Merry Christmas Everyone!
Hardwater Fishin’ I picked up the mail the other day and was excited to see this year’s ice catalogs. Cooler weather and new stuff is what fuels my soul for winter fun on the hard deck. Ice brings many friends with that shared passion to my lakes for good times and great adventures. I hope these few words will help bring you the cure for cabin fever this winter. Now, let’s get started with the nuts, bolts and knowledge to make your ice fishing season a success.
Safety | Above all else, safety on the ice is paramount. Time in the outdoors on ice is always a risky business, at best. Although, being prepared and well-informed can make the difference between a disaster and a cold water memory.
By Mike Hall
Number one is reading the ice. You need to know the quality and thickness of the ice to determine when it’s safe to venture on to the water. Clear ice is stronger than cloudy or grey colored ice. Two inches of clear solid ice on small bodies of water will support one person but four inches is really what is needed to be safe. Ice with cracks, open spots or pressure ridges is not safe and these areas should be avoided. On larger bodies of water, six inches of clear or twelve inches of cloudy ice is a safe standard. Ice varies in thickness on all waters as currents, warm springs, or physical formation as ice freezes impacts quality and thickness. Other options should include a first aid kit and a length of rope. These are a must for cut fingers, fish hooks and rescue tactics should someone fall through the ice. Dress in layers and buy a quality ice suit that will make life comfy out there in cold weather. There are several outerwear products to keep you toasty, but ice suits float and help maintain body temperatures should an accident happen. Don’t be sorry—be safe. Equipment | Essential equipment begins with an ice auger to drill holes and a dipper to remove ice slush. The list continues with a fish finder, for sure, a rod holder, heater,
fishing rod and reel, ice shelter, good selection of your favorite
lures, a trash bag and, of course, a 5 gallon bucket or a sled for transport. Oh, yes, a chair to sit on is always handy and a snowmobile is the pinnacle of transportation on ice. Ice fishing is a family and friends outing, so snacks or hot meals are always a delight. The idea is that you balance your fun with enough gear to be comfortable and prepared for this outdoor adventure. Finding Fish | We live in the information age with the internet and social media front and center. Hot spots are announced hourly and pictures of and for success are everywhere. Smart phone apps show you detailed maps of nearly all waters and GPS will plot the places to try. On top of that, a fish finder and underwater cameras will Continued on Page 2
Continued from Page 1
show you the fish. Here are a few tips that have produced many dinner friends on my adventures. Panfish, such as crappie, bluegill and yellow perch, are a favorite. They’re social fish and tend to school in numbers. Crappie and yellow perch can be found in the main lake basin during winter months, suspended or close to the bottom and tend to move around. Try areas around the edges of the main lake basin with under water drop-offs or points. Particularly, look for hard bottom, underwater springs, trees or rock piles, which can all be bonanzas. Crappie will often chart on the finder as clutter or clouds of fish, but perch will show up as single fish or in small groups. Both crappie and yellow perch are found from 10- to 50- feet of water as a rule. Bluegills are found in less that 20 feet of water and near or in weed beds. Generally, they will stay in an area for several days or weeks. These fish like weed edges, holes in the vegetation and submerged trees or bushes.
