FEBRUARY ISSUE | 21-2022
THE AGE OF ICE
A DAY ON THE ICE
LATE SEASON CHAOS
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TABLE OF CONTENTS 06
BEFORE THE STORM
FINDING THE FISH
16 20 22 28 30 36 38
A DAY ON THE ICE MATT JOHNSON
DIGITAL Magazine Ice Team Magazine Editors: Matt Johnson Contributing Writers: Mike Howe, Jerry Carlson, Jason Mitchell, Mark Martin, Bob Jensen, Chuck Mason, Vic Attardo, Ryan Salemi
WHITEFISH MADE EASY THE AGE OF ICE CLAMping THE MAGIC HOUR BULLS CHASIN’ ON THE BASIN MARCH MADNESS ON LOTW LATE SEASON CHAOS
The True Center of the Ice Fishing World PH: 763 - 231 - 4126 FAX: 763 - 231 - 4121 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: iceteam.com Ice Team Manager Matt Johnson facebook.com/IceTeamRevolution twitter.com/IceTeamNews youtube.com/IceTeamVideos Advertise with Ice Team Call MSPN at 800 - 989 - 6776 or email email@example.com
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ce anglers often joke that any day is a good day to go icefishing. While that statement is true, there are some days that are just better than other days for being on the hard water and catching fish. In my opinion, one of the best times to head icefishing is the day lor two before a winter storm hits. I say this, because over the years, I’ve discovered a pattern that fish really seem to turn on and become aggressive a day or so before a winter storm or major cold front rolls through an area.
on how the fish will react. When weather conditions are stable, fish will feed regularly and often fall into predictable feeding patterns that anglers can capitalize on and enjoy some consistent icefishing action. As a winter storm system starts to develop, fish sense the upcoming changing weather conditions and all species of fish begin to feed aggressively right up until the storm starts to hit. Once the storm hits, the fish turn inactive and fishing slows right down for a couple of days until conditions begin to stabilize again.
Amazingly, even though underwater environments are sealed off from winter weather, what’s going on above the ice has a dramatic effect
A winter storm can range from a moderate snow fall over a few hours to blizzard conditions with blinding wind-driven snow that lasts
several days. Typically winter storms consist of high winds, snowfall and cold temperatures. In some cases, there can also be sleet or freezing rain ahead of the snowfall and plummeting temperatures. When watching the weather forecast for winter storms, also keep an eye out for approaching cold fronts and dramatic temperature drops. The reason for this is because fish will also react in a similar fashion to an approaching cold front and the fishing a day or two before these types of weather systems are also very productive. During a winter storm or cold front, fish will typically move into deeper
EVEN THOUGH UNDERWATER ENVIRONMENTS ARE SEALED OFF FROM WINTER WEATHER, WHAT’S GOING ON ABOVE THE ICE HAS A DRAMATIC EFFECT ON HOW THE FISH WILL REACT.
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water environments and remain there for the duration of the bad weather. After the wintery weather moves out of the area, the fish will gradually move out of the deeper water but remain lethargic until the weather stabilizes. Over the years, I’ve noticed a pattern in that each time a winter storm or cold front rolls through, the fish seem to move deeper and deeper during the bad weather and not move back as shallow each time the conditions stabilize.
fishing locations include sand bars, rock piles, sand flats, sandy bays, transitional zones between hard and soft bottom and near the edges of old weed beds.
During the magical period before a winter storm, fish will aggressively seek out food. As the weather disturbance begins to build and get closer, fish instinctively move into feeding mode. In the lakes across western Canada where I fish, the fish typically move into shallow water structure areas adjacent to deeper water areas. In these situations, prime
When fishing prior to bad weather it is important to search out actively feeding fish. Don’t sit and wait for the fish to come to you. Instead, keep moving and searching for actively feeding fish until you find them. During these times, never spend more than 5 minutes in the same hole without having a strike or seeing active fish on your flasher. In
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Since the fish are in a feeding mode prior to a storm, there is no need to try finesse fishing tactics that are so often used throughout the winter. Instead, go with aggressive tactics, such as jigging Tikka Minnows to trigger strikes.
addition, try not to spend more than 30 minutes in the same general area. For best results, start by drilling multiple holes in the area intended to be fished. If the fish bite great! If not drill some additional holes close by to where you began fishing. If after several smaller moves you still haven’t located any fish, start to expand your search and move to a new piece of structure. Often you may only have to move several yards to find fish. However, there may be times when you have to move several hundred yards to get into the active fish. When fishing prior to a winter storm, always monitor the weather to ensure the inclement weather doesn’t hit sooner than expected and put you in a dangerous situation.
