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Cold primal challenge of ice fishing in this weather: Jim Kopjo explains

Resized/Sun-Times

Jim Kopjo, shown in an earlier outing on Evergreen Lake, sheds light on ice fishing in brutal cold.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

Jim ‘‘The Crappie Professor’’ Kopjo has the right formula for ice fishing in record cold.

‘‘It’s a great excuse if you didn’t catch much or you can be the hero,’’ Kopjo said Sunday.

There’s good reason for him to be out in the historic cold. A North American Ice Fishing Circuit open qualifier will be held Friday on Channel Lake. He and partner Mike Davis are coming off finishing seventh in the NAIFC championship in December out of Pinehurst Resort in Minnesota. They must pre-fish this week.

‘‘I approach it the same way as always,’’ Kopjo said. ‘‘I start with some spoons and see how fish will react. You keep going smaller until you see them come up.

‘‘You’ll probably get denied 30 or 40 times before you get one. If one pod of active fish comes by, you hope you pick off a few. You just don’t have that large window of opportunistic feeding.’’

For those not interested in braving the elements, he advised: ‘‘If going in a hut, you want a camera when you hunker down [to make sure fish are there].’’

He tries No. 4 tungsten jigs and will go down to No. 3 and break off pieces of plastic to make a smaller profile, if necessary.

Even in brutal cold, Kopjo said mobility is key for him.

‘‘I do not spend much time in a fishing shack,’’ he said. ‘‘The only extra thing I carry now is a skimmer [for clearing ice from the holes]. Drill a bunch of holes to begin with and hole-hop, half of a basketball court in any one move. Micro-moves, not grand lake end-to-lake end runs.

‘‘It was minus-17 in Minnesota, but I never went to the shanty. It will sting. You have to wear gloves, completely cover your face and keep your back to the wind. I am so interested in the hunt, I usually don’t notice.

‘‘You really have to want to be out there to do it.’’

Deer

Illinois hunters harvested 3,822 more deer during the 2018-19 seasons than during the 2017-18 seasons. Most of the increase came during the archery season, where harvest jumped to 61,079 from 57,929 in 2017-18. Click here for a full breakdown

Showtime

I will send a pair of tickets for each of the five best stories about the Tinley Park Fishing Show (Feb. 9-10) I receive by 5 p.m. Friday at straycasts@sbcglobal.net, Dale Bowman on Facebook or @BowmanOutside.

Wild things

Asked if he is worried about deer during the historic cold weather in northern Illinois, Wildlife Program section manager Paul Shelton emailed: ‘‘No. It takes prolonged periods of deep snow cover combined with below-zero temperatures to begin to affect deer. We’re nowhere near that.’’

Acting grasslands and agricultural manager Wade Louis isn’t concerned about pheasants, but he is about quail.

“Yes, there is going to be a detrimental impact,” he said. “Key is the habitat. If they have good habitat, they bounce back.”

Stray cast

Moby Dick was to Ahab’s quest what Nicky Delmonico is to that of Diogenes.