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Woods, water & worse/Jim Junttila

Ice anglers get scare as K-Bay caves in

January 29, 2010
By Jim Junttila

"So how far do we have to go 'til we're southa snow?" Paris Hiltunen asked, scrolling through Mapquest.

WWW correspondents have to be fulla good questions. The southern enda the snowbelt varies from winter to winter, but I've driven through Cincinnati in a blizzard. Last February, I was just northa the Tennessee border, around Hazard and Corbin, Ky., when the snow petered out. Paris likes to stop in Paris.

"My cold and snow isn't just far-reaching," said Winter Solstice proudly. "We've got so much surplus that we're missing the boat by not exporting it."

As foretold and just like that, Winter unleashed a lake effect event that escalated from a 20 percent chance of snow to 100 percent before it was outa the weathergirl's mouth. Temperatures tumbled from the balmy 30s, our first thaw, to snowing, blowing and five degrees with a minus-25 wind chill; the kinda cold where the snow smears like flour when you brush it off your coat, and you have to keep your coat on in most bars northa the Mackinaw Bridge. It's why most Yoopers are in favor of global warming and Bart Stupak is lobbying for it.

It was hideous, yet natural and normal. All our winters, like our children, are above average when it comes to below-average cold; just like Lake Wobegon. Yet Copper Harbor and K-Bay are iceless.

"One hundred percent of the ice is gone," said Steve Koski of Indian Country Sports in L'Anse. "Last Saturday, there were 50-some shanties out on K-Bay. Then it started getting iffy from the thaw. Mosta shantytown folded their tents and got out while the getting was good, and not a moment too soon; On Sunday, all hell broke loose, Keweenaw Bay arched her back, and the ice broke up and blew out. Five tents broke off on ice floes and floated away. Now the bay is wide open water with whitecaps to the beach."

Huron Bay still has ice out to Township Park, where they've been catching whitefish and herring on Swedish Pimples, naked and tipped with bait.

It's so c-c-c-cold that not even hot rumors of big, bad ravenous northern and crappie snapping on Chassell Bay could get me out there. Fishing runs on rumor and business is so good they're opening a mill over on Sandy Bottom.

"The walleye bite has been sporadic on Gratiot Lake," reported Pink Floyd Kaiser, "but we've caught a few eaters in 10-12 feeta water, mostly on small jigs tipped with grubs, maggots and twister tails."

"Walleye are finicky feeders," said walleye pro Mark Martin, "especially through the ice. Sometimes they like snap-jigging, other times they want the Pointer Sisters approach, a slow hand and an easy touch. If nothing bites in a few minutes, reel up or down a bit, slowly jiggling, swishing and twitching your jig. You're imitating a wounded baitfish, and you never know what's going to trigger the strike."

"If you feel a tug, then a release, then another tug, this time a more urgent steady pressure, set the hook like you mean it. Hooked walleye dive, dart and bulldog around, but once you get them northa the ice, they're pretty docile."

"Ya, hey you betcha," said WWW senior ice fishing correspondent Ed Wetalainen. "You gotta viggle your Vingla and yiggle your yig at different depths as you work your way toward da surface, den drop it back down. If dey hit it on da fall, den cross dare eyes wit' a hookset day won't forget. At least dat's how dem Keveenaw valleyes like it."

For bait, ice conditions and fishing reports, call Indian Country Sports, L'Anse (524-6518), Harter Mountain, Calumet (337-0913), Northwoods Sporting Goods, Hancock (482-5210), Gas Lite General Store, Copper Harbor, (289-4652), Northwoods Bait Shop, Chassell (523-4878), Fish On II Guide Service, Lac la Belle (289-4481), Greig's Taxidermy & Tackle, Ontonagon (906-884-2770) or Russ's Bait & Tackle, Lake Gogebic (906-365-5505).

WW&W 2010 Winter Outdoor Calendar

Jan 30, Winter Carnival Ice Fishing Tournament, 487-2818,

Jan 30, Heikinpaiva Midwinter Festival,

Jan 31, Muskrat & mink trapping ends, raccoon hunting ends

Feb 1, Crow season begins

Feb 2, Groundhog Day

Feb 7-10, Mark Martin Ice Fishing School, Bay City, Saginaw Bay,

Feb 13-14, Winter Free Fishing Weekend,

Feb 13, Greenlight Ice Fishing Tournament, Portage Lake, Harry, 523-4417

Feb 13-28, Keweenaw Whitetails Predator Hunt, 289-4522

Feb 27, Chassell VFW 4th Annual Ice Fishing Tournament, Jesse Sohlden, 523-9089.

Feb 26-28, Winter Becoming an Outdoors Woman, Big Bay, Sharon Pitz 906-228-6561,

Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at



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