Sunday had to be one of the warmest days we have had in three weeks or more, so it seemed like it was a perfect day to get outside and try a little ice fishing. I called my son, Clint, and he agreed and said he and his family would join me. We would try our luck at Healy Reservoir.
I was thrilled at the prospect of spending an afternoon with daughter-in-law Stephanie and granddaughters Lily and Brooke. I knew that we would have a great time regardless of fishing success.
Unfortunately, Lily was under the weather and didn't come along, but spritely Brooke took up a lot of the slack.
Our trip to Healy Reservoir was punctuated by lots of wildlife sightings. There were numerous herds of antelope, white-tailed and mule deer pairs and trios, bald eagles, rough-legged hawks, and ever-present magpies.
To our delight the weather at Healy was even nicer than in Sheridan, Wyoming: Mostly calm winds, bright sun, and warm temperatures — 45 degrees. There were muddy spots in the parking lot due to the intense sunlight.
We hiked 150 yards or so to the east of the boat ramp and started drilling holes. After a bit of huffing and puffing I managed to drill three holes through the 15- to 16-inch thick ice. Clint punched through a half-dozen more holes. Brooke dutifully cleaned the holes of the ice chips and placed them in a pile.
I plumbed the depths and found the water to be about 16 feet deep. I baited my jigs with wax worms and lowered them to about 6 inches above the bottom.
Healy Reservoir is noted for its prolific yellow perch population, so I was astounded that I didn't have a bite in the first minute or so of fishing. In fact, I don't think I had a bite for 10 minutes or so. I rigged up another fishing rod and tried a hole that was 15 feet away from my initial site. I had begun to think it was going to be a slow day.
I jigged for quite awhile with no results. I went back to my original rod and jigged for about 10 seconds and let it rest. The bobber did a couple of quick dips and then went under an inch or so and stayed there. I set the hook and could tell I had hooked a small fish. I quickly hand lined the fish to the surface and hefted it onto the ice. It was a yellow perch of about 6 inches. Though not an eater, it was a start.
That was all we needed to get going. Pretty soon Clint landed a similarly sized perch, as did Stephanie. Brooke elected not to fish, but made sure that the perch were well taken care of. She carried each perch over near the pile of ice chips and buried them. In no time she had a sinuous line of iced fish on the surface of the lake.
Clint started to move around in hopes of finding bigger perch; he drilled holes to the south with no real results, so he walked off to the north about 20 yards away. He punched in three holes, Brooke cleaned them out, and Clint fished.
In a short while Clint was into perch, but they were no bigger than what we had been catching.
The holes I had been fishing kept producing a perch every couple of minutes or so. The voracious little rascals were pretty adept at pulling the wax worms off the hooks. It seemed as though I was only hooking one out of three, and then I would sometimes lose that one at the hole.
My wax worm supply was quickly diminishing so I opted for an old standby perch bait — perch eyes. The nice thing about perch eyes is that they are pretty durable and are quite an enticement. Though I wasn't hooking every bite, I wasn't worried about losing my bait, so I didn't have to check my bait after each miss.
Stephanie moved to one of the holes farther north and started hauling in perch at about one every two minutes or so. Brooke was kept scurrying with handfuls of perch to her icing site. Soon, she opted for designs of perch on the snow rather than burying them.
We didn't catch any fish that we could fillet, but we did catch a mess of perch, and that was fun. We were out enjoying a wonderful Wyoming winter day and taking it all in.
As I mentioned, there were other folks out on the reservoir, too. One family group enjoyed the fishing while the children ice skated in an area that they had cleared of snow.
I decide to walk over to a couple of fellows about 100 yards away from us who had a springer spaniel to see how they were doing.
They had 20 or so perch in their bucket, but none were any bigger than what we had caught. They did say that they had excellent luck during the summer on largemouth bass. From what I could decipher the fish were probably 3 to 6 pounds.
I trudged back and fished some more. The little perch kept biting but we finally called it a day and traveled back to Sheridan. Though the quality of the fish were less than desirable, the quantity was fine. The weather was comfortable. The company was great, so who could complain? My first ice fishing trip of the season was a keeper.