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    The Fever

    I'm thinking of doing a public service announcement. It would go a little like this: "Hi there. Do you or someone you love have Ice Fishing Fever? Ice Fishing Fever is characterized by the feeling of needing to drill holes in a frozen lake and fish through them for hours or even days on end. Symptoms include lack of focus, pacing, habitual watching of The Weather Channel, and even twitches that resemble the act of jigging. If you or your loved one are spending hours and hours isolated sitting in an ice shack in the garage watching YouTube videos and reading magazines, don't despair because you are not alone". Ice Fishing Fever is inescapable for many, kind of like the flu. And just when I think I’m alone, I walk into any store that sells fishing gear, look on Facebook or Twitter,  or watch any television program that has outdoor programming and I don't feel like the only one that has The Fever. 

     A fella can only read so many articles, watch so many videos, and plot on his topo maps so long before he drives himself (and his wife) crazy. I’d venture to guess that if ice would hurry up and form I’d probably quit spending money as well. There are times that I'll sit down, read an article, watch a show, and develop the idea that I “need” something and head to the store. This has happened more than a couple of times. Before I realized it, I ended up with a bucket full of tip-ups, thirteen rods and an assortment of jig heads that would probably make the Northland Tackle Company name a wing of their building after me. One unsupervised afternoon two weeks ago I wandered out of town a little way to meet a guy who placed an ad for an ice shelter in a classified ad. By the time I returned home I had a new one-person flip over shelter to compliment my two-person flip over shelter. I’m not sure how it happens but it just does. This habitual gear buying will cost me more money later on because now I need a bigger shed to store arsenal. It's a vicious circle.

     According to many of my fellow local ice fishing types, the magic number seems to be 29, as in November 29 or Black Friday. While my girls count down until the biggest shopping day of the year, I count down to what is regarded by many Black Hills ice fisherman to be the beginning of the season. Depending on the year, Black Friday may be a bit optimistic but it gives us something hard and fast in which to stare at. Despite some cooler temps as of late and a healthy dose of winter in the form of snow, hard water still seems to be a few weeks away. 

     But, really, who can blame any of us for being excited. What was once a pretty well kept secret except for locally, the quality of Black Hills ice fishing has now become a hot topic across the country. In a recently aired episode of Jason Mitchell Outdoors, Jason and Ice Team Pro Craig Oyler fish Pactola for big lake trout. The episode highlights the quality laker fishery that is Pactola, but also spends a good amount of time talking about the quality of trout fishing in the Black Hills in general. That video can be found here:  

    In the 2013-2014 edition of F+W Media's Ice Fishing Magazine, the Black Hills is featured as one of three under-the-radar ice fishing hot spots. In that article, Tyler French of Dakota Dream Outdoors explains what makes the Hills' ice fishing so special, about the many options nearby, and about the best tactics and tackle to help land a Black Hills wall-hanger. It's an outstanding article and is available on news stands now. It's those type of things that help spread The Fever.

     So here we all sit and wait. We keep an eye on message boards, weather forecasts, and wait for the news of that first fishable ice. Until then, there's still some great fishing in open water to be done. Here's your up-to-the-minute fishing report:

     Rapid Creek flows have slowed quite a bit over the past week or more although they are still on the high side for this particular time of year. Brown trout fishing continues to be outstanding in most stretches of Rapid Creek. Streamers, large nymphs, and even chunks of crawler drifting down stream are said to be working well. My best success was with a black Wolly Bugger. Just remember, the storm, coupled with high flows from runoff have made some of the banks unstable in areas. Watch your footing and exercise caution.

     Lakota Lake has been good for some larger rainbow trout in the 14"-19" range. All of the trout I caught were on Flicker Shad or Rapala's and even on larger silver spoons. I was also able to land some pike in the 18-22" range on the same baits. It's kind of cool when you hook into something but can't tell what it is until you get it close to shore. The rainbow in that lake fight about like the pike do. We weren't able to locate the Perch there, however.

     Finally, if you have the time, a run to Pactola is worth your time. A co-worker was able to catch five different species of fish in just a few hours a couple of days ago. Browns, rainbows, lake trout, and pike are all biting well with a few bluegill being caught as well near the docks. The basin below the lake is a great choice, just remember it's artificial lures down there only. Also try the area off of Veterans Point for some bigger fish as well. 


    Hopefully you find some time to get out and enjoy some outstanding Black Hills fishing and scenery. Share your fishing reports in the comment section below. While your'e out and about if you happen to come across any ice, remember that it generally takes a solid 4" of good ice in which to fish from. Even though we are all anxious, it's not worth someone getting hurt to be the first one to punch a hole. Take care, be safe, and good luck. Until next time, fish on!

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