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Monday, February 29, 2016

The 2016 Ice Fishing Bonanza

I think this year marks my twelfth pilgrimage in-a-row to Fort Peck for some ice fishing. This was the first year that I have had a friend join me since high school! There were 6 of us this year which is definitely the largest group we have had. But the more the better on Peck. You only get 6 total lines in the water per person so when you have 6 people fishing, you have 36 opportunities to find the fish! You're thinking, "well, at year 12, havnt you found them yet"? Nope. The water level is different every year and the spring run off shifts the main channel of the bay ever so slightly so you're starting at square one annualy. This was also the first year that I brought my truck and camper. You would think one spare is enough, guess again. I popped both of my camper tires trying to get down there. The second one blew at about 2am so we crept down the dirt road on the rim until there was a spot to pull over and went to bed. Sam and I got up super early Friday morning to try and catch the crew before they went out fishing so we could tell them whats going on and prevent any worrying but we just missed them heading out. Luckily some other fisherman fishing next to my party were still at the boat ramp so they were able to relay the message. Sam and I screamed back to the camper, picked up the tires and went to Malta for a pair of freshies. We got back to Peck by 3 and were fishing (and catching) by the time the sun went down. Saturday had Sam and I heading out to the main lake to fish some spots that were extremely productive the year prior. We fished hard for a couple of days trying all sorts of things but a basket of Perch was all we had to show for our efforts. Meanwhile, back in the bay, my dad and his friends were killing it! They had a hog line with some mighty fine walleye and pike so the decision to move back to the bay was pretty easy. Everyone but Sam and I had to leave on Monday so we quickly pounced on their big fish holes and drilled a few new ones. The pike bight was on so much so that we had to quit fishing for them. We were throwing back 3 or 4 for everyone that we had to keep (ex. swallowed hook or gaf wound) and they just kept piling up. With a hogline chock full of pickerel, we threw everything we had at the elusive walleye. They were and still are elusive. Sam and I cleaned all of our fish Wednesday morning and headed back to reality. The whole drive home you think about what you would do differently next year and where and how to make improvements in everything. This year was the thinnest ice we have ever experienced and we had some close calls. One of our party drove into some open water and had to go for a swim. Luckily he was unscathed and we were able to retrieve the 4-wheeler. Then the next day Sam walked backwards into open water and took a little swim. Theres talk about fishing in January next year instead of February because the ice is getting thinner and thinner every year. Sorry ladies, its man weekend and you're not invited.

There goes number 2
This big fish has been immortalized on Fast Eddy's wall
40.5" 18lbs
What we kept after 3 days of fishing
Pike, Walleye, Perch and a whopping slab Crappie!
Nice work gentleman! Making photos like this is what brings us back every year. 
Time for a fish fry!
And the big pike award goes to (drum roll) my dad (glasses)! Ed took home the big 'W' trophy. 
Not everyone's definition of a vacation...
If there was an award for the smallest fish, I would have won it. I mean, it takes some serious skill to catch a fish thats smaller than the minnow you were fishing with! 
Back in the bay, Sam drilled an 'experimental' hole that quickly became the hottest hole of the weekend. We had to quit fishing it! 
Every 15 minutes Sam was pulling one of these out. 
We were trying to throw back as many as possible but sometimes you hook 'em a little too well.

Our haul after the rest of the crew left. 

This is the last year I am getting wet on Peck. Carharts are great and all but they do nothing for the wind and rain.
This photo is sweet! Directly above my head there is a flying V of geese.
The notorious gumbo clay must be avoided at all costs. We made ice pavers to walk around on shore. If that seems a little silly, go walk around the CMR after it has rained; you'll be 4" taller in 3 steps. 
My buddy Dana showed up on Monday and quickly found some fish.
Camp: 3 campers, 3 trucks, 4 4-wheelers, one trailer and one wall tent.
The final voyage of the Gypsy Wagon. (I sold it upon return to Bozeman)
These 'free range' bison can go anywhere they want, until they hit a fence. There is a major battle between the locals and the Feds in this area over the re-introduction of bison. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

There is ice in the T.Roots?!

Sam and I had plans to crush Hyalite again but, after looking at the Hyalite Snotel and weather station, we decided against 70mph winds in 20* temps. Brr. I mean, we live 30 min.s away so why fight bad weather when we are privileged enough to chase good weather? So off to the 'Roots we went. We drove over to the Ruby Valley and found little to no wind! Now to find that ice. After getting stuck trying to get around a stuck SAR vehicle, we counted our losses and just parked about a mile down the road from our target spot. (After pushing him out of course!) An easy 20min walk up the road and boom, there was Smugglers Seep WI3 300'. Grey ice is thin ice and this baby was grey and thin! BUT, there were safely protectable chunks that I figured I could bounce between using extended alpine draws. We hiked past the first pitch that was not in and I sent the second and third pitches in one 60m rope stretching pitch. I was traversing a curtain of ice that broke and went straight down at Sam. Luckily his attentiveness, my enthusiastic screams of "ice" and a little belay cave saved him from potentially serious injury. I expected the worst from up above but Sam brushed it off as no big deal. One rappel and some 'shwhacking got us back to our packs. Im surprised I have never heard of anyone climbing this gem of a climb before. Maybe now I will...

We climbed the far climber's left flow. 
Classic slab ice. 
There are bolts all over that granite.