Ice fishing: A matter of where you drill the hole
The ice creaked and crackled underneath a pale blue sky – cloudless and serene. On the frozen water of Red Lake, surrounded by the mountains, some fishermen had drilled holes through the ice and dropped their lines. Ice fishing does not require the skill of fly-fishing or deep-sea fishing. It is more a matter of luck. It is where you drill your hole. “Sometimes you can catch a fish in one hole and 5 feet away nothing,” said Karl Marchegger, who was fishing at Red Lake with his wife, Marika. Despite the solid block of ice that separates the brook and rainbow trout of Red Lake and the Mackinaw of Caples Lake from the outside world, some have said the weather plays a role in the fortunes of an ice fisherman. “When it’s sunny, the fishing isn’t good,” Marchegger said. According to him, stormy weather makes for good ice fishing. Despite the sun, Marchegger managed to catch a 13-inch brook trout. The fish was a real fighter and Marchegger had to make an extra effort to catch the fish, which had loosened itself from the hook and jumped back into the hole. “They seem to have a smell for the holes,” he said. “I had to dive for this one.” He threw the captured fish on the ice about 10 feet from the hole before gutting it. “You open up the stomach to see what the fish is feeding on, and then you try to use that,” he said. But for Marchegger and his wife, catching fish is not the main objective. Karl sits on a bucket and Marika on a foldout chair. Karl does not even use a fishing rod, just a fishing line with a baited hook – worms or salmon eggs. This frees his hands to eat some food that he might cook on his propane stove, to smoke cigarettes, or to drink beer. “I’m not here so much for the fishing,” he said. “I’m here for the serenity. If they don’t want to bite, I’ve got no quarrels.” Marika, too, is there to enjoy the outdoors. “I don’t fish,” she said with a smile. “I just cook it and relax and sunbathe and breathe the fresh air. That is my job.” Les Nagy, who presided as mayor of South Lake Tahoe in 1971, also was on Red Lake. Fishing through a single hole, Nagy, 90, sat on a foldout chair and patiently held his fishing rod. “Sometimes you’ll come out here and they’ll be boom, boom, and other times you’ll come out here and get nothing,” he said. For Nagy on this day, there was nothing, but it didn’t seem to bother him. “I like to come out here,” he said. “I don’t care if I catch any fish or not.” But, he said with a bit of optimism, “There are some big fish in this lake.” Rick Muller, a partner at The Sportsman, a sporting goods store in South Lake Tahoe, said people have been catching brook trout between 8 and 20 inches and Mackinaw as large as 15 to 20 pounds. “It has been real good,” Muller said. But he said the best months are usually January and February. “For a lot of these fisherman, it is just a way to get rid of cabin fever, to get out of the house,” he said.