Article from Kelly Little’s “Exploring the Peace Column” Published in the Alaska Highway Newspaper Jan 23 2015 – Page A4 – on behalf of Tourism Dawson Creek.
I parted the curtains with scrutiny and a steaming cup of coffee and mused, as heavy, water-laced snowflakes danced ceremoniously earthward, marrying those that had already fallen. Four inches of fresh snow blanketed the ground overnight and if the puffy grey clouds were any indication, the weather would offer no mercy during the hours I planned at a location I haven’t fully explored in Dawson Creek, B.C. The idea of hiking through knee-deep snow in that type of weather may have stopped some, and usually would me, but it didn’t. I was going ice-fishing on Bear Mountain and pretty stoked about it.
I expected to see a virgin road void of human activity leading skyward, but I was wrong. It was 9:00 am on a blizzardy Saturday morning, minus 12 degrees and numerous people had beat me to the top; leading me to believe Bear Mountain is the hub of recreational pursuits in the area. Driving with caution was definitely in order.
The mountain this day was mesmerizing and ethereal and snow hushed the sounds of the city I was leaving behind. A massive, black and tan moose, hind-quarters hidden by forest, front-quarters ghosted by falling snow, posed on the side of the road in stark contrast to the muted tones of the landscape. Like an apparition it was there and gone but in my mind, its grandeur remained. Moose are one of the most dangerous of Canadian wildlife and also one of my favorites, I considered this vision a good indication of things to come.
The closer I got to Radar Lake the wider the gap between city and nature, sound and silence, between the warmth of my fireplace and my already cold toes. Local resident Amanda Aven who curates a Facebook page ‘Ooberfish’ was there to greet me, her 200 lb skimmer loaded with gear and ready to go. Both Amanda and her fishing partner Miles Mintenko informed me it would be a remarkable day if we actually caught anything. It is rumored there are perch in the lake that is replenished by an under-ground spring, but locals speculate they don’t bite because of the tadpoles they feed on. “Their bellies are just too full to care about our bait,” winked Miles.
This brief wasn’t discouraging. To me this day was about the journey, the experience and the beauty of nature; like the cattails with golden stalks, burdened by the weight of the snow and lining the lake like weary soldiers or, Amanda’s victorious giggle as the gas powered auger broke through the ice, sending a spray of ice cold water onto her pant legs and up to her knees.
Bursting with angler etiquette, Amanda educated me with regulations, tips and tricks, while Miles tended to setting up the bright red hut and started a little fire to warm our fingers and toes; and later, cook some wieners I brought in the event we were skunked.
Amanda’s advice for solo, female, winter-anglers is practicing safety, self defense and keeping up to date on the regulations – because they are forever changing. She was adamant when she explained how important it is for people to, “Educate themselves on retention and lakes in recovery.”
“At the end of the day you want to make it home safe. You may not encounter a bear in winter but wolves and cougars are a definite possibility.”
The inventory in her skimmer included spare clothes, food, water, emergency equipment and blanket and fuel for fire. She never leaves home without telling someone where she is going and what time she will return.
According to Amanda, “Fishing in northeastern B.C. is unique; not only in the species of fish available but ease of access. Due to the oil, gas and forest industries roads are usually always plowed so accessibility is top-notch. This can have a negative effect on the fish populations in lakes that are stocked and those that aren’t, we need to keep that in mind. It’s fantastic that the Fresh Water Fisheries Society of B.C. provides stocked lakes for our enjoyment.”
As I peered down our bore hole trying to spot a fish, Amanda recited the excitement she feels when fishing for pike in other lakes around the area. “Pike are predators; they’ll shoot past at warp speed, roll and run after they bite the hook. The aggressive bite usually startles me causing me to flinch, which in effect, sets the hook for me. Lake trout can be aggressive too, but it seems the fish are fewer and far between (considered slow fishing if you don’t get a lot of bites) requiring patience for the reward. They are also bigger. Imagine the weight a double-digit fish on a mini ice-fishing rod.”
Acclimated to winter, Aven prefers ice-fishing to summer because she finds the lakes more productive with early and late ice and, unlike other people she speculates, it’s easier to stay warm than cool. In winter she can spend eight hours on the ice. She cuts her summer fishing short due to the heat. “You can’t rely on electronics in winter and the entire process, including pre-planning, is more challenging and focused.
“I plan and plan and plan, get on site, and immediately shift my focus, because now … I’m IN it, to hook it!” she shares with a laugh and wink.
Chilled to the bone and ravenous from all this fish talk we headed to the fire where Miles was waiting with wieners on sticks. Our souls were nourished and bellies as full as the elusive perch beneath our feet.
We went back and closed up the hole with some sturdy branches, and a stomp of snow so an unsuspecting animal couldn’t fall into it. I once experienced this in Prince George. A moose had to be euthanized because it had broken its leg in a bore hole left by a fisherman.
We ended the day with Amanda telling me her ‘favorite fish to catch is the one she hasn’t caught yet’ and Miles’ theory that ‘fish are attracted to female hormones. That’s why he always gets skunked when he fishes with Amanda.’
My day with Ms. Ooberfish was informative, educational, enlightening and empowering; if not a bit chilly. Her future goal is to open a guiding business and when she does, I would urge any lady with a free and adventurous spirit to connect with this angling guru because like me, you will be left with a fish tale you won’t soon forget. And like Amanda, you too may be hooked after your first catch.
Even though we caught nothing but the ‘sharing bug’ it was a great day had by all. As for Radar Lake in general I would highly recommend it for a family outing. There are numerous trails to discover and it is a great place to let children go through the motions of ice-fishing without straying far from home.
*Directions to Radar Lake – From the Visitor Information Centre in Dawson Creek travel along Alaska Avenue to the traffic lights at 17th street. Turn left (south) and head to the Dangerous Goods Route. Turn right (west) and drive about 1 km on Adams Rd then turn left (south) on to 223 Rd. Follow this up the mountain, when you pass the Nordic Cross Country Ski trails you are almost there. There is no plowed parking so do try to get your vehicle pulled over to allow other traffic to pass.