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Drilling ice

Mark Walters drills a hole while fishing on Lake Onalaska recently.

Hello friends,

Last week I wrote to you about winter camping on Lake Onalaska with my 17-year-old daughter Selina and our golden retriever Fire and her pup Ruby. My goal on last week’s trip, as well as this one, was to enjoy winter, which is my favorite season of the year. I was also going to try to catch a 40-inch northern pike.

When Selina and I left on Saturday, I left my portable ice shack on the lake, and on Monday I came back for three more days of fun.

Monday, Feb. 19

High 37, low 23

The pups and I made it to camp at 1:00 this afternoon. I had a simple and exciting challenge. After putting out three tip-ups, I had to get my camp ready for what was predicted to be a major ice storm.

As I have mentioned many times, my cabin on the lake is a 13-foot by 8-foot Eskimo Fat Shack. It is insulated, but with a steady rain would become soaked, so I put a large tarp on it, secured it well and was actually looking forward to the storm.

An important piece of this puzzle is that from early January until about a week ago, Lake Onalaska was putting out a lot of northern pike over 32 inches, as well as lots of big bass, and some perch in the 8- to 14-inch range.

As luck would have it, that hot bite would slow down dramatically for the six days I spent on the ice.

The best fishing was the first three days, and in that time I saw about 20 gators caught by some very good tip-up fishermen that were between 34 and 37 inches. Because I had plenty of free time, I talked with these fishermen a lot, and some of them were near my camp on three separate days.

What bothered me was that I did not see one of these big pike released, and I had to ask myself how long can this fishery sustain this type of harvest?

The storm was super cool and I was later told that quite possibly every school in Wisconsin was closed. All night long I listened to wind, rain and then ice.

Tuesday, Feb. 20

High 28, low 11

After the storm, the big chill came, and this morning the flags were flying. I hate to say this, but I had one fish spool me (take all my line). I caught a 30-inch and 27-inch northern pike though, and I was in a great mood.

A bit of a problem that has come up is the following. Five years ago you may remember I crushed my left hand in a wood splitter. I broke three fingers and messed up my hand. Last winter I caught that same hand in a 330-body grip trap. Other than the healing time for both injuries, neither has bothered me since. About a week ago my left hand started hurting real bad, and I am hoping that this will pass.

I have really big outdoor plans in my head for when Selina goes to college, and my goals are to push myself year round in dangerous situations and spend as many nights a year living in the outdoors as possible.

These adventures on Lake Onalaska were my sixth and seventh on the ice this winter and though the drives home are so exhausting, it is impossible to describe. I love every minute that I am on the ice, and will forever dream of hand lining big gators.

Follow your dreams, push yourself!