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s an Ice Fishing Instructor, I often see the last piece of the puzzle to come together for newer anglers is finding the fish. We can teach all about drilling holes, jigging techniques, reading the Vexilar, but none of it really matters unless you are on fish. This was the last piece of the puzzle that came together for me personally and I have learned a few things. Here are a couple of
scenarios that I have experienced that may help you. Of course, my Navionics phone app is the most valuable tool in my fish finding kit. Pairing that app with many hours spent on the water playing the process of elimination game teaches you a few things. One thing I learned from Dave Genz is to think of the water is size of football fields and tennis courts. First search the area in the size of a football field and when you find some fish, break that down into the size of a tennis court. As the leader of WI Women Fish, I am often the one that goes ahead and finds the fish for the group. I use the football field method but be sure to have that “field” include a variety of depths. One experience I had was finding crappies in March for a group of 75 anglers. I used my Navionics App (upgraded subscription) and color code fishing ranges. If you open your app and click on menu, scroll down and you will see Fishing Ranges. There is an on off button and if you are unable to turn it on, you are using the free version and that feature is not available. If you have the upgraded version you can turn it on, and select certain depth ranges to assign a color. This feature alone is well worth the small annual fee. During my pre fishing, I found crappies in the deepest holes. I adjusted my ranges to highlight 28 to 31 feet in pink. Many pink circles jumped out at me, and I went to several “pink” areas and caught fish. When the group came out, I split them up around each of the pink holes I had open my map and everyone caught crappies. I was able to eliminate water, just by having those deep holes highlighted. In a completely different situation, I was fishing a lake that is chuck full of thick weeds. The bowl-shaped lake has weeds that come as high as 15 feet, and the max depth is 20 feet. The only part of the lake that does not have weeds is the 20 foot hole. The lake has huge crappies and gills,
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but they can be hard to locate in all the cover. I used the underwater camera to help with my search, but I made some critical mistakes. When using the “football field” method I would drill a hole and look with the Aqua - Vu camera and the Vexilar. Being in a hurry to find the fish, I moved thru the area’s quick quickly. After spending quite a bit of time doing that, I felt defeated and frustrated and I knew there should have been more fish around. I went back to where I started and hunkered down longer at each hole. Once I sat for a while, gills began to emerge from the thick weeds and found my bait. I adjusted my position a few times to be in more of an opening in the thick forest of weeds to be sure my bait was visible.
A clear example of how small moves can be big moves. My initial mistake was moving through the area too quickly. The last experience I will share is while search for pan fish on cribs. I had found a nice area filled with fish cribs while fishing open water with my boat. Using my Humminbird side imaging, I marked the cribs and went back over until I located them on down imaging and marked them on my Navionics app. I went back in the winter and found great fish on that structure. I returned the next week with a group, and the cribs were empty. I knew the fish could not have gone far and began to search the deeper water next to where the cribs were. Sure enough they were located in the deeper holes of the basin,
adjacent to the cribs. Our slight adjustment paid off and we caught some nice fish. The bite we found in the basin, was a combination of being in the right depth, and hunkering down waiting for the fish to come to us. In the past, I may have left those initial way points and moved on to some similar way points that I had in a different area of the lake, and likely would have found the same results. Fishing memories is a trap many anglers fall into. My experience has taught me that the fish are close, just look a little harder to find them in nearby deeper areas. Finding fish is about having a systematic approach and using all the tools you have in your fish finding toolbox. Mapping, electronics, proper presentation, are all very important, but most of all, experience will help you the most in the long run. Remembering those valuable lessons that the fish are teaching us, is what makes us better anglers.