the deciding factor. For example, minnows or insect life. Kokanee are near the edge of the main current line and suspended. Walleye are very versatile predators are found in water from shore to center of the lake. The real keys here are temperature of the water, currents and preferred food resources. Be versatile in your search and move if you do not see fish on the finder. Early season fish are likely in or near the inflows of lakes because the temperature is stable. Late season fish trend to be toward the main lake basin and deep because water at that depth is generally warmer. Search different depths and structure types until a pattern can be determined. Drill holes in a line from shallow to deep and try different depths. Compare the structure where you see fish to other similar places on your GPS maps. Decipher the graph or inspect in the hole for minnows, current, weeds, insect life or micro biology. All fish inhabit an area or depth for a reason. Find that reason and you will be more successful. Lures | Lures have five group types: spinners, jigs, crank baits, spoons and top water. Pointing out the obvious top water lures is paramount for ice fishing. Although, the other groups have offerings that are commonly used for ice fishing a vertical pursuit. Size is both detrimental and relative for success. Small lures and offerings are very popular, but are not always the answer. Using a small tear drop when fish are actively Trout can be found suspended in feeding on three-inch minnows can open water near underwater river have its drawbacks. Try matching channels and often visit weed lines the lure to both the activity levels and underwater points to feed. and the feeding behavior. Fish bite Trophy trout are generally single a lure for several different reasons: fish, but will inhabit areas that anger, hunger, instinct, territory or hold other trout. Feed types are spawn, to mention a few. Neutral
fish generally respond to smaller lures and active fish respond to larger lures. Address both the size of lures (small to large) and the colors when stocking your inventory of offerings. Colors should include or incorporate silver, brass, copper, pink, orange, chartreuse, white and, especially, glow in the dark. Target natural and metallic patterns on clear water, painted lures in murky water and glow for dark water. Now, let’s talk attractors. They are generally tied in line 6- to 14-inches above the lure and aid the fish in finding your offering and exciting a strike. They come in all sizes. Small attractors, such as the 0.8” Smile Blade®, large attractors, like the 4” Sling Blade™. Thinking outside the box, attractors can also be used effectively by themselves on a separate line in an adjacent ice hole. These are extremely productive for attracting especially large or schooling fish to a location. Again, size plays a large role in success. Smaller, more subtle attractors like the Flash Lite® Troll or the larger Sling Blade™ 6” with a weight added to the bottom and jigged slowly are fish magnets. These can also be suspended at any depth to attract walleye, perch, crappie, trout or salmon. Jigging spoons are my favorite lure for ice fishing, as they will catch anything that swims. At the top of this list, of course, is the Sonic Baitfish™ because of the range in sizes from small to large, and its success with bass, crappie, yellow perch, rainbow trout, burbot, lake trout, kokanee and many more. This lure will work right out of the box with no tuning required. There are 12 different ways to rig this amazing spoon and endless applications to catch whatever swims. Continued on Page 3
Continued from Page 2
Presentation | Ice fishing is a vertical presentation of a lure, commonly termed jigging. These jigging presentations can be used on the ice and are also effective in open water for year round success on your favorite waters. The basic rule is to keep your line as vertical as possible. Allowing the line to drift to the side will aid in attracting fish, but for perfect presentations, pause and hold the rod still and allow the line to again become vertical. This gives the angler absolute control over the rise and fall rate, as well as the lure action. This is important because once you find an effective wiggle you need to repeat the presentation. Here are four simple methods of presentation to make you a master at ice fishing and jigging with any lure, especially jigging spoons: 1) Lower the lure to the desired depth and simply hold it still. The trick is to watch the fish finder as the lure falls and stop where the fish are. Small bits of your favorite bait are just as effective as a plain lure. Be sure not to add too much bait to the lure as this tends to restrict the action. Another tip is to use scents in place of bait, as they won’t affect the action of lures. My favorite is a new product for ProCure called Bait Waxx. Try using un-baited lures if the water is clear, but remember the thickness or snow covered ice restricts the light levels and fish may not be able to see an
offering. Perhaps this is the reason the glow in the dark lures are the most popular. 2) Waving the flag. Lift and drop the rod, allowing the lure to free fall backwards. The lift and drop can vary from a few inches to several feet. Different waves are also effective. For example, slow up, slow down; fast up fast, down; or mix them. This action allows the lure to roll and flutter with full action. Don’t be a tourist. Jerking or waving without purpose may make you seem friendly with others, but won’t catch dinner. However, moving the lure with intention will. Remember, the strikes are often very soft and your full attention is absolutely necessary. Most strikes are felt and some are indicated by the lure stopping or the line becoming slack. 3) Gently pumping the rod with small lifts and drops. Remember to add long or short pauses to the pumping action to incite fish to strike. This imparts action not only to the lure but to the bait on your hook, making the lure appear alive. Again, pay attention to the finder as fish attracted to this action show up. Simply pause and wait for the strike. If the fish seem disinterested then very slowly lift the lure., as this often incites a strike. Adding a small blade or a glow bead to the hook is a tremendous way to increase catches
attracting fish to the offering. 4) Swim or drag the lure side to side. Make sure to slightly pump the lure when moving it. This brings reaction strikes and lifelike attraction to the lure. Keep in mind, using the zoom feature on your fish finder will help you to see fish and the lure better. Most often, fish swim upward to bite a lure so presenting the lure above the fish will be the most effective method. An exception to this, though, is pounding the bottom and leaving the lure to rest on the bottom. I’ve found that this produces walleye and lake trout quite often. These four presentations can be varied or mixed and matched to fine tune any catch. Watch your fish finder to see which presentation is effective in attracting fish and exciting a strike, then repeat it. For additional video information on these four super presentations go to the Mack’s Lure website and view the Sonic Baitfish™ Review. There are also several other videos to add information to your fishing arsenal. The ticket here is (as is the case with all fishing) to become versatile. Information is everywhere, but it doesn’t work if you don’t use it. Move if you’re not seeing fish on the locator, try a different presentation or lure but, above all else, be flexible in your approach. Beginners only have a few ways to catch fish, but the pros have thousands of ways. A great fisherman is one that learns to climb the informational ladder to the top. The payoff is more fish, more fun and an increased interest in this sport that we all pursue. Be safe in your endeavors and with this presentation. Pounding remember to enjoy and share fishing the bottom, lifting the lure and with others. I’ll see you on the lake. pausing is another dynamic way to be effective. This is a big aid in Page 3
Stan’s Space Those Bluegills Are Memory Makers By Hall-of-Fame Angler Stan Fagerstrom Part 2 If you’ve got a chapter in your Fly Fishing Memories book that’s headlined by something like “Just Plain Fun,” I’d be willing to bet it includes mention of one of America’s favorite panfish. As you already know if you read last month’s column, that great little scrapper is the bluegill.
