As I rose at 5:30AM with the sun still asleep, I filled my thermos with coffee, packed a warm breakfast and headed out to Misty Morning Cottages. I was visiting for an early morning Ice Fishing lesson with my dear friends Joe and Misty and their two amazing teenagers, Daniel and Amber!
With the temps starting at 37ºF, I felt like I picked the perfect day to learn this winter sport! My instructors agreed! Right away, Joe and Daniel showed me their ice fishing traps, auger and other gear! I’ll admit I was overwhelmed and nervous, since I am not much of a warm weather fisherman, I wasn’t sure what this would be like. However, I felt like I needed to give this classic Maine sport a shot!
For our first hole, we didn’t have to drill! We set up a classic tip up trap in an existing hole. I watched on this first setup as they measured the water depth with a depth sounder, hooked the bait fish and set the trap and flag.
For the second one, Joe used the auger and drilled a hole into the 3 feet of ice. It was such a sight to see! We pushed the drilled ice off and scooped the left over pieces of ice from the hole. Here they walked me through the whole set up. I did everything from using the sounder to hooking the fish! I have only ever used live bait once before and I was worried I would be terrible at it. However it was so much easier than hooking a worm. On this hole with used a flat trap. I thought it was a really cool design but Joe shared how this trap can be more challenging in the wind.
The third hole was in another previously drilled hole. Although it was iced over, it did not call for the auger. On this one, all three of us worked together to get it set up. We used my favorite trap here, “The Arctic Fisherman” flat trap. This trap looked vintage and really cool! Also, the flag popped up right when we were there! I quickly went to retrieve the fish but my beginner skills let the fish swim free right when I got a glimpse at him coming to the surface. Joe joked by saying, “Samm is a conservationist!” Although I am, I was willing to catch a fish! This was super exciting and energized me as we finished setting our traps.
When we set up the fourth hole, we used a Moosehead Black trap. I learned this style trap was made right here on Moosehead Lake!! How cool, right? They are best known for being great in the high winds we experience here on the lake.
For the fifth and last ice fishing hole, we used a Big Bob trap. This made in Maine trap was great for being the farthest trap from the house, since it sat higher than all the others on the ice and the flag can be seen from 1/2 mile away! When we were setting this trap up, one of the cottage guests came by with a cusk he had caught. I had never seen a cusk but from what I saw, it was pretty big! I learned they make a nice chowder. Perhaps someday I’ll be brave enough to try it if given the opportunity.
Once we had all the traps set, we went in to enjoy our coffee. Within minutes, a flag went up! We rushed outside and attended to our trap! There was another escapee! Before we even reset that trap, another flag went up! This one had a perch. THEN another flag! This time we had a sucker. After letting those two fish move on with their lives, we reset and returned to the house. We just made it to our coffee cups when yet another flag popped! This one had a small brook trout that was too small to keep so we snapped a photo, unhooked him and reset. How exhilarating!
When we returned to the house, we had time to finish our coffee and breakfast and then keep our eyes on the traps that didn’t go off again. By 11:30 AM we decided the early morning fishing luck had passed. What an adventure! My very first ice fishing adventure was just that, adventurous! Next time I’ll take Joe up on his offer to make it a trip with an ice shack and all!