Posted: Tuesday, February 14, 2006

During the past week I fought the elements here in Alaska that were created by our weird weather almost on a daily basis and was not very successful in this battle. I have always said I never quite understood the purpose of God sending us rain in the wintertime but I’m sure he has some reason for it.

Rain is an ice fishermen’s nightmare and does nothing but create problems in making travel across our lakes difficult in whatever method you chose. Instead of nice dry snow and hard ice we now have to deal with over-flow and wet slushy snow that ends up refreezing giving us a very rough surface on our lakes. Often times we end up with trapped layers of water underneath the surface that can cause other problems.

These trapped layers of water are hard on your auger and also help the ice deteriorate faster then if you had a good solid layer of ice all the way through. A good sharp ice auger cuts through the ice in seconds but drilling through areas with trapped water underneath can cause you to bend or stress your auger.

What kind of auger do I prefer you ask? Well that is simple; Jiffy Ice Augers have sold more augers then all the “other” ice augers made in the world combined! If I had a dime for every hole I drilled in the past twenty years with a Jiffy Ice Auger that would be one big pile of money. I once drilled over 200 holes in one day with my auger in one area while standing on a 2x6 as I was drilling out an area in front of a hole where a tractor had went through the ice on a pond in Wisconsin. Yes we did recover the tractor and yes my auger performed like a champ.

I have been ice fishing every chance I get but on two occasions I was unable to get on Kenai Lake to fish. On one trip it was raining so hard and the wind was blowing so violently my son Brad and I decided not to wade through the 6 inches of water that was on top of the ice. We went to Engineer Lake that day and did really good on Kokanee.

The other time I could not get on Kenai Lake was because of the avalanche that had the road closed. That day my fishing partners Jim Ries and my son Travis decided to go try Kelly Peterson Lakes instead. I was not successful there at all as I drilled holes all over looking for water from ten to twelve feet or deeper. I set up my fishing shack for Jim and Travis to fish in while I explored the lake looking for just the right spot. Well all I accomplished was finding two nice spots but was soaked in the constant down pour before I ever caught one fish. I will however use the information later to hopefully find some nice fish if my clothes that are normally used to keep me warm ever do dry out again.

I have plenty of gear to keep a whole crew of ice fishermen warm and comfortable during almost any kind of Alaska weather except rain. I started gathering up equipment to survive camping or fishing on the ice for many years. I’m now at a point where I can very comfortably take out about 20 people and keep them warm all day on the ice.

My children started putting together plans for a camping trip on the ice so this year we choose Stormy Lake. This Lake offers both rainbow and Dolly fishing and also pike fishing. So we started loading up our gear on a Friday afternoon of February 10th. Nine people were going on this trip so we took our big shack that has four fold down bunks besides room for two more cots inside. I dug out 18 ice-fishing poles and 8 tip-ups, a large variety of bait ranging from eggs to hooligan.

Then you throw in boots, refriga-wear, cooking equipment, 4 smaller shacks with heaters for each one plus buckets to sit on. Then a cooler of food and plenty of drinking water, one snow machine to ride on or should I say fight over! Dishes to eat on and about 800 cups to drink hot chocolate out of. Ratchet straps, chains and binders to fasten everything down so it is still there when you get to the lake. Did I forget the generator, spare heater, stovepipe, lights for the camping shack, sleeping bags, pillows, paper towels, extra gas, mantels, flash lights, porta potty (girls along) gloves, hats, extra socks.......Then sometimes the fish don’t bite and the weather gets really nasty and it rains and the wind blows and people get unhappy and 7 of the people in your crew are 12 and younger.....Then we all want to ride the snow machine at the same time, Or we all need to eat at exactly the same time or we think we need to just sit in the cold wet snow because we are thinking we are not getting to ride the snow machine enough....

We set up four fishing shacks and got stuff somewhat organized and orderly. After drilling enough holes for 8 tip-ups and four holes in two fishing shacks plus running all the tip-ups out during a pretty constant rain I turned the camping trip over to my 25 year old son Brad and girl friend Mandy Elkin. I then drove back home and slept in my own bed, I was tired wet and stressed out and very thankful that Brad and Mandy took over. I also hope my children stick together and make this an annual event long after I’m gone. It does any fathers heart good to see siblings doing things together like this for the enjoyment of many.

Yes it sure is a whole lot easier throwing one shack on my little pick-up and sneaking off to one of our little lakes. In ten minutes I’m fishing and it is quiet relaxing and very comfortable. But yet I’m thankful everyday for the many adventures I have endured here in Alaska and that I was part of the Stormy Lake camping trip for 2006.

See you next week (even if it rains!)

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