Ice fishing in the Northwest? It’s doable, for die-hards
A Minnesota transplant tries his luck on Oregon’s Diamond Lake, catches a few fish and makes new friends.
Salem Statesman Journal
DIAMOND LAKE, Ore. — As a snowmobiler since the 1980s and a lifelong angler, Ty Sermon said it probably was inevitable that he would put the two together by going ice fishing, with the end result that he reconnected with his long-lost heritage.
“I’ve got all this stuff for snowmobiling, so it was a no-brainer. I mean I’ve got a camper. I’ve got a pickup, I’ve got snowmobiles. I’ve got a sled with a heater on it,” he said, then laughed. “And you’ve got to have a German short-haired dog with that.
“And I have a wife that was willing.”
The bulb came on when Sermon saw an article in the newspaper about a pair of ice-fishing clinics last winter at Diamond Lake in southwestern Oregon near Crater Lake. The mention of the name brought back fond memories of fishing there during the summers.
“My uncle and dad used to take me there when I was a kid 50, 60 years ago,” Sermon recalled. “The limit was more, and the fish were fantastic.
“This lake is probably the best producer for fish. And I can find you a picture of probably 20 beautiful fish on the picnic table that we would catch pretty consistently. But I’d never fished there in the winter.”
So Sermon, his wife, Jan, and Gunner, the pointer, drove to Diamond Lake. He loaded the gear on a sled and dragged it out onto the ice behind the snowmobile. The setup was so elaborate that others figured he must be a pro, Sermon said.
“I tow my sled with my snowmobile, and I just buzz out there and stop. They looked at me like ‘I want to go and fish next to this guy because he must know what he’s doing,’” he said, then laughed. “I didn’t have a fricking clue.”
Case in point: He pulled out his full-sized fishing rod to stand over an 8-inch-diameter hole drilled through the ice. But more about that later.
Sermon may have missed the ice-fishing clinic, but he hooked up with Mark Newell, the instructor for Fish and Wildlife, via cellphone.
“He called me, I think it was on a Monday or a Tuesday, and I’m out on the lake,” Ty Sermon said. “I said, ‘Buddy boy, you missed giving me a tour. What can you tell me?’ He said ‘We didn’t do very well. We had 60 people and only caught five fish.’
“I said ‘I’m doing pretty good, then, because I’ve already caught two fish,’ and we’re like in walking distance from the lodge.”
Newell advised him that the fishing was better on the south end of the lake.
Lesson No. 1: Find someone with a sharp ice auger — a screwlike device for drilling holes in the ice — or test the one that you’re renting.
The one that Sermon checked out at the resort was “so dull I couldn’t get it through the ice” at the south end of the lake, so he returned and hooked up with an angler who had a brand-new auger to go with his portable pop-up ice house.
Gunner broke the ice, figuratively speaking, with the experienced fisherman.
“He just happened to have a German shorthair female, so my male, he goes over and socializes, and that means I go over,” he said. “And by the time I came over, my male pees all over the guy’s bucket that he has all of his gear in.
“So that consummated our relationship right there, once I’d cleaned off his bucket.”
If the tip about the south end of the lake didn’t pan out, another one that Newell had offered worked to perfection.
“He said, ‘Get down in there and look into your hole. If you can see little creatures in that hole, you’ve got a good spot,’” Sermon recalled. “I looked down in there, and in one of the holes, there were all of these, they looked like crabs, little white crabs.
“So not very long after that, I caught that 18-inch (rainbow trout).”
Lesson No. 2: If you’re going to be serious, you’re going to want a shelter.
“We didn’t have an ice house,” Sermon said, then added that he even tried to buy auger guy’s. “I spent hours trying to buy that ice house from the guy because I had my wife along, and it was cold.
“Even with the snowmobile gear I was cold, she was cold, the dog was cold.
If you’re not set up, that’s miserable.”
Sermon’s take as a first-time ice fisherman?
“I don’t think this is going to be really big because the fish are very lethargic,” Sermon said. “You’ve got to figure out a way of waking them up. And I just don’t know if we can do that in the Northwest. I think people are going to go there to give it a shot. But I don’t think it has the sustainability; it’s tough. You’ve got to lay out some serious money for the gear, and I don’t think it’s going to happen,” he said, adding that if he hadn’t been fully outfitted for snowmobiling. “I wouldn’t go to all that extreme.”
Still, he foresees expanding his horizons in snowmobiling for his family with his new ice-fishing gear, including the shorter specialty rods and reels that he eventually bought for this outing.
Now the punchline.
Sermon’s back story is that he moved west from Minnesota with his mother when he was tiny.
“I didn’t find out my brother and three sisters even existed until I was 50 years old,” he said. “So now we’ve reconnected, and we’re the best of friends as we can be.”
His brother, John Clemens, recently moved to Florida from Minnesota.
“We connected, and we realized shortly after he came out here that we’re both into scuba diving,” Sermon said. “So that gave us five years of scuba diving in Florida twice a year spearing fish.”
Although an email exchange about his Diamond Lake adventure led to some heavy ribbing from his sibling.
“He’s always on my email. I sent him these pictures, and he called me and said, ‘What the hell were you thinking? You don’t even have the right pole,’” Sermon said with a hearty laugh. “He goes, ‘You’re five generations of Minnesota ice fishermen. Your dad would flip over if he saw that.’”