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another thing. This time all my jig changing to find the right color and style paid off.
his year the Woman Ice Angler Project went to the U.P. Michigan in search of giant After numerous changes from slab crappies only to find Godzilla horizontal to vertical, and red to blue gills! I’m not gold, I sure what I prefer instantly a bunch of 14-inch found out crappies or a bunch they were I’VE LEARNED FOR SURE WHEN IT COMES TO of 10-inch plus bluegills, but both FISHING ADVICE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR ABOUT willing to strike at a are a wonderful HOW TO CATCH A FISH CAN CONTRADICT gold bomb gift from the fish spoon EVERYTHING YOU DO TO CATCH A FISH. gods! The reality tipped with of it is there wasn’t Maggots, an infant abundant catching of both, in fact one multiple Sunday I sat there all day and all I 10-inch bluegills in a short period, caught was a 10 3/4-inch blue gill! My whereas before I was rejected. personal best! And I have to say “hell ya it was worth it!” I mean if you’re After the bite slowed down and I didn’t taking a chance on whether the fish even see any fish anymore, I changed are going to bite or not it may as over to a gold and green Rattle’n blade well be a big one, you’re waiting for spoon to create some noise to call right! Every fishing outing, I learn them in, and it worked! More 10-inch something, whether I remember is
gills! I was in haven. But that was 2 days before the day I had to wait for my PB blue gill, so going in with a gold Rattle’n blade spoon and bomb didn’t work, I had to do the whole switcharoo to see what they would do all over. It ended up being a red glow drop kick with a white Silki tipped with maggots, but out of many lookers only one fish wanted it. I’ve learned for sure when it comes to fishing advice everything you hear about how to catch a fish can contradict everything you do to catch a fish. It’s very frustrating when you can see fish on your Vexilar but they just won’t to take your bait, but switching your presentation in every way if necessary can get those fish to bite. Basically, you need to have as many different colors as possible and styles of jigs in your fishing arsenal if you don’t want the fish to keep swimming right by your hook. And by the way there were some nice crappies caught, most in that 13-to-14-inch range, just not by me this time.
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any of my fishing adventures this year have come on days when the weather outside was nasty. My “Day on the Ice” with Matt Johnson, was the worst of them all. Johnson and I were both watching the forecast for the day of our event very carefully. The single digit highs with winds over 20 did not sound extremely inviting. As a back-up, Johnson decided to bring along a wheelhouse for a place to warm up. Although I rarely spend much time in a fish house, having a base camp that was warm and cozy seemed like a really good idea to me. Hole hopping with a windchill of 25 below gets to be tough. Our meeting took place on the Horseshoe Chain of Lakes near Cold Spring, Minnesota. Our main goal was to target the channel catfish that roam these waters. If that turned sour, there were some crappie options we were aware of that could also be utilized. Johnson was set-up and ready to go when I arrived on the lake. Although he had holes drilled out in the house, he said there had been very little catfish activity on the Vexilar screen. Because of this, we opted to do some hole hopping outside before the wind got any stronger. With the aid of our electronics, we were able to determine there were several small pods of cats roaming in the area of the wheelhouse. Since catfish spook easily when holes are drilled, we punched a dozen in the general vicinity the fish were located in before we even dropped a line. When fishing catfish, it is necessary to drop down each hole you have even if no fish are seen on the screen. Because the cats are moving constantly, the plan is to jig each hole in an effort to draw something in. If we didn’t see fish on the sonar in ten to fifteen minutes, we switched holes. It quickly became apparent that the catfish were not in much of a mood for eating. When we did get fish to come into our hole, they would rise to the bait and sniff but not eat. Since fishing was so tough, I opted to move a couple of hundred yards away to some deeper water to search for crappies. Again, the electronics helped pinpoint a loose cluster of fish and a location to start my endeavors. It takes a long time to drop a crappie jig into 35 feet of water. Couple this with heavy wind and blowing snow that constantly clogged the hole, I soon found myself getting frustrated with the conditions. Even so, I did manage a few crappies before the fish dispersed. iceteam.com >> Ice Digital February Issue >> 17
When I arrived back at the fish house, Johnson had successfully brought a couple of cats through the ice. However, he was just as frustrated as I was with the ugly conditions outside. We migrated to the warmth of the house. Being the manager of the Ice Team and director of the Clam Pro Staff, Johnson gets to spend considerable time on the ice. He also guides 25 to 30 days in the winter. While warming our fingers, he talked about the need to educate anglers and help them become successful in the cold season. Education was a major part of his guiding philosophy. Johnson also stressed mobility in the winter. Although he brought
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the house along on this outing, he prefers fishing in the open. Mobility helps a person stay on moving fish and pluck the most aggressive feeders out of a school. It was late in the afternoon when we gave up. The house was cozy, but the fish activity was lacking. We both agreed there would be another day. ***Matt Johnson is the Manager of Ice Team, but also guides winter catfish on the Horseshoe Chain of Lakes. www.MattJohnsonOutdoors. com or find him at Matt Johnson Outdoors on Facebook.
