Outdoors / Sports

Emily Opheim, 7, of Lenexa, Kan., cradles a trout she caught recently at Kill Creek Lake near Olathe, Kan. (Brent Frazee/Kansas City Star/MCT)

Trout opener gives fishermen icy reception

Josh McCullough got in some practice before he participated in the trout opener Saturday at Kill Creek Lake near Olathe, Kan.

Several weeks ago, he traveled to Minnesota and went ice fishing in the deep freeze.

"One day, the high was only 3 degrees," said McCullough, who lives in Spring Hill. "But we rented an ice shack, and we caught fish."

It wasn't that cold at Kill Creek on Saturday, but it was close. When McCullough and two friends -- Dave Pfortmiller and Ken Livingood of Olathe -- arrived early in the morning, the lake looked like a frozen tundra, with ice and snow covering all reaches of the reservoir and a steady breeze keeping a flag on shore constantly flapping.

McCullough had to use a chainsaw to cut windows in the ice. By the time he was done, he had seven squares in the frozen surface and big blocks of ice stacked near the holes.

"We didn't figure there would be too many people out here today," McCullough said. "And there aren't. But we were going, no matter what.

"These trout like the cold water. You can still catch them when it's like this."

Before long, the three fishermen had hooks covered with PowerBait dangling in some of the holes. And it didn't take long for them to start catching fish.

Not long after the season opened at 8 a.m., Pfortmiller caught a healthy-sized trout and tossed it up on the snow on the bank. Then there was a lull as the fishermen shuffled on the ice.

A short time later, they figured something out. They concluded the commotion from them walking on the ice was spooking the trout.

So they start waiting from the shore for the fish to bite, and they found instant success.

By 10 a.m., they had eight trout flopping on the snow behind them -- the start to a great opener.

But they weren't the only ones braving the conditions. Jason Opheim, his daughter, Emily, 7, and his son, Zachary, 4, of Lenexa, Kan., also were out there. And they were joined by their friends Mark and Julie Kendall, also of Lenexa.

All are transplants from the North Country, where ice fishing is a winter way of life.

"I'm from Minnesota and Mark is from South Dakota, so we both have ice fished a lot," Opheim said. "Around here, we don't get much of a chance to do it. Usually, the water is open by now.

"But this year, we were able to get the ice-fishing gear out again."

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