EDITOR'S?NOTE:?This column originally ran Jan. 8, 2009.
You don't have to be a media junkie to be aware of a place called the Gaza Strip these days. They've been hogging the headlines with the same-old, same-old political and religious conflicts between Hamas and the Israelis, hell bent on bombing one another into mutual oblivion.
I disapprove of fundamentalism and terrorism, and don't know anybody who doesn't except fundamentalists and terrorists. If they're both itchin' that bad for the second coming and Armageddon, I just hope they keep it to themselves over there. If God created the earth in six days and rested on the seventh, you'd think he could come up with a better end times game plan than that.
Unlike the hotspots of the Holy Land, we're one of the cold spots in the hinterlands of the U.P., one of the few places in the world that's in favor of global warming. In its absence, the Keweenaw is into its annual ice age period and the ice fishing action is picking up, especially on the Portage out backa Sigma Rhohonen, that Finnish fraternity in downtown Chassell.
Ice fishing has come a long way since the '60s when we used to sit on an upside-down pail hunched over a hole out in the open. Serious, sophisticated ice anglers had shacks heated with a Coleman lamp and a hibachi and charcoal, which came in mighty handy for an on-the-spot fish fry.
My luckiest ice fishing lures are still the ones I used back then, Swedish Pimples, Do-Jiggers and Vinglas from Bay de Noc Lures in Gladstone. Try the multi-pack, the smaller sizes the better, 1/10- to 1/4-ounce pimples (one to 1-1/2") either bare nekkid or tipped with a live minnow, a dead one pinched in half, or just put the head in.
I've also done well with Jigging Rapalas, Northland Puppet Minnows, and JB Weasel Spoons. Hot new stuff worth trying are Lindy Rattl'n Flyers in holographic prey fish scale patterns and techni-glo finishes, and Brian Brosdahl's Bro's Bug Collection jigs from Northland. I am a big believer in scent and tipping jigs and lures with dead and live bait or a single fish eye.
If you're going for the hawgs, go with a heavier jighead in chartreuse, orange or parrothead with a minnow hooked just beneath the dorsal fin to keep it alive and kicking. Set tip-ups around your shack with six- to eight-inch suckers to attract big northern and trophy walleye.
Electronics play as much a part in the serious ice angler's arsenal and success as the right yiggin' technique. I've learned more from sharing a shanty with walleye pros and ice fishing icons Mark Martin, Mike Gofron and Mark Brumbaugh, from whom I've picked up a pointer or two over the years, and some nice northern, whopper walleye and yumbo perch to show for it.
Practicing and developing a yiggin' technique that fish can't resist takes time. They can still resist mine, but I don't discourage easily and remain hopeful. Selecting the right yig for the yob further enhances your luck. Mark Martin has a technique he calls "callin' em in," a vertical jiggin' strategy that starts at the bottom and works its way up, involving wiggling, twitching, shaking, shimmying, swishing and such. Fish are turned on by it. Walleye go wild. Rig your jigs with No. 6 treble hooks and No. 8 stingers wearing a small, nervous minnow.
Perhaps the biggest asset I've gleaned from these guys is a PFA (Positive Fishing Attitude), believing that I can attract and psych out a walleye. It starts with boring a bigger hole than you usually would, out of sheer confidence that the fish you're targeting are too big to squeeze through the hole you'd ordinarily drill.
For more information on the latest ice fishing lures, augers, technology, electronics, rod & reel combos, clothing, shelters and gear, visit baydenoclure.com, rapala.com, purefishing.com, lindyfishingtackle.com, northlandtackle.com, frabill.com, trueblueicefishing,com, humminbird.com, aquavu.com, lowrance.com, strikemaster.com and nilsmaster.com.
For the slickest next big thing on ice, check out hardwaterairboats.com.
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at jjunttila@ chartermi.net.