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riving out on the frozen surface of Green Bay, it might as well have been the arctic circle. Snow and ice heaves dominated the landscape. Dotting the horizon were a few outcroppings of ice shelters some permanent and some portable. Our Clam Fish Trap X Series shelters were neatly in tow and ready for the mission at hand. No matter how cold and windy it was, we were going to be comfortable and mobile for our assault on Lake Michigan whitefish. The idea was to follow the faint snow covered path that locals called an ice road to one of the near shore reefs in search of nomadic schools of whitefish. Ranging in size from 12-24 inches, whitefish have been a mainstay of commercial fishermen in these waters for over a century. However, with recent changes in their available forage and feeding habits, whitefish have become increasingly more accessible and popular with recreational anglers. And for good reason - whitefish are plentiful and are among the finest eating fish in all of Lake Michigan. From broiled, to baked, to pan fried, whitefish are delicious any way you cook them. With broiled whitefish on our minds, the first task of the morning was to drill 50-60 holes in groupings of 4-6 each, and then move our portable Fish Trap shelters from spot to spot until a hot location was found. Our overall search time was narrowed significantly through the assistance of the area’s top fishing guide, Bret Alexander. Alexander is accustomed to getting his clients on limits of whitefish and having a good time in the process. Using StrikeMaster’s Pro Lithium 40v Lite auger, we powered through the task of drilling holes in no time. The gopher from Caddy Shack would have been jealous of the mess we made of the previously pristine ice surface. The once smooth spotless surface was transformed into a mine field of countless ice-shaven mounds. Each mound representing a potential hotspot for whitefish. With holes drilled and shelters setup, rods were quickly rigged and our offerings deployed in search of hungry whitefish. The set up was simple. Alexander favors a double rig for whitefish. The main line consists of 6-pound test monofilament or 8-pound test Frost Ice Braid line.
Monofilament works well in shallow water conditions and when fishing outside in bitter temperatures. Monofilament tends to withstand freezing conditions better than braid. Braided line excels when fishing from a heated shelter in depths of fifty feet or greater. Frost Ice Braid’s incredible sensitivity means even the lightest tap resonates in the rod handle, and its no stretch construction allows for immediate hooksets. Whitefish don’t stand a chance with this setup. In addition, the ultra-thin diameter of Frost Ice Braid allows it to be fished perfectly vertical with minimum weight, even when the underwater currents of Green Bay pick up. To the main line, Alexander attaches a free riding size 12 Owner Stinger treble hook dressed with a few wax worms and then ties a tiny swivel to the end of the main line. He completes the rig by trying on a 20” length of 6-pound test Frost Ice Fluorocarbon with a small snap on the end. To the snap is attached a 1/16-1/4 oz jigging spoon, such as a Clam Pinhead Jigging Mino, Blade Spoon or Speed Spoon. These spoons are compact in size and have an action that attracts whitefish both on the fall and upswing. No need for rattles in the clear waters surrounding Sturgeon Bay, as whitefish rely heavily on their vision when scavenging near the bottom for gobies
or quagga mussels. Tip these spoons with an emerald shiner head and wait for curious whitefish to find them. Alexander stresses the need to keep the bait moving. The movement of the bait both attracts and triggers whitefish into biting. Whereas most anglers are accustomed to stopping the jigging motion once fish appear on their Vexilar, whitefish will often ignore a lure if it sits motionless for more than a few seconds. Whitefish have a short attention span. For this reason, it is important to use a balanced rod and reel combo to keep a smooth and consistent jigging cadence. Clam makes several such outfits including the Jason Mitchell Gen8 30” and Ice Team Carbon 30” medium action combos. A balanced outfit means less fatigue when jigging small spoons within a few inches of the bottom for hours straight. The sensitive graphite construction of these Clam combos also makes it easy to detect light biting whitefish before they can spit the hook. Whitefish often hover in front of a bait for several seconds before deciding to commit to or swim away from the bait. They also have a tendency to suck in a bait and rest motionless with the bait in their mouths. Without a sensitive rod, it’s impossible to detect this slight bit of extra pressure as the fish hangs onto the lure. Once the hook is set, the fight of a whitefish is somewhere between a walleye and trout. They run line and shake their heads in an effort to dislodge the hook. When they finally get near the hole, the real fun begins. Because their mouth is soft like that of a crappie, it’s far too easy for them to pull the hook free as they twist and turn under the ice. They are also slick like a trout, which makes them difficult to land. For this reason, it is best to quickly scoop them onto the ice once you have them moving up the hole. Without too much effort, we had put of limit of whitefish on the ice before midday. With the Fish Trap shelters stowed away, it was time to head home for a good old fashioned fish boil. For those interested in guided whitefish trips, contact Bret Alexander at (920) 851-4214.
