

I was back from my run and it was time to head out fishing. Lynn was going to head into Duluth while the boys and I chased some fish around the lake in the canoe. These guys really crack me up. It is just funny to watch these little people get all serious into the fishing and really trying to understand what we’re doing. Kyle is extremely serious about the fishing while Reid can be a bit more figity and likes to manuvere the canoe. Reid was getting pretty serious about getting the canoe manuevered around and learning how to use the oars just the right way. When it came to the fishing, they were both intent on forgoing the ultralight rods for the bigger setups to try casting for some pike or bass. This of course is a bit chaotic in a canoe, so I had them take turns.

All we had was night crawlers and crank baits. Nothing was happening with the drifting crawlers other than a couple nibbles here and there with no takers. Kyle was focused and continued working the edge of weeds with his rapala and then boom! I could tell it was a good size fish. It actually stayed below the surface the entire time and I wasn’t sure if he might of had a pike on. He was one excited kid! I grabbed our litte colapsable net as he pulled the big guy toward the canoe and I scooped him up. It was pretty awesome to see him bring in this big bass and he was really proud of it.

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Reid didn’t catch it, but you would have thought he caught one himself with the excitement that he had for his older brother. Although we were hoping to catch something to cook over the fire for the evening, it was early and we released the big bass back into the lake. The boys are extremely competitive with each other, but also always supportive and excited for the each other. It is a very cool thing to watch.

There was some big excitement in the boat now and we decided to continue working our way around the shoreline. Reid took a few casts, but no luck. We eventually worked our way around the point and decided to head to the other end of the lake, looking for a hole that I saw on the lake chart. As a side note, the Minnesota DNR provides charts for most of the lakes in the state. They are real simple pdf charts, but a great resource for folks like us that aren’t super serious, and want to get an idea of what the lake looks like. I’ll drop a link at the bottom of the post to the Minnesota Lake Finder, where the charts can be found.

We found the hole, but the wind had picked up a little and we were drifting across it too fast and our anchor line wasn’t long enough. We decided to slowly start working our way along the shoreline back to the other end of the lake. Reid was taking additional interest in manuevering the canoe, while Kyle was concentrated on his cast. We drifted across some flats and along a sunken island with a weed bed growing to the surface and Kyle got another hit. We all called this one a great teamwork play as Reid was manning the oars, Kyle on the cast and myself on the net.

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This one came out of the water and started dripping some blood. He appeared to be just fine, so I am not sure if it had just eaten live dinner below the surface before hitting Kyle’s rapala or what. At anyrate, it swam away fast when we released it. It was awesome to watch Kyle bring that big guy in and Reid was still pretty excited about being the guy manuevering us around with the oars. That was the last of our catches for the day and we eventually worked our way back to the boat landing and headed back to camp.

We did some walking around the campground and bike riding before Mom arrived back from Duluth and then we all settled in around a campfire for the evening. We busted out the hotdogs and marshmellows again and went ahead with my potatoes in tin foil. I love watching the final logs burn down to coals in the fire before heading in for the night. It was another great day of fall camping and a successful day out on the lake.

The Colder & Windy Side Of Fall Camping

It was a little colder and windy, but there was a persistance around camp, mainly from the boys, that we would go fishing again. We did the same breakfast routine as the previous day and enjoyed some family time, sitting together in the camper over breakfast and coffee. I took a short walk as we waited for the near freezing air to warm. As I walked down along the lake and watched the sky, I realized we probably wouldn’t be seeing the sun anytime soon and the previous day’s sunny sky may have been the last of those sorts until April.

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Regardless, we headed down to the boat landing in the truck to offload the canoe and fishing gear… We didn’t even make it out on the water and lures were being blasted all over the place from the dock and I soon heard something along the lines of, “Dad! All I did was cast it out and it tangled up…”. I came to check out the situation to find a nest that took a couple cuts of line and dismantling of the line spool from the reel to clean up. I am always amazed at the nest of lines that can get wrapped 100 times around and trapped in every crevis of a fishing reel, just by casting it out…

Finally, headed out onto the lake and the wind was blowing so hard, we didn’t have to paddle much and decided we better drop the anchor near shore, not too far from the boat landing. Lynn and Kyle took some casts, while Reid enjoyed the comfort of his camp chair that he packed in the canoe. I hooked a worm up on another line and dropped it over the side. I immediately was getting some nibbles, but no takers.

