February 6-7, 2015 – Day 1
The weather was balmy up in Northern Wisconsin in comparison to other years (2010 and 2014) for our annual ice fishing trip out of Chippewa Retreat Resort in Manitowish Waters. Day 1 offered little wind; overcast skies and temps steady around 16°. Our party, hosted by friend George Hillenbrand II, enjoyed a casual departure for the lake as well. We woke up around 7:30 then ventured to the famous Little Bohemia Restaurant for a needed greasy breakfast. We didn’t arrive on our lake until 10:45 AM.
Awaiting us were friends (Wisconsin fishing guides Joe Pestka, James Pestka (JR) and Brett Jolly). JR and Brett had at least a dozen tip-ups rigged and ready to drop down ice holes with live minnows in hopes of northern pike, perch, walleye, crappie and more. Head guide Joe had the “shack” (icehouse) to a steaming 65° and the bacon grease was sizzling. The bacon isn’t so much for the eating but rather the best oil imaginable for cooking curly French fries and fresh fried pike.
On a normal year, minutes after the tip-ups are set flags begin to pop and in come the fish. But Day 1 proved as slow as slow can be. We watched and watched while few flags popped. The ones that popped rarely had a fish on them. Most were light bites that pulled just hard enough to trigger off the flag of the tip-up but the fish didn’t consume the baits.
The day wasn’t a total bust however. Getting blanked on the ice in WI is unheard of. Despite the slow fishing there were eight pike caught and one bluegill. Not one pike was big but Joe cooked up what little we had and made a scrumptious lunch for us all.
We packed it in earlier than normal. When it comes to ice fishing you need to know when to call it or the sport can get old fast and you’ll drink too much. At 3 PM we returned to Chippewa Retreat where we enjoyed yet another amazing meal. This time was at their new restaurant, The White Oak Grill, followed by late night cigars.
Day 2 was designed to make up for the slow Day 1. We went to a lake they fished several years back. This was the one year I missed and they ran down seventy flags and landed more than forty fish! Brett was here two weeks ago with a family and they experienced similar luck. But it was bad news when we arrived at our casual 10:45 again. Joe was quick to exit the shack and tell us they had no flags since they arrived at 8.
Something was definitely wrong these past two days. Whether it was the weather, barometric pressure or what no one knows. From 11 till 2 we caught only a few more pike than we did on Day 1. I however lucked into this slightly larger pike of 28”.
Our organized fishing is over and tomorrow morning everyone is free to relax or do as they wish. I’m going fishing again with the guides for a few hours. Then it’s a classic Wisconsin Sunday with shooting pool followed by an afternoon of dice and cigars.