Some people think ice fishermen have frozen brains. They say only the mentally weak will sit or stand on a sheet of ice all day, the wind blowing through their thermals, their nostril hairs freezing to the end of their nose, catching fish that are usually frozen before they can get them unhooked.
So, maybe there is some mental weakness attached to the sport. I've been accused of worse. But ice fishing really is addicting. It gets even more addicting when the weather is wonderful and the fishing is hot, like it was Jan. 5 at Panguitch Lake.
This wasn't your stereotypical ice fishing weekend. We "roughed it" the night before in the Beaver Dam Lodge, on the north shore of Panquitch Lake. The accommodations at the Lodge were so nice, and the kids were having so much fun, we probably didn't even need to fish. But, hey, I admitted an addiction.
We slept in until the kids wouldn't sleep any longer, then my four-year-old son, Tyler, and I took one of the lodge's snowmobiles out on the lake. The day was magically gorgeous. The sun was shining, crystal clear skies and warm temperatures. There was just enough fog to shroud the fringes of the lake, giving the surroundings a mystical feel as pine-covered slopes loomed above the fog and snowcovered lake. I was surprised, with the weather as nice as it was, for us to be the only fishermen on the lake.
Since Panguitch Lake is presently at its natural level, it pays to know where the sand ends and the lake begins. I drilled two holes with my hand auger before Don Thompson, an employee of the lodge, rescued me. Don was our fish finder. He took us to a spot further out on the lake, drilled two holes with his gas powered auger and turned us loose.
Now, ice fishing can be fast or slow. I've seen some fast fishing when we dropped in on a school of perch at Deer Creek. But there wasn't any perch fishing that compared with the fast fishing we enjoyed at Panguitch. My four-year-old, with the end of his pole dancing from all the bites, would look up and say, "I can hear 'em, dad. I can hear 'em." Then, when he couldn't hook one (I'm trying to teach him to set the hook) he'd say, "The fish aren't cooperating."
After what seemed like eternity to him, but less than a minute to me, Tyler would insist on bringing his line up. "I've got to check my bait." Before he could get his line out of the water, a hungry rainbow would hit and Tyler would nearly fall off of his bucket in excitement.
We were probably fishing in 15 to 20 feet of water, catching beautifully colored rainbows on everything from Velveeta, Zeke's Original Floatin' Bait, Berkley Power Bait Trout Bait, salmon eggs and meal worms. I also tried an ice fly and jigged with a crippled herring, but did not catch anything with these.
Since almost every fish we caught was hooked in the lip, it was easy to set them free without harm — although my son, who hasn't quite caught the vision of "catch and release," would cry each time I let one go.
The majority of the trout we caught were in the 10-12 inch class. One beautiful rainbow came in at 15 inches. I have heard about others catching bigger rainbows and browns through the ice. Fishermen who can spend more time on the lake ought to hook some bigger fish. We only fished for two hours, since business demands required that I be in Kanab that afternoon. However, the two short hours of ice fishing were delightful.
Panguitch Lake is a beautiful place to get away, summer or winter. The Beaver Dam Lodge, Deer Trail Lodge and Rustic Lodge are open through the year. Panguitch Lake Resort and Lake View Resort open in mid-April.
Whether you are looking for some hot ice fishing, or a great lake to flyfish, Panguitch Lake is an excellent choice. Lodging at the Lake runs from $40 to $65 per night. Boat rentals (after ice-off) are $25 for a half-day and $35 for all day. Several of the resorts feature full service restaurants as well as lodging.
The Beaver Dam Lodge is the newest facility on the lake. While the name has been associated with Panguitch Lake for many years, the facility itself was recently rebuilt into a modern, very comfortable lodge. Bob and Fran Daly, who manage the Beaver Dam Lodge, are friendly, gracious hosts.
The season at Panguitch heats up by the end of May, with everything open and rolling. Any of the resorts will help by telling you how to rig up and what to use.