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I soon heard hints from the crew that maybe it was a bit chilly and some hot chocolate and coffee back at camp might be the way to go for the afternoon. Then, I finally hooked this beast (baby perch in the picture below) that had been nibbling at my worm. Reid, was now wanting in on the game and Kyle was ready for a simple hook and worm. I knew we must have been sitting over a school of tiny little fish as there were lots of bites with only that tiny little perch.

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Kyle pulled up a similar catch as the wind picked up even more and we made the call to head back to the boat landing. I had a bit of a hassle getting our little anchor pulled up as the stiff wind got it dug pretty deep into something down below. All hands were on deck ready with oars and paddles as I finally pulled the anchor loose and we were “hammering”, as Reid likes to say, toward the boat landing.

Once back at camp, we grabbed some quick lunch and then headed out for a hike on the park trails. Kyle was enthusiastic, while Reid was less than enthusiastic. Reid is a bit of his own man and he is not about to pretend to be excited when he is not. I can’t help but appreciate the confidence and matter of factness in his honesty. We ended up hiking about 2 and half miles on some nice wide ski trails. Reid would express that the trails were not difficult enough and that they were not real hiking trails, since they were not narrow with roots and rocks in them. Apparantly they were substandard trails for the hiking ability of an experienced 7 year old and he required something more challenging.

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This was our last evening at camp for this fall camping season and we busted out the pie irons for pizza sandwhiches. This is another one of my favorites in regards to campfire cooking. I am not a huge fan of the pie filling sandwhiches, but love the pizza sandwhiches. The kids enjoyed making their own and it just adds another special experience for the kids while camping. It’s all these little things that they look forward to on these little trips.

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The Final Day Of Our Last Fall Camping Trip

I knew this would be my last morning at camp for the year, so I grabbed my coffee and headed out for a walk. My original intention was just to check out the lake, but I didn’t want it to end and I just kept walking. The sound of a single falling leaf would remind me of sitting in a tree stand as a kid, listening to all the native sounds coming from the woods, hoping that one of those sounds was a deer walking into view.

I stopped, looked around a lot and took some pictures. There was something about this walk that was a bit special. I don’t know if it was a calmness inside, or I felt good about life in general, but it was just a peaceful morning and I was content. I ended up walking about 3 and a half miles before getting back to camp to prepare for one last fishing expedition out on the canoe. Below is a string of pictures from the hike. Look closely in the first picture… I was able to catch a bird in flight across the lake surface.

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Surprisingly, everyone was still in bed when I returned from my hike. I immediately thought about how rough of a morning the next day was going to be, getting the boys up for school again. I grabbed some more coffee and then climbed up in the boys’ bunk to sit for a few minutes while they woke up. They think it is funny for me to climb up there. They were soon awake and I got breakfast going before we packed up for one last trip out on the lake.

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We were out on the lake again, for what would most likely be our last time on open water for the year. The Minnesota freeze would start soon and our next fishing trip would likely be on the ice. It was another beautiful and perfect finish to the fall camping weekend. We didn’t stay out long, but I kept getting those little perch nibbling at my line. We caught a couple bluegill that we decided to keep for the boys to eat for dinner. Lynn had some fun with a small pike and a nice crappie that both shook off the hook, right at the edge of the canoe. The boys claim that both fish still count as a catch, because mom got them to edge of the canoe. There was a pretty big debate about it on the way back to the boat landing.

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I didn’t want this trip to end, but it had to. We were back at shore and the kids continued to launch rapalas from the dock, while Lynn and I packed up the canoe and the rest of the fishing gear. I stood there for a moment and watched the kids casting from the dock without a care about anything else in the world. They were in the moment and I had a hard time telling them we needed to go. I have a big soft spot in my heart for these moments… I even teared up a bit as I watched the boys casting from the dock and thought about how fast they were growing and another experience like this was coming to an end.

