Well, it's 2017 - it's time to hit the ice! The new year has begun, lots of our inland lakes are froze here in northern Michigan. We're really excited to get out and do some fishing. We have been out over the course of the past couple weeks. We've had some inconsistencies in the weather which have made some unsafe conditions on some lakes, and better conditions on others. For the most part, we're just gearing up to get out, we haven't went out onto the lakes with any machines yet or ATVs. We're still packing really light. Today, I just wanted to go over a couple of things - a couple of safety tips for anglers to read up on and see what we like to do to take precaution and be safe. When I'm first hitting the ice, I always - #1 - like to bring one friend, at least. It's not worth going out, even if you see other people, you should always bring a buddy with you. The second most important thing is to have a good spud. At least have one in the group. Have the guy that's walking ahead in the pack, make sure he's spot-checking the ice every 20 - 30 yards to see that the ice is maintaining its thickness and that you have good ice. We're here on an inland lake in Grand Traverse county today. We see people out on the ice, but we're still going to take proper precautions ourselves. We're going to utilize the spud, stay apart from each other, bring our safety picks, and take our time. Because we're packing so light, we're not even bringing a hub or a flip-over shanty today, the weather is so nice. We're just going to hole-hop for some pan fish and some perch. We have our Humminbird sonar unit that one angler can use once we find where we want to fish and find our contour breaks and find some of the spots that we located this fall. Those fish are still in that fall to pre-winter transition period - that first ice period. Once we find it on the GPS, one of the anglers can switch over and use this as a sonar unit, and the other angler can use this one straight-up as a sonar unit itself. Just a couple rods and a couple mobile chairs and some buckets, and we're going to go out and give it a try. One really important thing: before you leave the parking lot and venture out onto the lake is to make sure that you tell someone where you're going. You want to tell a close relative, tell your wife, tell somebody where you're going even if you're going with a friend. Just so that someone knows where you're at and what boat launch to look for you if you were to have an issue. So we checked this lake about a week ago. We had a little bit of a warm spell. I think the ice is great. Obviously, there's anglers out on the lake. If I was out here by myself and checking initial ice, these are the type of precautions I would take. It's really important to see what the quality of ice is. Obviously, when you look at the surface of this ice, you can see that it's fairly good, blue ice. There is a mixture of some honeycomb in there where we had some snow and then a thaw hit and it melted all the snow on the surface and re-froze. The best way to tell how good the ice is to see the texture of the ice and what type of ice it is. A lot of people just think, 'oh, there's ice on the lake - there's 5 inches.' Well, if it's honeycomb and it's refroze snow, and there's only 2 inches of good ice, there's a big difference. Let's get in here with our spud and check this ice out. You can tell when you're coming through it that it's pretty solid. We've got a 30 degree day today. Having a 30 degree day, the ice should be pretty soft, but this ice is good a firm. Pretty good ice. You can tell that it's good and hard. There's probably 4 to 5 inches here. Really good start to the season. So you can tell that there are some residual pieces that broke off the main piece. But, for the most part, there's 4 to 5 inches of good, solid blue ice there. It's always deceiving when you look down into the hole, because you never really know how thick it is. Once you get your hand down in there, you can really tell. Its wider that what I can grip, so we have a really good start to the year. Here we go - nice. So that's exactly what we're looking for. This ice is a lot different than the ice we had in on the shoreline. It's probably the same thickness, but you can tell that this is good, solid, hard blue ice. That's exactly what we want. You can tell just by feeling the surface on a 33 degree day that it's good hard ice. We'll just go ahead and use the auger here. You can tell when you're pushing through it that it's a lot harder than the ice that was in on the shoreline. The ice on the shoreline was good, this is just perfect to show everybody. We wish we could have ice like this all year round. Not interrupted by snow on the surface. Just good, solid ice. If you look in here close, you can see that there aren't any other layers to this ice, it's just all real consistent. It's exactly what we want and we'll go ahead and check it out. We had 5 inches in on the shore, but here it feels like we probably have more like 6 to 7 inches. Now all we've got to do is get some rods in the water!
All right - we've got something here. Let's make sure we get this out of the way. [laughing] I don't think this is a crappie! Oh, stuck on the ice! Look at that! A nice bonus largemouth on a little jig. Nice! Alright, before he freezes - it's 0 degrees - let's get him back and healthy.
Nice keeper - beautiful keeper. First thing in the morning on the new tip-up system that we're trying. That was literally the first rod we put down with that new tip-up system, and it seems to work out so far!
Today, 9 & 10's Jenny Buechel takes us out onto the ice of Grand Traverse Bay. There, she shows us not just how to ice fish but the best way to catch the biggest prize. Today's "Hometown Tourist" - ice fishing off of Old Mission Peninsula. We're out on East Bay today heading out with Sport Fish Michigan. We're going to see what we can catch out here on Old Mission Peninsula. We'll see you out there. If you've never done it, driving on Grand Traverse Bay is just surreal. The wind is wild, the ice is slick, and the space feels totally infinite. Not to mention - the water is solid. Do you know what our high is today - temp-wise? I think it's 23 or 22. Perfect! Since 1994 it's the first time the bay has frozen two years in a row. For us, it's about a 2-mile ride to our shanty. Our guide today is Captain Ben Wolfe, teaching this first-timer all the ropes of ice fishing. Oh, this is so neat. This year, we're really starting to get going out here on the bay. We're really just excited to start getting into it and really see what's down there. We had a couple of 8-pounders our last trip out, so the potential is very, very good for a really nice fish. The best is yet to come. Exactly. Today... mmm hmm. On a guided tour, your shanty is prepped and ready for immediate fishing. Even the ice holes are drilled. But if you want to cover more ground... So what we'll do is we'll drill a lot of holes in different depth contours really trying to figure out if there's a certain depth that the fish like, and are they keying on it. Our targets today are lake trout, whitefish, and burbot, a freshwater cousin to cod. For bigger fish, we want a little bit of a stiffer action rod that can handle the beefy, larger species. The beefy species... yeah! Exactly. So what we're going to do is put the jig right in the hole and we're just going to let it go. When the pulling stops, we start jigging by popping the rod about a foot up and down. Jig 'til your arm falls off. That's kind of how we like to joke. People like to "get jiggy with it" - all sorts of terrible, awful jokes. But, whatever you're jigging muscle, it's all a waiting game. What happens in the shanty stays in the shanty. Yeah - unless you're on camera. I don't know how to whistle. Not well! My lips are so numb, I don't know if I could, even if I tried. (laughing) No. Maybe the fish are tone deaf! Let's hope so. We jig for hours, but to no avail. Zebra mussels - catch of the day! Fortunately, our neighbors had better luck earlier that morning. So we have a lake trout here, this is a really nice, keeper lake trout. And a really beautiful whitefish. Oh, my gosh... is he still living? Moving?! Is he still alive!?! Yeah. Big catch, or none at all, ice fishing is really all about the experience. You know, it's not a numbers game. The fact that we are out on a bay that very rarely freezes is really a treat. To be able to be out here where, normally, we're only in a boat. For 9 & 10 I'm Jenny Beuchel, your Hometown Tourist.
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