Girls About Town Get an Ice Fishing Primer

Chalene Braun and Rachel Quade tackle icy Geist Reservoir to learn the ins and outs of ice fishing.

OK. You’ve driven over the Fall Creek bridge. You’ve seen these guys. They’re the ones out celebrating the winter of our discontent. Day after day, and week after week, they are enjoying themselves. They are the few, the brave, the adventurous ice fishermen.

Today your Girls About Town decided to bundle up in their Carhart jackets and bibs, (OK, downy ski jackets and fluff mama boots), to see where it’s at on Geist Reservoir! Apparently this is a very popular angling activity, and these die-hard fisherman are having a banner year. To those who have never tried it, like us, LOL, ice fishing can seem a little strange to the summer lovin’ folks of Geist, but for many, ice fishing is the best and only kind of fishing. After talking with these “cool” fishermen, we kinda’ agree!

Chalene and Rachel get ice fishing tips from Clayton and Jeff Dockins at the Geist Marina.

Once winter and cabin fever have officially set in, that would be a good time to get out on Geist and test the waters — ice. You’ll need at least 4 inches of solid ice before you begin your outdoor adventure, and you don’t need a boat to get just about anywhere on the lake. Make sure the ice really is safe enough for you to be on it. Typically the first guy on the ice is the first guy to fall through! OK, it’s probably not a bad idea to wear a life jacket on your first ice fishing trip! So, on this cold wintry Sunday afternoon, we decided to venture out on the ice and see who we could find. We didn’t have to look far — ice fishermen were everywhere.

The first folks we came upon were actually hanging out under the covered docks at Geist Marina. Young Clayton Dockins, a seventh-grader from Indianapolis, looks forward to fishing with his uncle, Jeff Dockins, every chance he gets. They’ve been fishing together for years and love it! In fact, these two only ice fish. There’s no other kind of fishing to them. Today, they reeled in a sizable amount of bluegills. Clayton was pretty proud of his catch and entertained us with how their day of fishing had gone. Both packed their own thermos of coffee, snacks, ice-fishing poles, bait and augers, and trekked themselves out on the snow-covered lake using a homemade wooden contraption on sleigh runners that served as both seating and a carryall for their supplies. These experienced fishermen even had a propane lantern that served as a hand warmer. Two bags of fish and a couple of hours later they were ready to get back home and scale and fry up their fish.

A short walk away we found a large blue ice shelter with a couple other fishermen. James Allen and his uncle, Ron Cochran, were fishing inside a very cozy ice shanty! Allen and Cochran are quite the experienced ice fishermen, having fished for 25-plus years each on everything from the Great Lakes to State Park lakes like Eagle Creek and Summit Lake State Park, and today, Geist Lake. These gentlemen were well-prepared for a long day of fishing and were happy to share their tips on ice fishing. After drilling multiple holes to test the ice depth, they made their way out on the lake. Next they drilled more holes and used their Vexilar fish scout to find where the fish were gathering before setting up their shelter. These sonar units not only show the depth, they reveal if there are fish under your hole, and they show how those fish are reacting to your bait. We can certainly see why depth finders are very, very important to a successful day!

These guys were well-prepared for a long day of fishing. Luckily they invited us in the shelter and showed us a day in the life of an ice fisherman! We sat inside and chatted about the catches they’ve had, including crappie, bluegills, catfish and even wide-mouthed bass. Pretty soon we, too, were caught up in the chance to breathe in the crisp winter air in the not-so-uncomfortable shelter with its propane heater and clear the ice from the holes with the ice scoop and fish! Using mealworms as bait and a 32-inch ice-fishing rod, these guys were reeling in the fish and having a great day out on the ice. You’ve got to put some pretty significant holes in the ice. Our new friends told us 8-inch holes are the perfect size. Considering as much ice fishing as they do, they make use of a power auger to make quick and easy holes. Others, like the Dockins, prefer to keep things quiet and use a hand auger. Thanks to Allen for the power auger demo. That thing sure cut through the 13 inches of ice out on Geist quickly! We were tempted to give it a try, but the guys looked so manly with their power augers that we didn’t want to show up these burly fishermen!

There’s no need to stay inside during these long winter months, waiting for the sun to come out, dreaming of open water and summer fun. Be adventurous! Bundle up, get outside and try ice fishing. You just might make some new friends and learn a new skill!

P.S. You must carry your license with you when you’re fishing, summer or winter. Cheers, and catch you later!

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