In the dead of winter when the dreaded effects of cabin fever begin to set in, people will do some incredible things to get outdoors and have some fun.
Like ice fishing, a traditional New Mexican outdoor activity that much like salmon snagging requires a hardier breed of angler and a touch of desperation.
And if you’re going to live and fish in New Mexico then you have to try this wacky winter sport at least once so here’s the dirt on how it’s done.
Pick a lake, any lake, as long as it is fully covered with at least 5 to 9-inches of solid ice.
Eagle Nest Lake up by the Angel Fire ski area is a good choice for first timers and the state Department of Game and Fish along with State Parks announced this week that Eagle nest Lake is now open to ice fishing.
Go on the weekend because this kind of fishing that like misery, loves company.
Newcomers to the sport need little more than monitor the weather and when a good weekend comes along get out there.
Everything you need can be found at the old school, bait and tackle shop found at Eagle Nest Marina.
“We’ve got it covered,” says Sue Finley, longtime operator of the store and cabins at the marina conveniently situated just off highway 64 on the main road leading down to the lake.
The store sells the little fishing poles designed for the sport along with worms and other bait and lures needed to catch fish.
They also rent augers to drill a hole through the ice, scoops to keep the holes clear as well as cleats to strap onto your boots.
“We’ve got it all including fishing licenses,” she says.
The store is open from 8 a.m to 4 p.m., seven days a week and has cabins to rent for those who want to stay overnight. See their website at http://www.cti-excursions.com or call 575-377-6941 for more info.
Folks heading up to the lake might want to bring along a five gallon bucket to sit on and also keep their fish in. A kid’s plastic sled is real handy for hauling gear out onto the ice.
Anglers should dress comfortably in plenty of warm layers and be prepared for the elements much like those who venture out to ski or snowmobile.
That means lip balm, sunscreen and sun glasses as well as bomber hats, snowsuits and pack boots.
Keep in mind on a good day under bright sunny skies and little or no wind folks might end up peeling down to their thermals because it’s so nice out.
And in the end that’s what this sport is really all about, enjoying a day outdoors under a big bright blue sky in the company of like minded individuals and maybe catching a fish or two.
Which brings us to the fish.
Eagle Nest Lake has long been a great trout, perch and salmon fishery but in recent years predatory pike have made their way into the lake. These big, mean, nasty fish are really laying waste to the trout and salmon and anglers are required by law to kill any pike they catch there.
Other than that anglers need do little more than slip a worm onto a hook and drop it down through their hole and watch and wait for a bite.
Watching and waiting is part of the experience and visiting with neighboring anglers is a good way to pick up helpful tips about the sport and any help, like killing a pike, if needed.
A word of caution about going out on onto the ice, it’s easier to do when covered with snow as you can’t see down into the unnerving blackness below. It’s also a lot less slippery then too.
The ice creaking, cracking and moaning are all part of the experience and hauling along a good, stout length of rope and or a set of sharpened screwdrivers to pull yourself back onto the ice can help lessen the fear of going under.
For more safety tips see Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht, a Hypothermia expert at the University of Manitoba in Canada, his instructional video on YouTube, “Survival in the Ice – Part 1” before you head out.
For more detailed info about the sport see our related stories,“Ice Fishing Eagle Nest Lake a Bracing Winter Feat” and “Ice Fishing Tips by Matt Pelletier of Fish Enchantment.”
Now get out there and have some great winter fun!