job of casting, as well as having quality equipment to do it with, isn’t going to hurt you any. But I like to think of bluegill fly fishing as close combat. If you can manage to cast your flies out there from 20 to 30feet most of the time you’ll be in business.
fish on the first cast and many more after that. The photographer wound up with just what he wanted.
Your days won’t always go that well, of course, with the fly rod or anything else. But there are things you can do to bend the odds in your favor. The first is to stick to Number As we covered in the last column, 10 fly sizes. Carry dark, light and in your gear must be scaled down to between shades in your fly patterns. match the size of the fish you are A Number 10 hook is small after. My favorite fly rods for enough for the bluegills to get hold. that purpose range from 7 to 8-feet. Fly-fishing for bluegill isn’t long Go down in size and you’ll be range action. If you can cast 20 to forever hooking little tiny guys you 30- feet, you’ll do just fine. Be sure don’t want to mess with. Go larger the leaders you select have a tippet and the teensy ‘gills won’t be able to get hold of it. testing from two four pounds. What I’ve said about finding bluegill while using spinning gear also applies to fly-fishing. You’ve got to find them before you can catch them. Once you do get them pinned down, you’re in for a fun day.
There’s a whole school of hungy bluegills hanging around that sunken log you see in the foreground of this picture. Look close and you’ll see the swirl one made when it just grabbed my fly.
In my previous column I wrote about how effective teensy plastic worms could be for these interesting panfish that you’ll find in lakes and ponds all over the United States. This time around let’s look at another favored technique that can provide even more fun when conditions are right. That technique, of course, is fly fishing. Don’t feel like you have to be a fly fishing wizard with the best of equipment for bluegill fishing. Certainly the ability to do a decent
I recall one day years ago when I’d just come in from fly fishing for bluegills on my home lake. A well known Seattle photographer happened to be at the dock when I came in. He was in the process of producing a film for the Evergreen State’s Parks Department. He saw the nice string of bluegill I’d brought in. He expressed his regret that he hadn’t been around to shoot pictures of me catching them.
I find a Number 10 hook to be just the right size for my bluegill fly fishing.
One of my all time favorites is my own version of the McGinty. I tie it with a red tag and alternate bands of brown and yellow yarn. In finish it off with sparse brown hackle. Another favorite is a black ant.
Don’t be in a hurry to do anything “Don’t sweat it,” I said, “it’s no problem. Get in another boat and with whatever the pattern you’re follow me back out there and I’ll using after you’ve made a cast. Get your fly out there and then let it sink catch some more for you.” through the surface film. When Now making a statement like that you begin your retrieve bring the where fish of any kind are concerned fly back with little twitches of the is a good way to wind up with gravy line. I do that by holding the line in your whiskers, but the fish had in my left hand rather than working still been hitting when I quit and I the rod tip. Be especially alert each knew right where they were. The time you twitch the line. That’s photographer followed me went when your strikes are most likely to back to the same spot. I caught a come. Continued on Page 5
Continued from Page 4
There will be times when spongebodied spiders or tiny poppers catch fish off the surface. That’s the most fun of all and it’s always worth a try to find out if the fish will feed that way. As in any kind of fishing, don’t hesitate to experiment in fly fishing for bluegill. Try your poppers, but if they don’t work don’t stick with them for hours on end. Try a different approach. Bluegills aren’t all that picky. Sooner or later you’ll find what they want.
Sonic BaitFish (SBF) “Tips & Techniques”
“Will Tibbels’ 14-lb Walleye Retold” By Captain Pete Rosko
Buegill fishing is fun fishing and catching them on a fly is a great way to do it.