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hy do you need another ice hut?”, my girlfriend asked while I was browsing the new clam catalouge? “Because we are going clamping” I replied with a tone of eagerness and excitement. With Covid restrictions in effect in our region it looked like travelling any distance during the pandemic was going to be a headache. Living in rural Northwestern Ontario the options for a “staycation” are limited. We are however blessed to have an abundance of lakes and a diverse variety of species to chase around. The need to get outside and travel is real during the winter months. What better way to explore our home waters then to go camping on the ice or as we call it “clamping”. Here’s how we went about planning our adventure! Location: We knew that we wanted to set up on a familiar spot to ensure our success and to hopefully provide us with some food. We choose a spot that regularly produces walleye with a genuine shot at a big laker. It was a classic underwater point that topped at 32’ fow and we were surrounded by 60 plus fow. We also wanted to pick a spot that wasn’t going to be slush, so we scouted our location a few days prior. It was less than an hour ride to get back to
civilization if we had an emergency. The set up: Last year Clam brought out the insulated floors for some models of their shelters. We decided to purchase the x600 hub with the floor. It met and exceeded our expectations out on the ice to be our main shelter. Be sure to always insert in ALL the ice anchors to avoid being caught off guard by the wind. We decided to try and back my X200 to one of the doors and seal it tight (we used boat shrink wrap tape and two giant alligator clips). This allowed us to set up our camping gear in the hub and leave the holes for fishing in the X200. What a setup! Gear and food: We decided to meal prep most of our meals and precook. The reason we choose to take that route is because it seemed cooking in the hut produces a lot of steam and smoke from past outings. We wanted to reduce that to a minimum to help keep are hub fresh so to speak. Here’s a gear list that we compiled to ensure we had all the comforts of home Battery operated CO detector Clam X600 Clam insulated floor Clam X200 Clam hub lights
Clam rattle real x2 Cots x2 Sleeping bag x2 Sleeping pad x2 Folding table Buddy heater x2 Lots of propane (enough for an extra night) Pots,pans, cutlery (fillet knife) Extra batteries Battery box Ice fishing gear Auger Flasher x2 Slippers TP 5 gallon bucket
Toilet seat (attachable to 5g bucket) Biodegradable bags Garbage bags Extra clothing Food (lots of snacks) Water Coleman stove Drill Ice anchors Inreach Cellphone First aid kit Conclusion: After a few weeks of tedious planning and packing it made it all worth the effort watching the sun fade below
the harsh winter landscape. There’s just something about immersing yourself in the vast wilderness and seclusion of the boreal forest that sends a calming vibe through your soul. I think we both can say with confidence that clamping will become part of our regular winter pass times. Tips: -Let some friends know your game plan and return time especially if you are camping out of cell phone service. -Have a look at the weather before you head out and make sure conditions are suitable.
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the next “magic hour” feeding window. Fishing these flats requires a lot of hole hopping, run and gun style fishing approach. I often will start with a small Jointed Pinhead Mino tipped with a Silkie and spikes, pounding the bottom and watching for the big red marks to move in. I can’t tell you how many big rogues we’ve iced fishing like this while waiting for the next prime window!
