Merriam-Webster defines a conundrum as “an intricate and difficult problem.” It also defines a conundrum as “a question or problem having only a conjectural answer.”
And such has been Crystal Lake this ice-fishing season.
Crystal Lake holds the state record for the splake, a brook trout/lake trout hybrid. These trout grow to large sizes based on the forage fish that are available to feed upon. While splake are no longer stocked in Crystal Lake, Fish and Game does stock a few hundred brown trout in these waters each year.
Forage fish are the preferred meal for brown trout, and Crystal Lake grows some very nice specimens. These larger trout are very wary and not easy to bring to hand. They pose “an intricate and difficult problem.”
Crystal Lake is also home to smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, pickerel and yellow perch. With so many species to choose from when ice fishing, it does bring up “a question or problem having only a conjectural answer.”
As many may know, I choose to fish with flies and artificial lures. These baits are tied on circle hooks, barbless hooks or have the barbs pinched down. This allows for quick release of any fish caught and minimizes any possible hook damage to the fish. I refrain from removing fish from the water unless that fish is destined to the dinner table.
On one ice-fishing trip to Crystal Lake, I fished the shallow northwest shore pursuit of yellow perch and pickerel. I tied some jigs I had designed for just these species. Yellow perch are fine fare in the winter. Their flesh is firm and flavorful. Yellow perch tacos are indescribably delicious.
Well, I went fishless on that trip. My conjecture was that the constantly changing dynamics of the ice had put off the fish from feeding that day.
My next trip to Crystal Lake, I focused on catching bass. I was confident that these fish could be found off the depths of Cass Point.
Bass are a little more sophisticated than pickerel or perch, so I tied some more intricate and larger jigs to try and lure these fish to hand. Starting 10 feet from the point, I would jig for five minutes, move 10 feet away from shore, drill another hole and jig some more.
After drilling five holes, I would change my jig and return to the first hole. This was repeated until I had tried all my creations. No bass were to be fooled on this day. There was a winter storm on the way, and my conjecture was the pending low pressure had taken away the bite window.
My latest foray to Crystal Lake had me focused on the south end of the lake. During the summer, I had seen many brown trout cruising this portion of the lake sipping midges. I decided to fish with some very large jigs and try to entice one of the large brown trout to take a bait worth the fish’s time and energy.
This time, the ice holes were cut where the lake drops from 10 feet to 60 feet deep in just a few hundred feet. Brown trout like to cruise these deep drop-offs in pursuit of baitfish. Again, Crystal Lake stumped my problem-solving. There would be no trophy brown trout on this day.
Tip Of The Week
Find a comfortable inn or pub after ice fishing. A hot toddy and a warm fire are just the thing to take the sting out of a fishless day on the ice.
Steve Angers, a native of the Conway area, has been consumed by fishing since catching his first wild brook trout at the base of Champney Falls.