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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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
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.
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