We headed back to camp and packed up to make our way back home. Another camping season was over and we would transition to some colder weather and winter adventures. Like previous summers, this one went by way too fast. Each year seems like it passes faster than the previous and reminds me to slow down a bit and enjoy the moments along the way. Hanging out with my boys, continues to remind me to never let go of the kid inside me and continue to learn and challenge myself. These kids never stop learning. They thrive on a new experience, another challenge and picking up a new skill. They always challenge me and I hope they continue to set these examples for me as we all grow older.

Reference Links From Our Last Fall Camping Trip

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Endurance Path – My Fitness & Endurance Website

Minnesota Lake Finder

Moose Lake State Park

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First Canoe And Fishing Trip Of 2016

fishing trip

Yes, our first canoe fishing trip of the season was successful! We covered 2 different lakes, but the first lake was a very short journey. We started the morning by checking out a small lake a few miles down the road from us. After paddling all the way across the lake to find out it wasn’t more than 4 to 5 feet deep, we pulled the canoe out and headed for a familiar lake a few mile further away.

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Getting Back To Our First Canoe Fishing Spot In Minnesota

I knew right where to go, once we got the canoe in the water. There is a bit of a point just across from the boat launch that drops off quick, but the shore is lined with lily pads and cat tails. We headed across and dropped our anchor. I personally like to drift, but I find it a lot easier to just drop the anchor when the kids are in the canoe. Reid immediately hooked into a nice blue gill with his #8 hook and sinker set up. Kyle had the same set up, but I think it was sitting right on the bottom and took a little while before he brought one in.

Meanwhile, I was getting myself set up with a rapala to do some casting along the shoreline. It was an overcast day, but I threw on my go to floating shallow diver that is silver with a light blue back on it. On about the 10th cast up near the lily pads, I had a nice little small mouth jump on it. I knew he was going to hit it. He came out of the water a couple feet away from where my lure landed and he hit it just as I started to reel. I thought about keeping him, but then he shook out of my hand and off into the water.

I handed the rod to Lynn, so she could do some casting and I set up another rod with a hook and bobber to cast up closer. The kids were not getting any more bites, but we had drifted out to the end of our anchor line and were a bit off the shore at this point. I tossed the bobber up closer as a little test and sure enough, I was able to pull a couple sunfish in right away. We pulled up the anchor and paddled up real close to the edge of the lily pads before dropping it back in.

I handed the line with the bobber over to Lynn at this point and tried out a little deeper diving rapala that was silver and black. I actually had a crappie hit it, but lost him right near the side of the canoe. I cast for a little longer, but kept pulling up weeds and went back to my shallow diver with blue. The kids were pulling in a mix of sunfish and blue gills at this point and were staying entertained. I spent a little time teaching Kyle how to cast with the larger open face reel, but that is tough to do with 4 of us in a canoe. He eventually went back to his simple hook and sinker.

We had stacked up enough sunfish and blue gill for a meal at this point and I did some more casting. I had a nice hit and it dragged the line right to the bottom. I figured it was a nice northern pike. Sure enough it was as I pulled him near the surface, just before started ripping line out again in another dive. Lynn and the boys all pulled their lines up, so we didn’t end up with a tangled mess as I finessed the pike. I had him up near the boat a couple times and then he dove back to the bottom again.

I tried to net him one time, but the net folded back under him. The net is one of those foldable and collapsable nets and it wasn’t locked in. Lynn got the net locked in and took another stab at the pike as I pulled him back up again. She was able to get him in the net and almost hit me in the face with the netted up pike and rapala as she swung it into the canoe. This fish was mad and scared the boys a bit as it slammed the floor of the canoe a few times right at their feet.

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It was a nice northern pike around 28″ and would be perfect for dinner. I debated tossing him back in, but I haven’t had a northern in a really long time. I kept him as it would be the perfect dinner for the 4 of us and we could save the blue gill for dinner later in the week. The boys were really excited about their blue gill, because they caught all the blue gill with worms they found in the back yard. They have a worm farm box that they had collected a bunch of worms in while we were digging holes for a bunch of trees we planted a few weeks ago.

