Frozen lakes have been hard to find this fall, but Soldotna's Spencer DeVito has his tackle ready.
"I live for ice fishing," he said. "That's all I do, all winter."
Snow closes the golf course, he said, but still, the stolid can fish.
"If you like to fish, you like to fish all the time. I like to ice fish because it's something a guy can do. It's not uncommon for me to ice fish four or five times a week, every week," he said. "I like the solitude. I have stoves and whatever it takes to stick it out. There's a lot of fun to fishing when it's really nasty, colder than h--l. There's a lot of challenge. It's a lot of fun, because you're the only guy out there. You can fish zero or 10 degrees as long as you're equipped for it."
DeVito, 65, said he has fished almost every lake on the Kenai Peninsula. Still, he enjoys finding new spots.
"I've got the original fishing pole my grandfather gave me when I was a kid. You don't want anything long. You want a real fast taper, a real flexible pole," he said. "The farther you get into winter, the more touchy these fish are. At Skilak Lake, a lot of people have really big fish and they don't even know it."
The line may barely bump when a big trout bites, he said.
"Fish on Skilak are notorious for not hitting hard," he said. "Fish over 6 pounds are rare, so you don't want more than 6-pound line."
DeVito said salmon eggs, cured in borax to release plenty of scent, make the best bait.
"Get roe in small clumps the size of a dime," he said.
He said needlefish he saves from the stomachs of silver salmon also make excellent bait. He salts and freezes those to preserve them. Shrimp also make good bait.
DeVito said he likes treble hooks because they hold the bait. He also carries a spool of thread. If the fish are biting, he ties the bait to the hook to make it last. If he plans to release the fish, he uses a large hook they cannot swallow. A No. 6 hook works well, he said. If he plans to keep them, he uses a smaller hook, usually a No. 8.
"Once you have some fish around, then you go to a single egg," he said. "I chum whenever possible, even if the fish are biting. If I'm using single eggs, I throw one or two in the hole. Otherwise, the fish move on."
Action attracts fish, he said, and state rules allow ice fishers to use two lines. DeVito said he often dangles bait through one hole and jigs cut herring through another nearby.
"I always fish the bottom. If there's a fish in midwater, he's going to see it and go to the bottom," he said.
DeVito said he arrives at the lake before daybreak, because the bite may be short.
"I like to be there at the break of the sun," he said. "When the fish feed, they feed and then stop."
Early in the winter, DeVito seldom fishes in more than 8 feet of water. Even in midwinter, he fishes no deeper than 30 feet. Even deep-dwelling lake trout rise to the shallows to feed, he said. They often follow ridges and bars, so he fishes off islands and points. It helps to know the shape of the lake bottom, he said. Otherwise, study the surrounding country for clues.
DeVito said he likes to fish lake trout and rainbows near the outlet to Skilak Lake. The best place is about 50 yards from the open water, he said. Ice fishers there often catch whitefish, too.
There are lake trout and Dolly Varden where the Kasilof River flows from Tustumena Lake. There are grayling in Fuller and Crescent lakes, and pike in Mackey Lakes. There are rainbows and Dollies in lakes near the Swanson River.
The basic equipment is simple -- an auger to cut a hole in the ice, a skimmer to clear away slush, hooks and jigs and a short, supple pole. DeVito said he also brings a propane stove and a fleece-lined muff to warm his hands and several pairs of cotton gloves to handle fish. He brings rags to dry his hands.
"The biggest thing is staying dry," he said.
For safety, he brings space blankets, plenty of fire-starting materials, food and extra gloves. He has a canvas ice-fishing shelter. However, he nearly died from carbon monoxide poisoning one day after he packed snow around the walls to make it dark, so he could see fish, then lit a propane stove.
"I prefer to fish in the open," he said.
DeVito said he also brings ice cleats since a fierce wind took him by surprise at Skilak.
"It was glare ice. The wind came up 40 to 45 knots. We had all we could do to keep from blowing into open water," he said. "Ice cleats are critical."
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.