If you decide to do that don’t fool around attempting to scale each fish. Cut off the dorsal and a strip of skin along the top of the back. Next slice through the skin in back of the gill covers on both sides of the fish. Use a pair of nippers to pull the skin back toward the tail.
Here’s my all time favorite pattern for bluegill fly fishing.
I haven’t killed a bass in years. I’ve made some friends and relatives unhappy by not bringing home the largemouth I put in the boat. I killed my share of them decades ago when those wonderful fish didn’t face the ever building pressures they do today. Bass are a slow growing fish, particularly in areas like the Pacific Northwest where the growing season is relatively short. It might take years to grow a 4-pound largemouth. It’s a different story with bluegill. One of the dangers with bluegill is over population. One lake I fished as a young man was loaded with yellow perch. Later the bluegill became even more numerous. They are among the most prolific of panfish. It doesn’t hurt to invite some to dinner.
In February, 2013 the Sonic BaitFish™ received the “Best Spoon Award” by All Outdoor Canada. A month later, eleven year old Will Tibbels caught a 14-pound walleye through the ice. It was reported as the second largest walleye ever caught by sport fishing in Lake Erie. The lure Will used was a 1/3oz silver Sonic BaitFish™ with the line/snap attached to the top of the back. On that eventful day, Will was fishing with his dad, Capt. John Tibbels of Tibbels Marina, located at Marblehead, Ohio.
Once you do that, cut the head halfway off. Now pull the head off with your hand and the guts will come out along with it. Use a lightweight pair of canvas gloves while you’re cleaning your bluegill and it simplifies the task by at least fifty per cent. Roll the skinned fish in cracker crumbs and flour and pop it into the frying pan. Fresh bluegill prepared in such fashion and served along with hot French bread, coleslaw and a glass of chilled white wine will have your taste buds doing the chacha-cha and begging for more. The Good Lord created bass to teach fishermen humility. I suspect He gave us bluegills to make up for the frustration He knew those bass would bring. He also made them for eating. As said in last month’s column, if you know your butt from a barracuda, you’ve got to have a high regard for bluegill. And if you don’t know about them now, I envy you the fun you’ll have learning.
They were jigging in about 32 feet of water off Rattlesnake Island in Lake Erie’s western basin. Other Sonic BaitFish™ produced goodsized walleye that day but the 14-pounder was special. Since then, Will has never had a chance to icejig again as Lake Erie never froze over because of its warmer winter weather. From a personal standpoint, I have not fished the Sonic BaitFish™ through the ice. However, I have fished it in every other conceivable way, including casting, jigging and trolling. Will’s silver and bluesilver finishes have been particularly effective in Washington State for Beardslee (rainbow) trout in Lake Crescent, as well as for coho and pink salmon in salt water using these three techniques that were equally effective. Continued on Page 6
Continued from Page 5
Note: glow-white and glowchartreuse were primary color preferences for chinook salmon and glow-orange was popular for kokanee. In the Gulf of Mexico, there has not been any Sonic BaitFish™ finish that has performed poorly. Standout examples have been silver and blue-silver for mackerel and snook; fire tiger for mangrove snapper; and glowchartreuse for all other snapper and grouper. As most seasoned anglers now know, the unique feature of the Sonic BaitFish™ is that the line/ snap can be attached three different ways: to the traditional nose, the tail and to the top of its back. Please remember the top-of-theback attachment is exclusively for vertical jigging. The nose (or tail) attachment can be effectively used whether casting, jigging or trolling. There is no other lure that is so versatile because of these multiple attachments and different actions. Nothing usually stays the same for long when spending a day on the water. Variable conditions primarily include changes in the barometer, water current or tidal flow, and wind direction. Any of these can kill a good bite! Over the years, I have found that changing your line/snap location on the Sonic BaitFish™ can help in triggering more strikes when the bite slows or dies. Secondly, add scent to your jig with a small piece of cut bait (worm/minnow sections in freshwater and shrimp, squid, clam or baitfish sections in saltwater). The combination of scent, added to a finesse-moving Sonic BaitFish™, will almost always out-fish “drowning” a plain dead bait with a sinker when fishing for gamefish. That 14 pound walleye, which Will Tibbels caught on a Sonic BaitFish™, was tipped with a piece of emerald shiner on both the nose and tail hooks.