The boys had been asking about going fishing the last couple weekends and I was glad I could get them out. I thought we would outgrow our canoe by now, but it is still working out great and I think it will get us through another summer without a problem. Speaking of summer… We’re not quite there yet and I’m looking forward to a few more of these trips. We were really only gone for a few hours in total. It is nice to have so many lakes around us to be able to get a quick fishing trip in without taking up the entire day. We’ll keep you posted on our outdoor adventures throughout the summer and in the mean time, we would like to hear about your fishing stories. Head on over to our Facebook Page and post up some of your fishing pictures and stories.

Also, I can’t end this post without mentioning this… It is Memorial Day Weekend and many of us are spending time with family, fishing, biking, camping or whatever it is that you do with your friends and family. Many things we do for recreation are done in other places of the world under dangerous conditions and for pure survival from day to day. The way we enjoy these things as recreation would not be possible without the Men and Women that have fought and still do fight today to defend the freedoms we have in this country.

Words are not enough, but Thank You for defending our freedom so that I can have the opportunity to safely take my family out on a trip like this, not to mention do all the other fun things that we do. I hope you all had a nice weekend, but don’t pass the weekend up without thinking of those families that have an empty seat at their picnic table, in their canoe or on their patio from a loved one that gave their life so you and I could enjoy a long weekend with our families.

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Wrapping Up Ice Fishing Season

Ice Fishing

Well, today marks the start of the 2015 ice fishing season and we need new fishing licenses here in Minnesota.  We managed to make it out a few times this year, but due to illness, not nearly as many as we would have liked.  We will go get our new licenses for 2015 and potentially make it out a few times in the late season, but the next few weekends are already accounted for and our spring break trip is coming up soon!  We are about to shift our focus to camping and mountain biking soon.

I started the season off by getting out on the ice by myself over the Thanksgiving weekend with 8″ of ice on Rush Lake near Rush City, Minnesota.  Below is a picture that I took of my ice gear sled after packing up for the night.  I remember the moment because I packed everything up and looked up at the sky to see an amazing view of the stars.  It was like standing in a planetarium.  That is one my most favorite things about early or late ice.  It’s very quiet, because less people are out and you can really enjoy the nature and peacefulness of the clear night sky.

Early Ice Fishing Gear Sled

Here is picture of my first catch of the season.  I was able to find some decent size crappies.  No monsters, but all good enough size to make a couple of meals.  The kids love eating fish and get pretty excited when I bring fish home.  Of course, it only leads to the next question of when is the ice thick enough for them to join me.  I usually get out a few times and then once people start driving on the ice, we’ll go out as a family.  We usually ride out in a Ranger UTV vehicle at that point.  I still don’t like driving the cars out on the ice and it is a easier to explore around the lake with the UTV.

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Up until this year, we had kept our ice fishing focus on bluegills, perch and crappies, but his year we decided to branch out and try for some walleye.  We packed up our gear on a Saturday and headed for Mille Lacs with the whole family.  Mille Lacs is a large lake in North Central, Minnesota that is known for some good ice fishing.  It is a really large inland lake and my internet searches didn’t really lead me to a good place to start, but we figured we would give it a go regardless.  We drove up the west side of the lake until we found a maintained ice road that lead out to  some houses.  We stopped into the bait shop and paid a daily fee for the ice road access and off we went!

Fishing was pretty slow and we did not mark many fish on the Marcum.  However, we did have a few bites throughout the day.  My oldest son Kyle caught his first walleye through the ice, which I failed to get a picture of.  It was just outside of the slot limit, so we got it back in the water as quick as possible.  Kyle had another one on that day as well, that appeared to be a monster.  The fish was more than his rod could handle, so I was trying to help him out by pulling the line up by hand, while he reeled, but I let too much slack in the line and we lost him.  Reid also had a nice one that we lost right at the surface.  The hook came out as he was trying to pull him through the hole and off the walleye went.  We marked it as a successful day for our first attempt at walleye through the ice and decided we will give it another go in the future.

We added some new gear this year as well.  Santa Clause brought the family a new Clam BigFoot XL4000T that let us spread out and have a little more space.  I also picked up a Marcum Showdown 5.6 Dual Beam early in the year.  Each year we are adding a bit of gear and trying out a few new things.  The Showdown is very easy to use and when fishing in our Clam shelter, everyone can usually see their lines on the screen.  The best use I have found for it, is to get an idea of water depth before I start cutting holes. It will even pick up fish markings through the ice.  I just carry a little bottle of water to squirt some water on the ice surface and the Marcum can read the bottom.

