Nolan Raymond, a junior at Hermon High School, enjoys Maine’s hunting, fishing and trapping opportunities. He is involved in Dirigo Search and Rescue as well as Boy Scouts of America. He also plays the drums and competes in track and field.
I spent my weekend getting all of my ice fishing gear out of the deep, dark confines of the snowmobile trailer. Yup, I’m working on cleaning up and fine-tuning each piece of equipment. It’s quite the arduous task.
You may be an advance planner, like me. Or perhaps you’re like my brother, as many are, and trust that your gear is fine just how you left it. Personally, that approach stresses me out and leaves too much to chance.
So, all of my stuff has been extricated and I’m checking everything over.
Every year, my brother, dad and I take a trip to a remote northern Maine lake, where we stay for a long weekend to fish. We fish a handful of lakes and ponds in the region, and we target a variety of finned critters.
Brook trout, lake trout (togue) and whitefish are three we target most, although my brother Kent and I also fish cusk out of camp at night, an action-packed adventure in itself.
This wide array of target species leaves us with a serious issue: having the right gear. Native brookies are smart and can spot any rigging that’s too obvious. Togue, on the other hand, are heavy, toothy fighters, and are sure to rip up any leader that’s too thin.
So that’s the issue. I can’t run thick, heavy togue rigs for finicky trout, but I also can’t easily land a seven-pound laker on four-pound line. Well, actually you can, with good fishing technique. But that’s beside the point.
Fact of the matter is, you need a lot of specialized gear for some of these trips. If we’re fishing brookies one day, then chasing togue the next, re-rigging full sets of traps is time-consuming.
On the other side of the coin, bringing an entire separate set of traps isn’t practical. Packing for this sort of thing needs to be efficient.
Last year, Kent came up with a clever system. At the end of his braid ice line on each of his traps, he tied a snap swivel. Then he tied up rigs: setups ranging from 4-pound test leaders for trout up to heavy, 20-pound test for togue.
Each rig was already set up with sinkers and hooks, and they varied in length. He made some specifically for salmon that were quite long. Each of these rigs had a loop tied on the end to attach to the trap. To switch gears from trout to salmon, togue and more, all he has to do is unclip the old rig and clip a new one on.
I know tip-up brands are a pretty heated topic among hardcore anglers. Personally, I swear by Heritage traps. It could just be that I’ve been raised using them, but they seem foolproof. They’re tough, simple, versatile and effective. I run a full set of the Muskie Classics.
I’ve also heard a lot of good things about Jack Traps, though. They’re certainly a time-tested company. My biggest reservation with Jack Traps is the mechanism. Although I’ve never fished them, I’ve heard and witnessed that the mechanism that holds the flag down is tough to set when it’s cold out.
Then again, every tip-up has its weaknesses. A lot of people report that Heritage traps aren’t as sensitive as other traps, and light-hitting fish may not trip them. Traps really are a matter of preference.
Ice fishing is among my favorite outdoor pursuits. There’s no beating the feeling of guiding an incredible fish up through the hole. Just the thought of fighting fish with a hand line brings back some indescribable moments of excitement. The thrill of the fight makes you forget just how cold
your hands are and the flashes of the fish as it darts by the hole makes your heart race.
There’s just a feeling of reward when a big push for a remote body of water, in harsh conditions, pays off. Nothing fends off the cold like taking a run when someone yells “flag!”