My hometown is Watertown, S.D. a place I return to as often as I can. A couple of weeks ago, we headed back north to ice fish on a few of the dozens of lakes and sloughs scattered throughout the Watertown area.
Anyone who has spent time on the ice where the northerns live, know what they can do once they latch onto your bait. A pike is a fighting fool when hooked, even when it’s prowling around under 8 inches of solid ice.
It happened just before we arrived on a frozen lake near Watertown where Outdoorsmen Adventures Team Member Larry Myhre and I were to join good friends and present or past Watertown residents Chuck Krause, Don Fjerstad and Junior Burns.
Like many ice anglers, Don fishes with two rods, one with a live bait rig and the other with some sort of attractor rig. His live bait rig was propped up in the snow while he jigged with the other, then it happened, a jarring strike, one, which could only have come from the hard-hitting northern, a fish with a voracious appetite. Rearing back hard, he set the hook, with the fish taking off, peeling line off his reel. Out the corner of his eye, he noticed his other rod coming out of the snow, rapidly sliding along the ice into the other hole. He had his hands full fighting the fish and his rod disappeared into the depths of the lake, gone forever!
After a hard fought battle, where, luckily, the northerns mouth full of sharp teeth and sharp gill plates didn’t cut the line, Don flipped the fish on the ice. Figuring he had won the battle with the northern but lost the battle with his second rod, he proceeded to remove his jig from the pike and strangely enough, noticed another line wrapped in the fish’s gill plate.
The pike had hit his lure and on the first run wrapped the line from his second rod, pulling it down the hole. Not only had he landed the fish, he also landed his rod which a few minutes before was lying on the bottom.
Earlier, before we arrived, Chuck, Don and Junior were on the south end of the lake, doing what fishermen need to do this time of year in order to catch fish, the old run and gun. Anglers this time of the year need to punch a lot of holes, looking for fish. Chuck and Don had migrated to the south end of the lake and were set up just off to the side of each other while Jr. kept on the move, punching holes trying to locate a concentration of fish.
Using the run and gun method, they had iced several walleyes and perch, but as it often goes, they would take one fish out of a hole and then have to move to find another.
As the bite slowed, Junior headed to the north end of the lake where he had started out earlier and caught his first fish.
It wasn’t long before Chuck’s phone rang with Junior indicating he had found the school and the bite was hot, so, we quickly packed up and headed north.
Getting close to the north end of the lake, we could see the outline of what appeared to be a housing development on the ice. There were fisherman fishing from their vehicles, on buckets out on the ice, in Ice Castle ice houses, Clam sleds and ice tents, in homemade ice houses as well as several of the Snowbear ice fishing RV’s moving about looking for fish.
Our group spread out in a small circle and it wasn’t long before we all were catching fish. Larry brought up two small walleye he released while Junior and Don both caught a good perch. Not to be outdone, Chucked iced the big perch of the day a 1.6-pound jumbo. My first fish was a good perch and shortly thereafter, Chuck tied into another fish, one, which made the drag of his reel squeal as it, tore off line before Chuck got it under control. As the fish neared the hole, Junior helped to land it, a 3 ½ pound female walleye that we took photos of and then released back down the hole.
As the sun began to disappear in the west, Junior landed several good perch, as did Don, Larry and I. It was time for us to pack up and head back towards town, bringing the end to another great day on the ice just down the road from Watertown.
The numerous lakes and sloughs in the area including; Kampeska, Pelican, Wolfe. Goose, Blyth, Dry, Grass, Manke’s, Maynards, Casey’s, Reed, Indian Springs and others all offer excellent fishing throughout the year for walleye, perch, crappie and northerns. Besides fishing, the Watertown area offers excellent pheasant hunting and some of the finest waterfowl hunting in the state.
Watertown not only has excellent outdoor activities as there are numerous things to do and see in the area, including; the Terry Redlin Art Center, Bramble Park Zoo and the Mellette House, the home of South Dakota’s first governor. Then there’s uptown Watertown, the Codington County Heritage Museum as well as excellent golfing opportunities and numerous other attractions, which make Watertown a great place to vacation, visit and live. It’s a community where some of the nation’s most popular wildlife artists call home including: Terry Redlin, Josh Spies and John Wilson. Its where, I was born and raised, an area where I was first introduced to the outdoors and where my love of the outdoors was nurtured, It’s Watertown, S.D., it’s my Hometown!
For more information on information on all the Watertown, area has to offer check out www.visitwatertownsd.com. Check out the Redlin Art Center’s web site at www.redlinart.com where you will find information on the Center, it hours of operation and its special events.