Breaking Through The Ice

When Dennis Musgraves of Alaskan Salmon Slayers  approached us about writing a story about ice fishing for sheefish in isolated Northwestern Alaska, I was more than intrigued for two reasons: 1. It was ice fishing. 2. It’s sheefish. Those two factors alone made this a great story to add for our November issue. Dennis really did a good job describing the process of he and his friend, Chris, traveling to Kotzebue in their quest for catching trophy sheefish through the frozen waters of Kotzebue Sound.

Here’s a little sneak peak of the story and a few extra photos to take a look at:

I continued vertically dancing my spoon as I took in the vastness of the sound. The miles of ice-covered water had me feeling like I was fishing for needle in a haystack; and then it happened. It was a definite forceful strike from something below the ice attempting to eat my lure, but I failed to set the hook.                                                   
I yelled with excitement, “I just had a bite!” My volume was probably loud enough to be heard by all the residents 2 miles away in Kotzebue. Anticipation in full throttle, Spiderman senses tingling, I increased focus on my jigging pattern to persuade another bite, and this time I actually set the hook. I imagined myself as the fish, watching the action of the large spoon, took the lure like an offer that could not be refused.
Then it happened again, wham! My instinctive reactions took over pulling up and setting the hook just after feeling the tip of the rod react to the lure getting smashed. With heavy resistance felt and line rolling off the reel I knew it was a positive hook set.  
My adrenaline kicking in now, I screamed at the top of my lungs, “Fish On!” in the direction of Chris. The fish took out about 10 yards of line after the initial hook set. As Chris made his way over to me, I reeled down on the fish. My rod flexing as I put pressure on what felt like a decent sheefish, I continued to reel up line and feel strong head shakes. The fish seemed to be easily controlled as I guided the head towards the ice opening to breach the surface. Not a huge by sheefish standards, but a respectable 34-incher, and not too shabby for icing my first one ever. After a couple grin and grip photos and exchanging high-fives, it was back to fishing.
Fishing the rest of the day was slow by any standard. It seemed we needed a new location. I was just about ready to suggest a change when I heard Chris shout, “Fish on!” Looking over to where he was standing and seeing his rod doubled over, I quickly reeled up to go over and see what he had on.                                                                                                                       

Upon walking up and taking a knee beside his hole, I began eagerly watching the opening, jaw wide open, my eyes straining trying to look into the waiter’s shadowy glare. I was attempting to get a glimpse of what was below. His reel sang a chorus as several yards of line was quickly ripped out against the drag. His rod was wildly bent from massive shakes and resistance. With the look of euphoric shock on his face and music coming off the reel I realized he must have one enormous sheefish on the other end of his line.                               
Excitement filled the air, as we began asking ourselves out loud, “Is this fish going to be a 50-incher?” Expectations grew in both of us as the tug of war fight subsided and the fish was coaxed closer to the surface. However, after approximately 10 minutes of unsuccessful attempts guiding the fish up the hole, we both succumbed to the notion that this fish was simply going to be too big for the opening in the ice. Our enthusiasm was totally deflated when the hook was slipped and he reeled it up, his rig void of any signs of a victory. 



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Photos courtesy of Dennis Musgrave.

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