Morning: I have found that the post dawn hours of 7am through 10am have been prime time for targeting bigger gills. One big reason for this, is the fact that on many bodies of water, there are remnants of overnight bug hatches that are still lingering in the bottom three or four feet of the water column, especially during the first couple hours of light. Big bluegills will school up and become active following these bugs while gorging on them until the sun starts to get too high in the sky. Targeting this bite window while matching the hatch has led to multiple big 10”+ fish. After that bite slows down, there’s often a lull in the action due to full bellies and expended energy. When this happens, I often start targeting big rogue fish strictly on mud flats looking for bloodworm beds while waiting for
Dusk: My favorite time to target mega gills is that 4pm to 6pm window. Very often these bigger fish will slide up into shallow water (5 to 8fow) and again start hunting for aquatic insects and small bait fish. This bite happens fast and can be very short lived, so a solid game plan with a stealthy approach is preferred. I like to start by drilling my grid up in the shallows about a half hour before this next “magic hour” window...that way, less noise is made during the peak of it all. I like to use the Clam Maggot Drop tipped with a crushed waxie and hole hop my grid up in the shallows. If you can find sparse weed patches of sand grass or decayed lily pad roots, you will be in a good position to cross paths with one or two of these big megs!
ith twenty-four hours in the day, when is the prime-time bite going to be? Many different weather scenarios can play out on any given day but in this article, I’d like to give you my take on when the best “magic hour” time frames have been for me when it comes to icing big bluegills.
MY FAVORITE TIME TO TARGET MEGA GILLS IS THAT 4PM TO 6PM WINDOW. VERY OFTEN THESE BIGGER FISH WILL SLIDE UP INTO SHALLOW WATER (5 TO 8FOW) AND AGAIN START HUNTING FOR AQUATIC INSECTS
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he basin during late ice can be a phenomenal bonus place where we can put some extra fish on the ice with just a little bit of movement and creative rigging. It really doesn’t make sense that a 10 foot move on a 1 mile basin could make a big difference, but I’ve noticed through the years that it absolutely can. Not only getting up and moving a few feet but also changing your how you’re fishing for those roaming fish. I’m not talking about big change either… sometimes it’s just the small things that make a big difference. It doesn’t matter whether it’s big attack predators or panfish that you’re targeting on a wide-open basin, most of the time they’re moving around looking for food. They usually travel in smaller groups during this period or even individually. They’re hunting for an easy food source to pack on weight for the impending nest protection. So how we approach fishing them sometimes can mean the difference and putting that next fish on the scale or in a bucket.
One of the things has become very obvious to me as that creating a finesse presentation sometimes makes the difference and looking very much like what they’re eating as a food source below, will also help ensure your success. So many times you have to downsize or upsize to meet the size of the actual meal they are eating that day. One of the ways that I figure out what that food is, is to cut a fish open and look or throw it in a bucket of water and take a look at what they spit out. Once I have this piece of the puzzle then I start to look through my arsenal of both jigs and bait to select my best approach to matching the hatch that day. Then select the best rod tip with it to create the illusion of being the actual food that they are eating below. This in combination with staying mobile during this period of time (even if that is a slight movement) seems to make a difference in my fishing. So usually when I set up even on a large basin I will drill a circle of 10 or so holes, that are about 10 paces away from each other, and I will
hole hop even on a basin. Well hole hopping is usually thought of as a weed technique and it works very well there, it can work equally as well in a large basin. Sometimes fish once spooked out from under you, only move 10 or 15 feet, locating perhaps just on the other side of a patch of laid down weeds, rocks or any other structure that may be out there. Where there is no structure fish seem to spook easily, therefore they move a distance away, but will almost always return if the food source is still available. Finessing these fish can be as easy as tying a drop shot rig or using a smaller jig head when the food source that they’re eating is negative or neutrally buoyant. If it is a year of young that is coming out of their belly, (that is a small fish that was born over the summer) then I will use whatever jig head and plastic works in combination with each other to look like that young of the year fish, in both color and size. Then the selection of the rod tip becomes
