The day dawns gray and cold, but my mood can’t be dampened by the conditions.
After all, I’m standing at an access point on Saskatchewan’s Tobin Lake, accompanied by several great ice anglers and friends: Andrew “Smitty” Smith, Steve Bunka, Neal Hughes and Terry Allington of FishingSaskatchewan.ca, along with Tom Zenanko of Vexilar. We’re fully armed with a plethora of tip-ups, rigged and ready for action, each about to be set within the depths of Tobin, a world class pike fishery…and we’ve got the entire day we can devote to tending them.
Our sleds are hooked up, gear loaded, snow machines running. But there is tension, an obstacle to overcome as we wait for Smitty to walk back up from the lakeshore, where he’s checking shoreline ice conditions. Tobin is a reservoir, and a warm front passing through the day before was accompanied by a sloggy mix of sleet and rain. Lake levels subsequently rose, flooding shore ice. Caution is required.
Smitty approaches. Our group is attentive, awaiting his report. “Good news,” he advises. “Last night’s cold spell locked things up. We’re good to go.”
There’s no wasted time. We’re soon gliding swiftly across the ice, GPS enabled Smitty in the lead. He’s heading for a distant waypoint offering a wood covered main channel point extending from a prime shallow water feeding flat toward a deep trough—a location we know provides a convenient migration route hungry pike use to move between the shallows and deep water refuge.
The ride is just starting to feel long, when I notice Smitty brake, his red tail light a bright beacon in an otherwise dense gray, early morning fog. Eyes focusing intently on his GPS, he circles around slowly, then waves his arms and shuts down.
With efficiency derived only from a group of experienced ice anglers that have fished together extensively, things move fast. Smitty and Neal unload gear and spring up an Insta-Shack portable shelter. Steve and Terry start the Polar Fire auger, and each taking one end of the handle, work together cutting holes. Tom Zenanko and I follow, skimmers and Vexilars in hand, to clear slush and confirm depths.