As we bring 2017 to a close, I Here are a few of my favorite hope this season provided you with Christmas wish list items. good health and enjoyment on the water. Thank you for subscribing to KOKANEE BOOKS: the Mack Attack and here’s to even • Kokanee: A Complete Fishing better fishing. Guide by David Biser • Kokanee Obsession: Catch More and Larger Fish by Kent Gary’s Fishing Corner Cannon
It’s The Time For Giving By Gary Miralles
KOKANEE VIDEOS • Kokanee Trolling with yours truly
During this time of year, I’m Now for my favorite Attractors puzzled by what to buy everyone for Christmas. My lovely wife is and Lures broke down by Species: very fashion minded and loves new TROUT clothes; however the only thing I feel secure buying her is sleepwear. • Medium Sling Blade™ A set of silky Pajamas with cute • Double D™ Dodger puppies on them is fine, as long as • Flash Lites™ they don’t have fish on them. Gift certificates are always a safe bet, • Trol-lites™ but also says “I don’t have a clue on • Cripplures™ what to buy you and I’m too lazy • Hum Dingers® to figure it out.” Life would be so easy if everyone fished; that is a • Wiggle Hoochies™ subject I know well and could buy • Wedding Rings®. for anyone and make them happy. So that is where I’m taking you. KOKANEE What to buy the fisherman in your life for Christmas? I personally • Small Sling Blade™ am always excited to receive gifts • Double D™ Dodger of any type, related to my favorite sport and passion. But there are • Pee Wee Wiggle Hoochie™ so many fishing rods, reels, tackle • Spinner Hoochie™ boxes, dodgers, spinners, lures-• Wedding Rings® you name it, it’s out there. How do you pick what’s right? If this is • Koke-A-Nuts™. your dilemma, I suggest a selection of my favorite items perfect for that SALMON angler with everything. • Large 8” Sling Blade™ First, start with a small cheap tackle box you can purchase • 4.5” Wiggle Hoochies™ just about anywhere. This is the • Scorpion Salmon Spinners™. container used to house all your goodies. I personally like books Merry Christmas to all and to all or videos to read or watch on those Good Fishing!! cold rainy days when it’s impossible to go fishing. If I can’t fish, I can P.S. I almost forgot. A ball cap at least study it or enjoy watching from Mack’s Lure is always a safe someone else doing it. bet. Page 6
HOT DEAL OF THE MONTH Mack’s Lure Gift Certificates
Christmas is approaching and there’s no better stocking stuffer than the gift of Mack’s Lure. This month only, receive 10% off all gift certificates of $20, $35 or $50 using promo code GIFT10 at checkout. For custom dollar amounts, please call 800525-8737 and mention this offer to receive 10% off your gift certificate amount.
Question of the Month Have a question? We’d love to answer it! Contact us at MacksLure@MacksLure.com if you have a question you would like to see featured!
Q: I’ve heard a lot about Glo® Hooks, especially for ice fishing. How would you recommend rigging them? A: That’s a great question. And the Glo® Hook is an awesome ice fishing lure that can be used in conjunction with others products or as a standalone lure for various panfish. Attach a Glo® Hook with a 2-inch leader to the tail of a Sonic BaitFish™ or rig a Glo® Hook with a Double D™ Dodger or Sling Blade™ to increase your attraction. Be sure to rig your dodger backwards, however, as this will provide the Glo® Hook with more
Photo of the Month
action on the rise and fall. Simply attach a 14- to 16-inch leader to a Glo® Hook in the color of your choosing. In between the dodger and the hook, attach a couple of split shot weights to help keep the presentation vertical, then slowly jig up 4- to 6-inches, then drop and repeat until your rod starts dancing. Best of luck!
Video of the Month Chrome Through The Ice The popularity of kokanee fishing has greatly increased over the past decade. But when many lakes freeze over, the kokanee fishing ends, except for the hardiest of fishermen. Mack’s Lure’s Danny Coyne, Bob Loomis and Lance Merz joined Harrod Outdoors and The Northwest Outdoorsman to discover what chrome through the ice is all about. Click Here to watch the video. If you have video’s to share, we’d love to see them!! Send your video links to: MacksLure@ MacksLure.com.
The cold water isn’t stopping Mack’s Lure pro staffer Jeff Witkowski from getting out on Lake Chelan. Witkowski, a guide for Darrell & Dad’s Family Guide Service, shows off a lake trout pulled from Chelan using “Jeff Drift,” a custom lure combining a Smile Blade® UV and Cha Cha® Floats. Send your photos to media@MacksLure.com for consideration to be included in a future Mack Attack edition or on Facebook.