SCHIESS: Henrys Lake produces for ice fishers

Living the Wild Life

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I should know better than to turn down an invitation to go ice fishing wherever the destination that the invite may be for – especially for Henrys Lake. I was working in my yard when I got the phone call from my two friends, Gary Owens and Wayne Clayton.

“Do you have a scale to weigh a fish?” asked Gary.

“I’ve got one that goes to 14 pounds.”

“It may not be big enough, but we will drop by.”

They came by with four fish; a 12 pounder, and three smaller: eight, six and four pound hybrids taken from Henrys Lake during Thanksgiving week through four inches of ice along the Cliffs of Henrys. Other mixed reports came in with some getting skunked while others reported catching up to 99 fish in three days over the weekend.

Tuesday four of us fished the same place Wayne and Gary had taken those hogs along the Cliffs with two of us catching three fish; an eight pound hybid and two brookies from 3 to 4 pounds. I got skunked, but as you read this, I have made two more trips and hopefully will get at least one.

Fishermen have found the area around Staley Springs and Wild Rose Ranch the most productive with the larger fish over 10 pounds coming from the south side. But many fishermen are seeing the catch rate dipping as the ice thickens.

Just after Henrys Lake freezes over the fishing is at its best, then as the ice thickens the oxygen levels in the water drops because of rotting vegetation and lack of wave action in the shallow lake. With lower oxygen levels the metabolism of the fish slows, reducing their need for feeding. Traditionally fishing becomes slower and slower in most areas of the lake by New Year’s Day when the season closes.

Last years ice fishermen found a lot of large fish in November, but by New Year’s Day very few fish were being caught. With more large fish being caught recently, Henrys will become the destiny of many in- and out-of-staters visiting the lake. On several popular web sites groups are planning on descending on the lake during the next two weeks, looking for that life-time trophy fish.

Caution is needed where ever you fish on the lake, as of Tuesday a large portion of the middle is still not frozen and along the north, west and east shores are many streams and springs that keep the ice thin. As I found out last December, anytime you see dark snow on top of the ice, the ice is not thick and you may find yourself trying to walk on water.

The fishing has not been hot like it was four or five years ago, but the fish are running larger and a dream of trying to get a 12 pound fish through an eight or ten inch hole can cause some to throw caution to the wind. If questionable thickness is not enough, recent winds have scoured the ice and have made areas very slick. Cleats are almost necessary to walk on the ice and once one gets to their preferred area to fish, sleds and chairs should be anchored as the wind can come up quickly. As two fishermen found out their equipment can quickly disappear across the ice.

If you love to fish through the ice as much as I do, be careful and you may also want to take a gaff with you to help you pull a hog out. Please be safe and if you hear of a successful fisherperson – pump them to increase your chances not to get skunked.