Al Bernicky and I went creek hopping in search of Steelhead. The original plan was to go chase Sauger again in the IL River, but after double checking the weather forecast I thought it best not to be pulling my boat around on snow slickened roads.
Al picks a spot
We got to our first spot and began fishing. I landed a smolt right away and commented that we should use him for bait as I let him go. Al started fishing near the same spot, but after a few minutes I decided I'd head for my favorite spot on that creek.
My first Steelhead of the day covered in snow
I fished the magic hole very thoroughly and didn't get a bite. I tried a few things and nothing worked. I switched positions and started hitting another part of it and quickly hooked and landed my first fish.
My second Steelhead of the day
A nice head shot showing the hooked jaw
The second fish I hooked got wrapped around the tree and I lost him. The third fish I hooked got all the way to the ice I was standing on and as I was slipping my hand under him to gently lift him out of the water, he bit through the line and was gone. I hooked and lost a few more fish while I was in that spot. They seemed to be stacked up in there pretty good.
Light snow falling
Another shot of my second fish
I landed the next fish and took a photo using the self timer on the Canon Digital SLR I had in my bag. I used a fallen tree as my tripod and the picture turned out OK. The fish was a brightly colored male.
One of several that got away
I set the fish in the snow next to the first one I caught and decided that would be all I would keep for today. Just as I finished re-tying, Al walked up to join me. He fished the stretch of creek I was originally working on and didn't get a bite. A short time later, I hooked another nice fish and Al got the camera out of the bag and was able to get one picture of the fight before the fish wrapped itself around the tree and got away.
Al tries to keep a fish from going under the ice
Al then decided he'd hit another spot and caught several nice fish there. He took a few pictures with his cell phone.
Another fish that Al was able to get onto the ice
I decided I'd start working my way back even though I was 2 for 8. I stopped at one last spot before I was done and hooked another nice fish. This time I had him in a pool where I could keep him away from the brush and was able to get him to the bank - until my St. Croix Rod snapped in half when the fish tried to make one more run. I loosened the drag right away since I still had the fish on. It all was for nothing though because he quickly snapped the 6lb test line like it was a wet noodle since there was nothing to absorb the shock.
The "broken rod" spot
Al walked up a few minutes later and we headed back towards home. Al's catch ratio was about the same as my miss ratio, but it was still a good day despite breaking the rod. This was my first St. Croix rod that I've owned and they should warranty it if they're a reputable company since I've only used the rod a couple times and have taken good care of it like I do all my other gear.
The water temp varied between 33.8 and 35.8 according to the thermometer I had. There was a lot of ice along the bank and the water level had dropped since the ice formed so we made sure to only walk on ice that had dry (or very muddy) land under it. The ice over the water was not safe.