I threw out some bait, the trusty ole Gold Jakes -- not a bite. So I decided I'd cut up a minnow and toss a tube jig. I'd noticed some action near the boarder of the ice, so I started throwing my white speckled jig about 10 yards from the edge of the ice.
About cast 10 I pulled in a dink trout... which happily self-released 1' from shore. Three casts later... the story begins:
I cast out about 60 yards -- and at this point I'm counting down my last few casts before trying a new location. About a minute into retrieve I feel a little bump and immediately jerk to set.
For the first split second, I'm convinced its a rock. My pole just bends -- feels very snaggy.... then a split second later I realize the Rock is moving in the other direction. He's not moving quickly, but just pulling my line straight out and down.
I'm fishing with 8lb test and a 6lb leader to the tube jig.. my bail is set light so I ratchet it down 2-3 clicks ... no effect. The beast on the line just keeps a slow swim down and away. I don't dare set it harder... I'm just going to have to wait for the turn.
A few minutes later, about 50 yards of line have slowly crept off my reel and it finally stops -- so I can pull and reel.
Another several minutes go by of pure tug battle. I pull and reel a few yards, then he creeps out a few more yards... but slowly, this battle is turning my way.
About 12-15 minutes into the fight, we're back to 30-40 yards from shore and I get my first look at the Fish. MASSIVE TIGER! I've caught several 22"+ trout at Scofield this year and I can see this one is definitely mid 20's or larger.
WoooHooo! But then....
Just then the fish made its first run to the surface, swished the big tail, and dives under the ICE!
Over the next several minutes there are many times I am sure I'm going to lose this one... my line is cutting several inches into the edge of the ice, the fish is thrashing around about 15 yards under cap -- so hard I can hear it hitting the bottom of the ice as it surfaces. One jagged edge of ice or if the line freezes in place, this battle is over.
Finally after giving line and pulling to keep the line at least moving through the ice to keep it from freezing, the fish seems to lose some steam. It meanders back out from under the ice and is now just gliding back and forth as I slowly bring it the last 40 yards to shore.
Landing is going to be a problem.
I didn't bring my net and this fish is clearly heavier than my line. I decide to let the battle play out just a little longer to ensure the fish has had enough. I decided my best option was to set my bail really loose, hold just the tip of my rod and I bring the fish to the shore in case he runs, and just try to grab him.
As I bring the fish right to shore, I can see I way underestimated his size. He's not mid 20's -- he's pushing 30". I get him to the shallows and quickly grab him by the lower jaw.
FISH IN! AND WHAT A MAMMOTH!
I wanted to measure, photograph and release him. So I quickly got out the tape measure and snapped a very poor photo of the fish showing he is in fact just a shade over 30".
Fortunately the hook was a just an upper jaw set, and it came out without even the need of pliers.
Unfortunately, back in the water, it was clear TIGER wasn't happy. He made one tail swish taking him about 5' from shore, then turned on his side and sank to the bottom.
I watched him for about five minutes, but nothing was happening. This battle was, unfortunately, his last. Well, best pay the respects I can by bringing him home, framing up some photos, and share the meat with family.
The included photo below was taken at home. Wow... what a climax to the open water season!
Give a man a fish and he's fed for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll spend his life squinting at invisible thread.