The Clam BigFoot is perfect for our family.  It fits my wife and I along with our 2 kids and we don’t feel cramped.  It is still small enough to haul around on the back of a Ranger UTV or pull on a sled.  It sets up quick and is easy to take down.  Our previous shelter was the same pop up style shelter, but was not insulated and was much smaller.  The insulated walls make a big difference for two things: It holds heat much better and the insides don’t frost up from condensation freezing.

Ice Fishing

The boys love cooking hotdogs over a fire in the summer and discovered that they can also cook hotdogs in front the Portable Buddy Heater.  I love getting out there with the family.  The kids crack me up with the funny things they come up with and it is funny to see the different things that really make their day.  They thought it was something else to cook hotdogs out on the ice.

There are many things that I enjoy during the ice fishing season.  What I enjoy most is the close family time.  There is something about cramming your family into a 8X8 foot hut out on the ice for the day that brings you close together.  There is always time of frustration as you are trying to get set up or fighting tangled lines throughout the day, but it is all worth it to see the smile on your kids’ faces as they pull a fish through the ice.  I know that the kids will look back later in life and remember these good times.  Below is a picture I took one of the evenings out on the lake as the sun was setting.  It’s hard to find this type of peacefulness sitting on the couch in your living room.

Ice Fishing Sunset

Do you have any good ice fishing stories with your family?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments or on my Facebook page.

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Great Start To 2014 With Ice Fishing Fun

Kyle With PerchIce fishing is now becoming one of our top outdoor family activities for the winter.  We are just learning to ice fish in our second Minnesota winter and we are enjoying the heck out of it.  It has been a great way to get the kids outside for some fresh air in the winter and keep them active.  My kids are 4 and 6 years of age, so it can be challenging to do some serious ice fishing, but it is just great getting out there and experiencing the outdoors with the whole family. I believe it is real important to challenge your kids and put as many adventures and experiences as you can in front of them.

We started out last year with a 6″ Mora Hand Auger and a couple of cheap ice jigging poles.  We had some success with blue gill and the kids had a great time.  I ended up adding a couple of nicer ice rods to our limited gear so we all had a rod to use.  Kyle really got into it right from the get go and caught fish each time we went.  Reid was good for about an hour before getting a little antsy, but he enjoyed scooping the slush out of the holes.  We were having a great time with it, but after cutting holes through 2 feet of ice with the hand auger, we decided that we should go ahead and get a power auger when they went on sale at the end of the season.  Wow, was that worth it!  We started out this year by adding a cheap ice shelter from Menards to keep the wind off of us, which was a huge help.  For Christmas, we added the Little Buddy heater from Mr. Heater and Santa brought the boys new rods, since the original cheap ones were no longer working well.

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The first couple trips out this year, I started out with some bluegill and sunfish, then decided to go ahead and find some crappie.  My first night out for crappie, I actually found a good hole and ended up calling Lynn and the boys to meet me at the lake so the boys could catch some crappie.  We had a good time and the boys were hooked on the ice fishing again.  We’ve had good luck this year with crappie in a couple different holes.  I love perch, and we were also able to find some nice size perch on a couple of trips out.  I honestly like pretty much any fish and it has been fun learning how to catch the different fish.

We keep expanding our horizons in the ice fishing arena, looking for different fish and trying out new lakes.  We don’t have any electronics for fishing yet, but I think it is good to teach the boys how to count out the line and try to find the suspended fish the old school way.  Next year, I think we’ll try to find some walleye.  I figure we’ll take it a step at a time.  We didn’t make it out this weekend and probably won’t make it out next weekend either as we are having some extremely frigid weather here in Minnesota.  The boys keep asking me when we are going to head out again though.  Reid is doing great with it this year and keeps us well entertained out on the lake.  Kyle is real serious about it and is the one always keeping track of who caught the most and biggest fish.

The ice fishing has been great and it is always fun to add another outdoor experience to our family.  I just love teaching my wife and kids new things and learning how to do new things myself.  What are some of your winter hobbies?  Do you ice fish?