Like a scene out of Ice Road Truckers, I braved one of the infamous Wyoming snow storms. Blowing snow blinded mountain views, and hands now white-knuckled the steering wheel. Focus begged to be elsewhere as I was driving back from a trip I won’t soon forget.
An elusive fish, even in open water, had become my target on the “hard deck” ever since my cleats first hit the ice. Three years I walked off the ice with little more than aching muscles and a damaged spirit.

However, this trip was to be different in more ways than one. One hour trips to my home lake were instead replaced with 14 long hour long matathons of Interstate 80, since I had moved west. I had my doubts that our late season trip would yield any results, but Cole had his hopes high.


Fourteen hours later, from mountains to the prairie, drinking energy drinks, singing to country songs, and mapping out our game plan, we arrived.

The Nebraskan dawn was peaking over the hills; I had just a couple hours of sleep and eyelids were heavy, and yet I still could not have been more eager. Unloading all the ice gear, we were finally about to hit the ice. That’s when I hear it. The sound of air “whooshing” under pressure.

“The Nebraskan dawn was peaking over the hills; I had just a couple hours of sleep and eyelids were heavy, and yet I still could not have been more eager. ”
Releasing her through the ice was just as incredible as catching her!


Barbed Wire & Flat Tires

I stopped dead in my tracks. Propane from the heater leaking perhaps? That would have been wishful thinking, as we leaned down by the new snow tires. It was a leak, and not just any leak- a fast one.

Throwing everything back in the trunk, I put my foot to the floorboards to get to a tire shop. Drinking watery coffee, the anticipation was still just as high as the tire man presented to me, a huge barb from an old barb wire fence. I kept thinking how grateful I was that my hearing was sharp and that we did not come back after a long day of fishing to a completely flat tire, but a part of me was disappointed– the morning bite was gone.

Regardless, we got to the lake and wasted no time spudding our way out over scary looking ice. The top had refrozen after melting so as to shatter and crack when walked upon. Every step felt and sounded like it was the one that would send you to a watery grave.

As the hours flew by though, I got the instinctive feeling that no fish was the most likely scenario remembering all the years past with the same result.

Turning It Around

It was groundhogs day for the next day; the story repeated. I knew right then that if we did not change up tactics for the last couple days, we were going home empty-handed. We decided it was time to implement a new plan. It became one of the single most important decisions, and had the most pivotal effects.

We walked away with not one muskie, but three.

Catching ‘Skis

Cole’s line was the first to ring as drag spun out. No bass fought like that, and that was all I was sure off. Getting the fish near the hole, I saw the whole muskie press up under the thin ice as she made her runs; my heart stopped. He tipped her nose up through the hole and I pulled her out lightning fast. It was an insane feeling of excitement that could not have made me prouder. It was his first pure-strain muskie and a Nebraska fish at that.

Less than an hour later, it happened again, but this time on my line. Hard, long headshakes that bent my rod in half, I could feel my heart in my throat. When I saw the green cheek of very first muskie under thinning ice, not a single day of failing mattered. Every last one of them was all overshadowed by the fish before me.

Grinning from ear to ear, ecstatic would be an understatement. After the muskie tail-waved goodbye down the hole, unable to hold back anymore, I leaped into Cole’s arms, still shaking from the excitement.

While we were sharing our play-by-play of the moments, and jigging alongside each other while the sunset, Cole had one last bite from a pint-sized ski that paled in comparison to the other two.

Goodluck, and Timing

That day, the three years of confusion clicked for me.

We all have those freak days on the water where everything lines up perfect. The perfect pressure system, the perfect weather, the perfect moon cycle, or the perfect water temperature. Looking back, what I do not know for certain is what percentage of the success was related to factors like those, and what percentage what do to the change in tactics.

I’ve been racking my brain since, but what I do know for sure, is next ice season I will hopefully find out.


About The Author

Die-hard muskie & trout angler with a passion. Kayak fishing, Hybrid chasing, Sunrise ↠ Sunset,

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