Our annual ice fishing outing and assorted zany antics at Wildhorse Reservoir
A group of eight hardy individuals just returned from ice fishing at Wildhorse Reservoir, located in Northeastern Nevada, about 64 miles north of Elko.
The group was Steve Baxter, Norm Budden, Jack Cooke, Mark Day, Brent Heckathorn, Don Hettrick, Scott Mattheus, and yours truly.
Six of them left Carson City at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 11, while Don Hettrick and I left at 9 a.m., due to my work commitments for that Thursday’s Outdoors page.
The 364-mile trip to Wildhorse was highlighted with rain, ranging from light to a torrential downpour, from Lovelock to Elko. Then at Elko, the rain turned to a heavy wet snow with a strong crosswind.
The last 30 miles to Wildhorse were in a full-scale, white-out blizzard. The only other vehicle Don and I saw was a NDOW snowplow, plowing in the opposite direction.
The first six arrived at the Wildhorse Resort about noon, checked in and went fishing, until that blizzard drove them off the reservoir.
Hettrick and I arrived at 4 p.m., and then spent some quality time visiting with longtime friend, Dennis Dunn, the owner of the Resort.
Later, we were joined by the other six, and all eight wandered into the restaurant for dinner. Dunn has a new cook, Linda Hudson, and she had prepared a great dinner of Linguini and Shrimp.
Thursday, we got up at 5:30, had a cup of coffee in our rooms, and drove to the State Park, where the park supervisor keeps the access road and the boat ramp parking area plowed for the ice fishermen.
We parked, loaded our fishing rods, reels and equipment, gas-operated ice augers, bait, extra clothing, food, drinks and camera s on our respective sleds, and trudged out onto the ice to our favorite fishing spot by the island.
Our augers made quick work of cutting holes in the two-foot-thick ice and then the fun began.
We were catching Perch (there is no limit on them) and eye-popping rainbow trout (the limit is five).
For the Perch, we used small, white-colored, lead-head-jigs with a plastic tail, with a mealworm or a party-sized marshmallow on the hook.
All you had to do was to drop that combination down to the bottom, bring it up about 2-4 turns on the reel handle and slowly jig, up and down.
The huge majority of the Perch were about 5 inches long, with the largest being 11 inches.
For the trout, we jigged with small lures (such as a Kastmaster) or with nightcrawlers.
The rainbows were 17-19.5 inches, with very thick, deep bodies.
The weather was bitter cold, with ice constantly forming in our holes and in the eyes of our poles.
About 4 p.m., we packed up our stuff, hiked back to our vehicles, and returned to the resort. Once there, we all gathered around an outdoor picnic table, and filleted all the fish that had been kept.
Then, it was time to eat dinner (2-inch thick Rib Eye steaks!), before going to bed early, again.
Friday, was a carbon-copy of Thursday, except the weather was beautiful: Warm, no wind, no clouds and a bright sun.
The two-day derby winners were:
Longest Rainbow Trout:
1. Steve Baxter: 19.5 inches.
2. Steve Baxter: 19 inches.
3. Jack Cooke: 18.5 inches.
1. Don Hettrick: 11 inches.
2. Don Hettrick: 10.75 inches.
3. Jack Cooke: 10.5 inches.
Note: In 3-hours on Friday (8-11 a.m.), I caught 68 perch. Sadly, the longest was only 9.5 inches.
Some of the zany antics:
1. Steve Baxter mistakenly filling his flask with Picon mix instead of Blackberry Brandy. It tasted awful!
2. Norm Budden walking around our fishing area, asking if anyone had found his sunglasses.
All the time, the sunglasses were perched on top of his cap!
3. Jack Cooke frantically diving for his fishing pole being pulled into the ice hole by a large trout.
He just barely managed to reach deep into the water and grab the reel. Then, he lost the fish!
4. Mark Day burning up Budden’s “Seal-A-Meal” machine, while making plastic bags to hold all of the fish fillets.
5. Brent Heckathorn trying to fish with a floating fly line that would not sink in the water.
6. Don Hettrick falling over sideways, while reaching down into his fishing hole to bring out a trout.
7. Scott Mattheus stepping into an unused hole, up to his knee.
8. My folding chair, clam-shelling shut on me, when its back legs sunk into the ice.
Finally: Bob “Slick” McCulloch, a regular fishing partner, was home, recovering from pneumonia.
Geez, he would have fit into this zany group like a hand in a glove.
n Bet Your Favorite Pigeon
Bet your favorite pigeon he can’t tell you the last time our ice fishing group was at Wildhorse Reservoir.
If he grins and says, “It was in early March of 2004,” he could have been one of those fishermen.
n Don Quilici is the Outdoors editor for the Nevada Appeal.