Friday, February 12, 2010

Ice Fishing the Soft Water

Indiana - February 12, 2010
More Photos:
Frozen Solid

There was a glimmer of light in the eastern sky as I began driving east on I-80 toward Indiana. The outside temperature was 13 but the forecast high was for 26. They later revised that about 5 degrees higher after the forecast clouds failed to materialize.

No Room to Fish

By the time I parked the car at my destination, the thermometer was showing 8 degrees outside. I knew I was going to be in for a rough time with the rod guides freezing up. The creek was frozen all the way across in a couple of spots, but where there was a little more current there was open water.

Frozen Bobber and Line

The first couple of spots I wanted to fish were not fishable due to the thin ice going out so far. Where I was able to fish I still had to contend with chunks of ice constantly floating by.

Fishing in the Floating Ice
All I could do was toss the bait out into the ice and hope for the best. The ice was moving faster than my bait was drifting so I had to constantly pop the bobber loose from the ice that would over take it.

First Steelhead of the Day Comes Out of the Water

Luckily on my second drift, the bobber failed to pop back up. I clicked the bail shut and began reeling up the slack and sure enough I had my first fish on. The fish swam under the ice that had frozen out from the opposite bank. I lowered the rod to my side and was able to get him out of there. Next he swam under the ice that had frozen out from the bank on either side of the spot I was standing in. At that point I let him go where he wanted but when he went back out in the current I was able to horse him to my feet without the line breaking due to the ice that kept hitting it.

"The water isn't much warmer."

I picked up the fish, set him in the snow and unhooked him before taking a few photos. He was released no worse for the wear.

Lots of Ice Behind Me

After several more drifts I gave up on that spot and moved down stream. It took a little longer, but another Steelhead took the bobber down.

More Ice Floats By

This fish felt bigger as it pulled drag out. Then for some unknown reason it turned and swam upstream right towards me. I reeled as fast as I could until the fish stopped and started fighting in circles right in front of me.

Circling for Another Run

I was going to have to somehow get the fish up onto the thin ice that was frozen a foot or more out over the water in front of me. I chose that spot because the ice was out even further on both sides up stream and down.

Diving Under the Ice

The fish swam under the ice in front of me and broke a big chunk off. As it floated out I realized he had done me a favor because I now had more room to land him.

Steelhead Swims Toward the Bank Under the Skim Ice

At this point I got a real good look at one of the biggest Steelhead I had ever had on the end of my line. It took off again for open water and wanted to fight a little more. When I got it close again it swam under the thin ice just above where I was standing. I don't know what it was thinking because it hit the sand under the ice and kept trying to swim right up onto the bank. I got a hand under it and lifted it up and quickly set it down in a huge snow bank that had drifted out from the creek embankment.

Just enough room to get him out of the water

The fish was still hooked so I quickly got the line untangled from the ice just in case the fish decided it was going to flop around and try to get back to the water. Sure enough, it did. I stopped it once as I snapped a few pictures. The fish nearly took my rod with it into the water as it tried to get away again. This time I picked up the rod and let the fish wiggle his way out onto the ice which quickly broke under his weight. He made a few powerful splashes as he took off for deeper water.

Big Steelhead in the Snow

I drifted that spot for a while longer without any other bites. The sun was getting higher in the sky and there was less and less ice drifting by. I could still hear the ice out over the creek moan and groan as the sun warmed it. I decided to move but as I approached the spot I wanted to fish, I noticed the area was frozen to the point where there was no place I'd be able to fish so I headed back.

Through the Skim Ice to Freedom

I stopped at the spot where a nice fish had broken my rod during the previous trip. By this time I didn't need gloves anymore and there was no more ice floating by. The ice around the shoreline was minimal in this spot due to the current but all I was able to do was snag twice.

A Scenic Spot

An older gentleman I hadn't seen before stopped to ask how and I did and then went to a spot about 50 or 60 yards down. A short time later he landed a nice fish and released it. I threw the spinner a couple times then decided to hit the road.

A Nice Steelhead about to be Landed

It turned into a really nice day. It warmed into the mid 30s by the time I got home and Bear was happy to have some play time in the snow.

Bear is Happy to Play Ball in the Snow

By William D. Anderson


  1. Bill, I applaud you for your tenacity in the cold of winter to chase and fool these beautiful fish. I am envious!

  2. Well done with those conditions. Great looking fish.

  3. just looking around and found you. like your title. catch photo release fishing. that's what i do. iike to fish but not 8 above. no thanks, but great story. checked a few ads while i was here . always do that when i visit. i'll be back for more pictures. thanks butch