Lake Mitchell ice fishing school, part 2

School On Ice:  Mark Martin’s Ice Fishing School – Ice Fishing Lake Mitchell, Cadillac Michigan, Part Two

Day 3, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013. For starters, the morning’s weather report from the Lake Mitchell weather station was not “fishermen friendly” to say the least.  Day 2 greeted us with a refreshing -5 degrees F and winds still 15-20 mph from the west, making the wind chill factor about -20 degrees F. So the snowmobile and quad trip out to the fishing classroom was a chilly one. One student had this to say, “The heater on my quad is having a little trouble—I hate it when that happens!”  This caused a good laugh for all because most quads don’t have heaters—they sure aren’t luxury SUV’s.  In spite of the weather, the fishing school group headed out at 7:15 a.m. Nothing—and I mean absolutely nothing— could keep this dedicated group away from the fish.

Students and pro staff members traveled to their favorite spots. Fishing locations were pre-determined at Monday evening’s brainstorming session. Each night after dinner Martin leads a discussion about the fishing day. Here’s how it works: each fisherman/student and pro staffer gives an “oral report” about their day’s fishing success. (This is why it’s called fishing school.) In short, students must do their fishing school work all day out on the ice and then report to the entire class at each evening’s session.  When everyone is finished speaking, Martin then calculates the best approaches for catching fish on the next day. Then he “assigns” who goes where in the morning, generally speaking—although it’s a big lake and fisherman can sneak off and fish in other places, which is encouraged, really. It’s kind of like a fisherman’s way of playing hooky. Folks, they don’t call it fishing school for nothing.

Finally, Tuesday’s fishing results were similar to Monday’s. A couple of nice panfish catches found their way onto the ice and into the keeper bucket. There were also a few small pike and walleye iced—all which were returned to the lake.  Several fishermen landed a few nice “eater” walleyes measuring 17 and 18 inches. One pro staffer, Casey Miller, hooked a big walleye but it  broke his line, after a long, knock down/drag out four-round fight, (four minutes). If you go to Lake Mitchell before it ices out, then you easily see where Casey lost the big one. There’s a canopy of blue smoke still hanging over this sweet spot!

Pictured here are students Pat Bentley with his five-o-clock walleye, Dave Pearson with two bluegills from his full bucket, and pro staffer Ernie Plant with a High Noon “eater” walleye, tagged on screen by a Vexilar F-18 flasher unit with zoom.

Day 4, Wednesday, Jan. 23. The final day of the fishing school dawned tropical.  At 7:00 a.m. the sun was a deep blue/fire red mix in the eastern sky. Winds were slight, perhaps 5 mph. Temperatures hung at 0 degrees F making the morning trip out to our fishing spots quite pleasant. As the sun rose higher into the sky most fishermen used only one heater in their shacks. In fact, I took an extra propane canister and never used it.

The final day’s fishing was not as good as it could have been. But these fishermen are true Americans and NEVER give up the fort, so to speak. That is, as one area failed to produce fish, another area was found and fished. At some of these spots, the Marcum underwater cameras showed walleye, pike, and panfish, while the Vexilar flasher units proved that the fish wanted to bite because the flashing red and green bars marked fish. They followed the lures and bait on many, many trips down the hole. Simply put, the bite was not quite lodged in the strike zone and the fish were misbehaving. At the school where I worked this would have called for a trip to the principal’s office!

The bell rang at 12:00 Noon for the 2013 Ice Fishing School’s and class was dismissed. I will get back out there in a few days, for certain. I was tempted to fish until dark on this final day but succumbed to the cold and blustery winds.

The fact that the winds picked up again to 15 to 20 mph, the clouds rolled in somewhat causing a “cloudy bright” day, lake effect snow began to fall and the temperature rose all the way up to 10 degrees F—all this slowed the bite.  If this sounds like a little weather front was moving in, you get the picture. Today the fish had a different idea which happens because, after all, it’s called fishing. Yet the life of a fisherman must go on.

For this outdoor writer/student, the January 2013 Ice Fishing School lessons were as follows. First, I learned the right way to rig my ice rod and jig for walleyes and pike. The inside scoop here is to use a barrel swivel between the reel’s main line and attach a four pound leader line about 18 inches long. This helps to prevent tangles and a general mess of “line twist” when jigging . Incidentally, the jigging action I learned produced a nice 18 inch walleye.

Secondly, now I use a heavy weight monofilament leader on my tip-ups instead of the old tried-and true steel leaders. You can say whatever you want about this technique, but since I paid attention in class and switched over my tip ups I’ve experienced increased catches. And for you doubters I’ve yet to have a fish break to off. I attribute the better, faster, and improved fishing action to the clear line used as the leader to the treble hook and minnow.

Finally, I learned how to properly approach a “flag up.” Now I don’t race up to the tip-up like a madman and yank the big fish up through the hole, which so often left me out in the cold with that “I lost the fish” look on my face. Using an easy approach to the hole and a steady hand-over-hand motion to bring in the line has led to much better results for this fisherman.

As the saying goes, if you want to learn some things perhaps you should go back to school. This is exactly what students do when they attend a Mark Martin Fishing School—they learn some very important, new and effective things about fishing to increase their catches and get them closer t to your legal limits. Besides, students have a lot of fun while learning.

Yes, I learned a lot more but I just can’t be a “tattle-tale” student. It’s just something you should consider for yourself. Finally, more information is available at



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