FISHING THE LATE ICE
from The Fishing Wire
The days are getting longer and warmer. Longer days and warmer temps at this time of year mean that some really good ice fishing is not far away. Here are some ideas for finishing the ice fishing season successfully.
Even through the ice and snow, fish seem to be able to sense a change in the seasons. Mother Nature tells the fish that it’s time to start thinking about spawning, so, under the cover of ice, they start to head in the direction of where they will spawn. They don’t just take off and go there, they take their time and leisurely head for their spawning areas. As they travel, they eat a little more than they have been. Walleyes, northern pike, perch, crappies, bluegills, pretty much all fish that live in the Midwest will be getting hungrier and easier to catch right now. You don’t want to completely abandon the offshore structures and deep weedlines that you’ve been fishing the past few weeks, but you need to remember that the fish will soon start to leave those spots. When the action starts to slow on those locations, you need to start moving to keep up with the fish. Pay attention to your sonar. If you’re seeing fewer fish marks than you have on recent trips, it’s time to think about heading to the areas that the fish are headed to.
There will still be an early-in-the-day and a late-in-the-day bite, but on a lot of bodies of water, the bite has the potential to be pretty good all day. Not on all lakes, but some lakes.
This time of year you need to keep moving until you find the fish. Try different depths, and different structures, just keep moving until you find fish activity. When you find them, sit on them until they move, then you move too. That’s the key to ice-fishing year-round, but perhaps more under late ice. Keep in mind that the fish are headed toward the areas where they’ll be spawning in a few weeks. You should be headed to those areas as well.
Remember that the fish have seen lots of baits by now. If you’ve got something on the end of your line that’s been working, keep using it until the fish tell you they want something else. Then go to a different color or a different size or impart a different action on the lure. If you’ve got a bait that hasn’t worked all year, give it a try. Maybe the fish will decide that it looks rather good to them now. There’s a new bait called a Jointed Pinhead Pro that the fish haven’t seen much of and should be very productive under this year’s late ice. Use the smallest size for bluegills, larger for perch and crappies, and even larger for walleyes.
The late-season ice fishing can be outstanding, but like most things, don’t try to get too much of a good thing. If you’re not sure about the ice being safe, don’t go out. If no one else is out there, you shouldn’t be either. Keep an eye on current conditions. If it starts to get warm during the day, you should head for shore. Venturing onto the ice when it’s not safe can be very exciting in a way that you don’t want to be excited. Be safe, move until you find the fish, and experiment with lures and how you present those lures, and the last few weeks of ice fishing could be memorable and exciting for you in a very good way.
– Bob Jensen of fishingthemidwest.com.