"Did you hear they've finally got ice on Copper Harbor?" asked Sarah Palinen.
At first I thought it was just a wild rumor, yet another cruel hoax by WWW meteorologist Winter Solstice, so I went for a second opinion from a semi-reliable source.
"Winter's right," Gale Jamsen confirmed. "Copper Harbor finally froze over last week and the splake bite was hot all weekend. There's a good 5-6 inches of ice and a few brave ice fishermen out there; the harbor was a tough freeze this year, but February and March are our major ice-making months."
It's nice to see somebody else getting slammed with snow and cold for a change, isn't it? Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C. and New York have been hit with monster storms and they don't have the equipment to handle it like we do.
"All the Jovian planets had to be in line for those back-to-back blizzards to clobber the east," Winter said. Philly had an all-time record snowfall of 72 inches, its snowiest winter ever. And it ain't over until it's over."
"It's an El Niemi year alright," said Sarah. "But I'd rather have snow than mudslides like California, and the ultimate irony is they have to truck snow into the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. Yoopers remain steadfastly in favor of global warming no matter what, and Copper Harbornens are no exception.
"They were catching splake just a few feet off the 6th Street Dock," Jamsen added. "They had some nice 10-12 inchers laying on the ice. I also saw anglers in the gap between Hunters Point and Porters Island. There are some nice ice formations on the big lake along the coast from Eagle Harbor to Copper Harbor."
"I showed 'em a little of everything and they went for all of it," said Ray Weglarz, who caught some nice foot-longs on light jigs tipped with small perch minnows and worms, garden hackles to a fly fisherman like Ray. "They were also hitting cutbait," he added. "I slice a thin belly strip off the first fish I catch. It leeches out a scent trail in the water for that added attraction, and stays on the hook better, too. Our fish ran 11-14 inches but some other guys caught husky 15-22 inchers. We found fish in 2-4 foot shallows and at 8 to 14 feet."
Try Swedish Pimples, Do-Jiggers in blue, green, orange and white pearl, Little Cleos in silver/blue and green glow, Sidewinders, Syclops, Buckshot Rattlers, Jiggin' Raps or jigs tipped with cutbait or Gulp. Tip-ups with minnows are also effective in skinny water.
You've heard of Clam, Frabill and Otter ice shelters, but there's a local guy making nice Teepee style ice fishing tents that are catching on. One- or two-person tents with a 90-inch square base and wrap-around snowskirt, available in black or blue. You can see them for yourself at All Seasons Upholstery, Houghton Breakers, or call Isaac Knuuttila, (482-6552 or 281-3777), or check out All Seasons Upholstery on Facebook.
I love what the underwater cameras bring to ice fishing.
"Watching fish sidle up to my jig on the Aqua-Vu makes me quiver all over. They sneak right up on it, give it a little head butt, maybe even a little sniff," Sarah said. "Sometimes they slap it hard with their tail and turn away like they're not interested, then in a split shot second, turn right back and eat it, then head south."
"Now's a good time to get on out there and shake off that cabin fever," Sarah added. "This is Michigan Free Fishing Weekend, Valentine's Day and the Lunar New Year."
I'm busy visualizing reeling in a 10-inch splake and having a big 20-pound northern nail it and hook itself right at the hole.
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), Russ's Bait & Tackle, Lake Gogebic (906-365-5505).
WW&W 2010 Winter Outdoor Calendar
Feb. 13-14, Winter Free Fishing Weekend,
Feb. 13, Greenlight Ice Fishing Tournament, Portage Lake, Harry, 523-4417
Feb. 13, Captain Mel Berman Memorial Celebration, 11 a.m., Hooter's Channelside, Tampa, capmel.com
Feb. 13, Fourth Annual Filthy Pelican Sheepshead Invitational, Tampa Bay, saltwaterangleronline.com
Feb. 13-28, Keweenaw Whitetails Predator Hunt, 289-4522
Feb. 18-21, Ontonagon Valley Sportsmen's Club Predator Round-Up, ovscup.com.
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, michigan.gov/bow
March 6, First Copper Harbor Splake Ice Fishing Tournament, Don Kauppi, 289-4637, or toll-free 888-MA-NORTH.