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important. As you deliver the bait school that is roaming underneath to the fish, if it is an insect you are you on a large basin or flat. imitating, a softer more flowy look to the bait may work best. If it is a Envision how the fish are moving, dead or dying minnow, you may want what the fish are eating, and how a sharper or abrupt jig cadence and whatever they’re eating, is moving so you would use perhaps a little bit down below the ice. Then you can stiffer rod tip. If you don’t change make your plans accordingly with rods or each lake that carry you travel to, to multiple have what you rods with need to mimic ENVISION HOW THE FISH ARE MOVING, their food. Also you, then change WHAT THE FISH ARE EATING, AND HOW as you envision your what is occurring cadence or WHATEVER THEY’RE EATING, IS MOVING down below you, the amount DOWN BELOW THE ICE. look for areas of in which transition from a you raise soft to a changing and lower bottom of some your rod tip, speed and consistency sort whether that be a crib, a rock of how you jig. Remember the pile or matt weeds. Try to zigzag or important part here is to look like the jump around those areas of bottom food that the fish are currently eating change so that you can follow the below you in the basin. fish as they move out from under you. If you pull fish through a pile of As I am cutting multiple holes in a fish, they will almost always spook, basin to work my way through, if a so when you are dropping your line, hole cools off, or even if there are stop way up above where the fish are still fish in there, I will sometimes actually showing up on your flasher move to another hole adjacent to it, so not spook all of the fish out of the area. Another school of thought is to stay on top of the fish by moving with them. If you can get a sense of the direction in which they’re heading, you can jump around, hole to hole and chase them for a little while, again increasing the amount of fish that you’ll catch out of that small
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or a graph, and jig them up to you. Making the fish come up to you will spook less fish, and on a basin or in clear water, this is a big deal. Fish roaming on the flats are almost always looking for something to eat, like me at a donut shop. Figure out what kind of donut they want that day and your bucket and belly will thank you. What they’re eating, how they’re feeding, rigging techniques, jigging cadence and hole locations, can greatly improve your success in what otherwise seems to be a barren wasteland. So each time you head out onto the lake if you’re going to fish a basin or flats that day experiment with all of these things to improve your success out on the ice and I hope see you out there, Scott
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iceteam.com >> Ice Digital February Issue >> 35
Schooling Lake Trout fda we survived the frigid The Lake Trout as many of you winter doldrums of Northern know is one of my favorite species Minnesota. It was stinkin’ to chase through the ice. On Lake cold this year but warmer winter of the Woods it’s a pure adventure days are upon us and some of the hoping on the snowmobile and best bites on Lake of the Woods are ripping through the islands. March here! I will break down some of my provides warmer weather that allows you to don your Ice Armor by Clam favorite late season bites up here on suit, which keeps me warm when LOTW that will hopefully inspire you fishing outside fishing spot to spot to try and take advantage some epic to spot. The Lake Trout this time of ice fishing memories. year are actively feeding and you usually you can find larger schools The late season Walleye of fish located in basins off of reef Lake of the Woods is best known structures or long expansive points. for the amazing walleye action it Really the success comes from being provides through out the season. mobile. Develop a system on your With that comes lots of angling snowmobile so moving from spot pressure so as an angler you have to spot is seamless and not a big to plan accordingly. This is the chore. I can’t time of year express how I love to be important this ultra mobile is. It’s far too looking active THIS IS THE TIME OF YEAR I LOVE TO often I fish with for schools of someone and we walleyes that BE ULTRA MOBILE LOOKING ACTIVE FOR set up on spot patrol the SCHOOLS OF WALLEYES THAT PATROL and here comes shallow rocks. all of the stuff. It seems most THE SHALLOW ROCKS. Keep it simple. permanent Be able to drill a houses hole, drop your move out to transducer, grab your rod, fish a the mud this time of year leaving location and if nothing is there pack the shallow rocks (10 to 22 feet) up and move. Again, my favorite untouched. The mud seems to lure of choice is the Leech Flutter provide great sauger action but Spoon but not too far off is the my best walleye bites have come Tikka Minno, which has proven the shallow this time of year. With my last few years to catch some of my Clam Fish Trap in tow I hop on my larger Lake Trout. I prefer a longer sled and map out a section of the rod to absorb the big head shakes lake with shallow rock structure. and a good reel that when the Lake There are many spots so just look Trout decides to make a run it will at a map and focus in on one be smooth and forgiving. The Lake section. I key in on the gradual Trout are pure fighting machines drop offs that lead up onto the reefs and if you have never chased them or rock saddles between two really I would highly recommend the shallow spots. This time of year the adventure. My favorite base camp walleyes seem to very aggressive. is with my friend Robert Tolen This provides a great time to use and his Resort, Vic & Dots Camp, one my favorite presentations, the located on Whitefish Bay. Leech Flutter Spoon tipped with a Maki Spikki. This really allows me Flag up to be ultra efficient when the school Ok lastly some of my most moves through not having to re-bait memorable fishing in March on Lake my hook every time I catch a fish. of the Woods has been getting a Be willing to fish multiple reefs to group together to set some flags, find the reef with a large school. I cook some hotdogs, play a little on use the middle of the day to try and ice games and catch a giant pike. provide clues so during primetime, It’s something I have personally last three hours of daylight; I’m set enjoyed for many years. It’s in up where I think the largest school March when the Northern Pike make is. If you get it right it’s game on.
