Illinois hunting and fishing

In this photo taken Jan. 2, 2010, an ice fisherman pulls his supplies across frozen Lake Storey in Galesburg, Ill., to try his luck for the day. (AP Photo/The Register-Mail, Kent Kriegshauser)

A day ice fishing at Lake Storey

January 08, 2010 at 07:59 AM

GALESBURG (AP)—With the unofficial low overnight hitting minus 12 and wind chill values at least minus 23 most people woke up reluctant to peek out from under the warmth of their blankets.

But for those who enjoy the outdoors, ice fishing on Lake Storey on Saturday was a chance to get away to a peaceful winter wonderland that felt more like Canada than Galesburg.

There was plenty of sunshine and blue skies; a pleasant color contrast to the covering of white snow atop the frozen lake. It felt more like living in a painting than the reality of a dangerously cold morning in west-central Illinois.

Kurt Miner of Joy, bundled up from head to toe, was out in the elements, his combination boat/tent shelter down as he prepared to move to another spot on the lake. Miner, who has gone ice fishing for about 20 years, was asked if the fish were biting.

“They’re kind of slow,” Miner said. “They’re down on the bottom, that’s where I’m fishing , about 6 inches from the bottom.”

Dean Sheldon of Coal Valley, another ice fisherman, estimated the lake’s depth at about 30 feet where about five tents were set up on the west end of the lake, near the levee. While the subdivisions on West Lake Storey Road were only a few hundred feet away, on the lake civilization disappeared, a world away.

Miner said that’s what he likes about ice fishing.

“I don’t know, just getting out, being away, I suppose,” he said.

Crappie are the fish of choice this time of year at Lake Storey.

Miner, who goes ice fishing at least once a weekend, sometimes twice, also uses his auger to cut holes in the ice at area farm ponds. Shotgun deer season made this a bad weekend to choose that option, however.

“I don’t want to go out on a pond with a bunch of people shooting slugs around my head,” Miner laughed.

He said to not be fooled by his folded-up shelter as he prepared to move it to the northeast. He pointed out the boat portion has bench seats.

“I like the comfort, I suppose,” Miner said. “I’ve got a little heater that’ll keep you pretty warm. It’s pretty much the wind that will kill you.”

Speaking of comfort, Sheldon was zipped snugly inside his 7-foot tall, 4-foot by 8-foot tent, fishing in two holes he cut. With the tent and a propane heater, it was downright toasty inside Sheldon’s little piece of outdoor heaven.

Although he had caught seven, 6-inch crappies, Sheldon agreed with Miner that the fish were not biting much.

Illinois hunting and fishing

“They’re biting really soft,” he said. “There’s a lot of crappie in this lake.”

Sheldon used a Vexlar radar system that showed the bottom of the lake, where the fish and his line were.

“Where it’s solid, that’s the bottom,” he said. “It shows the fish like that.”

Right on cue, Sheldon pulled another crappie from the lake.

Another veteran of fishing when most people won’t come out of the house, he’s been ice fis hing for about 30 years.

“Me and my dad fished all over for years and years,” he said.

What is it about the sport that he enjoys?

“It’s quiet. Nobody bothering me. It’s peaceful, it’s fun,” Sheldon said. “I do a lot of fishing in the summer, but ice fishing is the best.”

Sometimes he and friends will fish on the ice at night. He has a light to shine into the holes, which he said sometimes attracts the fish.

This day, he started out using minnows as bait, then switched to wax worms and “then there are these little marshmallows called crappie nibbles,’ ” he said.

Sheldon said ice fishing is always good in Lake Storey. He also likes farm ponds.

“We go up as far as Maquoketa (Iowa). We went up there Friday and did pretty good. We all caught about 40 fish,” he said.

While he said the 6-inch crappie make for good eating, fishermen like catching the big one.

“They say there are some big ones here,” he said, adding that he once c aught an 18-inch, 3 pound, 4 ounce crappie at Fire Lake, near Sherrard.

As the temperature rose from minus 8 to 0, Miner said there was one good thing about Saturday’s intense cold.

“You don’t have to worry about the ice melting today,” he said, estimating the cover at Lake Storey at 4 to 5 inches.

“I enjoy taking people out the first time. They hear the ice popping and get worried. I tell them that’s a good thing, the ice is growing,’ ” Miner said.

As 11 a.m. approached, more ice fishing aficionados appeared, many carrying their gear on sleds. Soon, the only sound was the crisp crackle of the runners of a sled sliding across the snow and ice of Lake Storey, a place this day a world away from the cares of the world.