A very careful launch
Our first task was to clear away enough snow and ice so we could safely launch without dunking my truck. I brought a shovel, ice breaker, and salt which came in handy. Despite that we played it extra safe by placing a big log at the bottom of the ramp after the trailer tires were in the water to prevent the truck from hitting water should it slide despite our efforts. You can never be too safe.
We saw a few Bald Eagles fly by before we had the boat in the water.
After we had the boat in the water, we idled out of the cove. Mist was rising off the water and the tugs were already pushing the barges around. The engine hadn't been run for almost two months so I continued to idle for a bit. I very slowly worked my way up in speed as we headed toward our destination which was the tree where we saw the eagles.
I was armed with a new 650-1300mm lens that my wife had given me, and was eager to try it out. Before we made it to the tree, we saw two more young bald eagles that were playing over the water.
A young Bald Eagle soars over the River
Adult Bald Eagle
A Belted Kingfisher
As we approached the area we were about to fish, we noticed more eagles and also that mist rising off the water had frozen on the trees and brush creating a very scenic winter wonderland.
I was able to photograph another Bald Eagle before we started fishing, and also a big owl. I didn't realize it was an owl until I saw the photo at home on the computer.
We made one pass through the area and Jim caught the first fish which turned out to be a Largemouth Bass. After the first fish was in the boat, we tried another nearby area and Jim quickly put the second fish of the day in the boat which was a nice White Bass.
The lure I was throwing was getting smacked, but it was like the fish were swimming up to it and batting it away. I finally caught a Smallmouth Bass before we moved back to our previous location.
My first of the year - Smallmouth Bass
Jim puts another fish in the boat
Me with a Catfish that is about to be released
We headed for the opposite end of the river but were greeted by floating chunks of ice as we got closer to the Kankakee River. We idled around a little and took some photos before spotting more Eagles and trying for photos.
I did not want to go much further because I was concerned that if a large enough chunk of ice broke off, it could float out and trap us so we turned around.
I've fished enough in cold weather to know how to take care of a boat in those conditions. The most important thing is to drain ALL the water out of the boat. Since no one else was around and we wouldn't be in anyones way, we stopped on the ramp with the boat tilted back end down. I pulled the plug and opened the livewell valve just in case. Sure enough a little bit of water poured out and I decided that I'd leave the plug out for the trip home. Normally I leave it out until the start of the next trip to prevent any accumulation.
I also lowered the outboard to make sure it was drained. The last thing you want is water to freeze in something and crack it. Especially your engine. Never assume you didn't get any water in the boat. If you stop suddenly, the backwash will find its way down into the bottom the boat. Also, condensation accumulates a lot faster than most people realize. By draining off any water in the bottom of the boat and out of the lines, you can prevent a very expensive repair bill.
Water under the bridge