a push shallow for the pre-spawn feed. Which means large amounts of huge pike are available to put your hands on. It’s a great time for catch and release so that means being prepared with all the release tools at hand when the flag goes up. All you need is a simple system of utilizing a tip up, some dead bait to set up in the shallows and hold on tight. The key is simply trying to locate the depth the larger fish are holding. Sometimes it’s 12 to 15 feet and then there are times they are up in 2 feet. This is also a bite that is wonderful for the younger generation. Lake of the Woods has giant pike and when you see a young angler pull one through the hole it couldn’t be more rewarding. It also allows for them to have some fun on the ice while waiting for a flag. We play lots of fun games including a game we made up called Scoop but that’s for another time. The Bigtooth Zero rig tipped with a deadbait has proven to be my favorite presentation for hooking the fish in a safe way for not only the angler but also the fish. IceTeam has done a great job with many articles on the nuance of chasing pike with flags so look back at previous magazines and you will find all the details needed. Lake of the Woods is truly a magical place for the ice angler and I wanted to share some of my favorite late season bites. My intent was to only inspire you the reader to look at some of the opportunities out there. If you find that inspiration to chase a species or bite mentioned which is new to you there are many details to dive into to find success. You can look back through the many great articles I have written along with the very talented IceTeam members on each specific bite to get down to the nitty gritty. Good luck the rest of the season and make a great memory on the ice! Jeff “Jiggy” Andersen Leisure Outdoor Adventure Fishing Guide YouTube: Jeff Andersen Fishing
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arm water fish spawn in the spring. The length of daylight in March, accompanied by increased oxygen levels from snow and ice melt, triggers fish to form large schools as they anticipate the coming spawn that will occur in the shallows after ice-out. This is the absolute best time of the year to fish for white perch. Several small schools will join to form large schools. These huge schools of fish have one thing on their minds this time of year…food! They need to eat before the spawn, and they’re after hatching insects in the mud and smelt. Finding schools of pre-spawn white perch means non-stop action that sometimes lasts all day. When I am fishing for white perch or crappie, you will usually see me sitting over a basin or on an inside turn as the sun rises. To clarify, a basin is a depression, and an inside turn is like an underwater cove. Whether I’m targeting crappies or bluegills, or white perch, I focus on areas 25 to 30-feet of water. Zooplankton rise from the bottom at dusk and feed until the sun begins to rise at dawn. This concentration of plankton draws baitfish, which in turn draws gamefish. Basins can be fished early and late in the day since zooplankton concentrations will be highest then and the bowl-like feature of the basin will hold the plankton and baitfish in that area, but they can also serve as a resting place for well-fed white perch or crappies, so basins are always worth a look.
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Other areas to try are deep coves with feeder streams. Warmer temperatures and longer days in March create runoff from melting snow. The only good source of oxygen this time of year will come from streams carrying oxygenrich water and microorganisms into the lake. As lake smelt begin to stage in shallow water, they will congregate in these areas and the white perch will follow. Coves will be hot and cold however, because the fish will move in and feed until they run the bait out. Then it will take some time for the bait to return and the process to repeat. My go-to lures are a size twelve white and orange Epoxy Drop or a 1/8-ounce Blade Spoon with a single hook (In New Hampshire you must use a single hook with a single hook point if you wish to use bait.) from Clam Pro Tackle, tipped with three or four spikes (maggots) or a tiny piece of worm. The Epoxy Drop sinks fast, getting you back down to the fish quickly, which is important when a school moves in. The color really depends on the water clarity and light conditions. On bright days use bright colors, on dark days use dark colors, and in stained water use neutral colors. March ice fishing is a blast, but later season seems to turn on all the fish in the lakes I fish. This is your best chance at catching big numbers of big fish, especially when targeting warm water species since they spawn in the spring. Most anglers enjoy the warmer temperatures that occur in March. After a long cold winter, it’s nice to be out on the ice catching huge panfish and not need to bundle up as much. As ice conditions can change by the hour this time of year, it is important to stay safe. If you hear the ice popping and banging it might be a good idea to get back near where you came from. New pressure ridges can form, or existing ones can collapse, and late ice pressure ridges are some of the most dangerous. Play it safe but have fun out there.
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