3's a Crowd

Cold Start
     As my BMW slid sideways across the bait shops driveway, I knew it was gonna be one of those days.  JJMuskie and his girlfriend Heather had invited me out to do some perch fishing on Lake Mendota.  Normally I avoid Lake Mendota like the plague.  You see Lake Mendota is huge, to get to the 80 feet deep water you need to walk out almost a mile.  I always have issues with overheating on walks that long so I try to fish other local lakes.  JJ said not to worry because he would have his ATV so it would be a quick ride to productive water.  I unloaded the car and made my way over to the atv.  It was at this point that it dawned on me that JJ owned a 2 person shanty.  It was gonna be a cold, windy day for me on the ice.  I loaded my bucket in the sled and off we went across the lake.  We must've looked hilarious as we crossed the ice.  All three of us on a little four wheeler bouncing over ice heaves and laughing hysterically as we tried not to spill our coffee.
Our trusty ice steed.  Always starts, even if it dies soon afterwards.
Same body, different layout, both effective.
     When we arrived at our spot, JJ quickly hooked up.  It was a small perch that we obviously kept because it's air bladder was coming out of it's mouth.  I decided at this point while still outside the shanty that I would use an Echotail.  I had some new ones with the twin hooks instead of the single treble and their extra size would in theory keep me from hooking to many small perch.  I dropped my lure, and hunkered down with my back to the wind.  It was cold, but manageable.  I worked my way from hole to hole cup of coffee in tow.  As I moved around I would occasionally get a worried Heather asking me if I was warm.  "We can make room for 3 in here if your cold", she's such a sweetheart.  Then it happened, while dropping the lure back down the 75-80 feet to the bottom, the wind blew and my line got caught up in the back of the spring bobber on my st croix ice rod.  I always wondered if that would ever be an issue and now I can say it is possible.  I tried to figure out how to get the line free but my hands were cold and weren't cooperating.  I had to succumb to sitting on my bucket between JJ and Heather inside the shanty.
Pile of perch in the back, crazy spring bobber in the front.
     As I fought to free my line we all giggled at how packed in we were.  Like sardines, just on the ice not in it.  Finally I gave up and had to cut the line to retie.  I dropped the line down the third hole they had drilled (just in case), and settled in.  JJ had his vexillar on and had noticed that the perch were coming through about 10 feet off the bottom.  Now I was glad to be inside the shanty.  I probably would have never connected outside.  I was fishing the bottom, no where near 10 feet up.  We laughed and told jokes as we jigged into the morning.
Nice perch with a 3000 size
Okuma reel for scale.
     It wasn't all smooth fishing however.  JJ was using a Rapala Jigging Rap.  For those that don't know it is a lure that swims in circles.  So his lure had a tendency to swim right into my Echotail.  This caused a lot of laughs and line tangles.  Should have been expected though in such tight quarters.  As we fished we ran into some really nice perch for our area.  Most averaged 9-11 inches with big bellies.  We picked them off as the schools swam through, and I laughed more then I have in a long time.
     I had a great time today.  I always feel so blessed to have such great fishing companions.  We joked all day about our fishing, our struggles, and our happiness.  As I packed in for the day I was reminded of why I rarely fish Lake Mendota.  The ride was cold heading back to the car.  Despite the face mask and my Ice Armor I was cold.  Once back in the car I paused a while to take in the view.  This area of Madison is really beautiful.  The ice went on forever and the freshly fallen snow made everything look so clean and crisp.  I always hope at the end of a good day fishing that I will get at least one more chance to do it again.  Until next time, please remember to limit your catch, not catch your limit.
Heather and JJMuskie
     Tight Lines.

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