"The night ice ain't no good ice but it's my ice," sang WW&W music correspondents Willie Nelsonen and Jon Bon Joki, re-lyricizing the classic 'Night Life' in my cozy Frabill ice shanty on Chassell Bay. As night fell and the bite picked up, we jiggled Swedish Pimples, catching some nice eater walleye and perch. Both Yooper music legends will be performing at the Copper Island Beach Club on the frozen Hancock waterfront over the holidays. Tickets are selling like hotcakes at less-than-Super Bowl prices.
First ice ain't no safe ice either, but we were fishing shallow enough water so no big whup if it did cave in. Most Yooper inland lakes have 3-6 inches of ice with a 4-12-inch snowcover, so tread lightly. Copper Harbor and Keweenaw Bay are still rated WOW (wide open water) and I wouldn't trust Portage Lake as far as I can throw it.
"We've got a pretty good jump on winter in spite of iffy ice," said WW&W meteorologist Winter Solstice, who doesn't arrive until next Tuesday, bringing with her the first day of winter. "Anything before that is foreplay," she winked, noting that she's given Houghton County about 70 inches so far with 20 on the ground, while Keweenaw County has about 50 inches with 16 on the ground. For up-to-date snowfall and snowmobiling conditions, visit keweenaw.info and keweenawtrails.com for skiing and trail reports.
"My standing goal is to have 100 inches by the first day of winter," Ms. Solstice stated ambitiously. "Last year Heikki Lunta really slacked off and we had one of the least snowy, wimpiest winters ever," she griped good-naturedly. "Houghton County had a mere 207 inches while Keweenaw County got a meager 169 inches. I'm pretty sure we'll beat that performance in 2011, or Heikki's in for a good, hard spanking on his bare Finnish butt."
While local hard-water anglers are just itching to get out on the ice, don't get so eager that you forget the safety factor. What ice we have now is still firming up and freezing down, so play it safe or you're drilling at your own peril.
Now I recognize that "hot ice fishing action" sounds like an oxymoron if you ever heard one, but the hottest first ice walleye bite I've heard of is the North Bay on Lake Gogebic.
"We've got 6-7 inches of ice with a foot of snow on top" said Russ Hewitt, Russ's Bait & Tackle, Bergland, 365-5505. "They're catching a lotta nice 15-19 inch eaters on 3-5-inch sucker minnows and the jumbo perch bite is picking up," he added. "Don't miss our Second Annual Ice Fishing Tournament Jan. 29-30, 2011; We've got one of the biggest purses around, biggest walleye pays $750, second $500, third $250; biggest perch $250, biggest northern $100. Registration is $25 per angler."
I hear first-hand they throw quite the post-tournament awards shindig at Bergland Bay Bar. Call or email russellsbaitandtackle.com for registration, regs and more info.
Another hot ice fishing event you don't wanna miss is the venerable 26th Annual PAC Vermilac Lake Ice Fishing Tournament on Jan. 8. Call Steve or Lisa Salli, Ponnistus Athletic Club, 355-2531 or 355-2303.
"They're just now tippy-toeing out onto Huron Bay," said Steve Koski, Indian Country Sports, 524-6518, indiancountrysports.com, on the downtown L'Anse waterfront, cautioning that K-Bay just glazed over and all bay ice was iffy. "Our inland lakes are pretty much locked up with good early ice catches of crappie, perch and northern reported on Vermilac Lake."
My ice fishing bucket list, so-called for sitting on a bucket on a frozen lake, is Alberta Pond, Boston Pond, Chassell Bay, Rice Lake, Torch Lake, Salmon Trout Lake, Gratiot Lake and Lake Fanny Hooe. Captain Larry Smith, Fish On II Guide Service (289-4481) reports iffy ice from 2-4 inches with patchy snow cover on Lac la Belle.
In other outdoor news, muskrat and mink trapping ends Jan. 31, as does raccoon hunting. Mont Ripley opens today, and Michigan Tech, Maasto Hiihto and Swedetown cross-country trails are tilled, tracked and excellent.
Spiritual socio-political thought for the holidays: If Jesus comes back for his birthday on Christmas, I bet he'll return as an independent green liberal conservative, bringing peace on earth, good will to men, news that the meek shall not inherit the earth after all, and the hope that Gandhi is right about there being no religion in heaven.
Kitoksia for reading, Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year from Jim and all your favorite WW&W correspondents, who can be reached 24/7/365 at firstname.lastname@example.org.