For our area, this is early ice. The last few days people had made safe trips out on the hardwater across the state and it was killing me to be at work! We made the trek knowing that we might not get on the ice as we had no up to date reports. Regardless, there were multiple bodies of water in the area at varying elevations and we had high hopes that one would allow us on.
As we got our first glimpse of the water shortly after daylight, we thought we were in trouble. We could see different lines of ice sheets but we came this far and had to check. Taking all precautions possible, we geared up with our Clam Lift Suits, a throw rope for each of us, ice cleats, and a few spud bars. Making a game plan, all three of us walked in a line with a fair amount of distance between. The ice was better than we had initially thought but with a clear break in the ice 100 yards out, we weren’t in the clear quite yet.
As we neared the break, our spud bars revealed 4″ of good black ice. At the break we knew it was less right off. The first hit wasn’t a clean break but the water bubbled out. A quick check by hand told us not to go any further! Instead, we headed parallel to shore and traversed through the woods around the poor quality ice to found a better place on. For the next hour we worked carefully over the entire area that we could possibly fish checking for any inconsistencies. At the end of out search it was game on!
After grabbing our gear, we made our way back out with only the essentials. To keep the sled light, we only packed a few rods, jigs boxes, an underwater camera, and a vexilar for each of us. With underwater camera and auger in hand we started punching a spread of holes trying to locate pockets of fish. The weeds were still healthy throughout the area and from what we could tell, the fish were spread thin.
As we started fishing, we quickly realized that the fish were holding deep and the odds of catching anything suspending was slim to none. Because of the clear ice, any movement from above was highly visible. The majority of the fish we caught were within a foot of the bottom in the weeds. Only a handful of smaller perch came cruising open water. To combat spooking fish, we took extra caution when putting our buckets/vexilars down and tried going without our cleats on. While putting down the buckets quietly was effective, not using cleats wasn’t. It’s hard to fish when you are falling down every step!
Throughout the day we tried many different color combinations but we all seemed to settle with red and white. White jig – red plastic, red jig – white plastic. It didn’t matter. I took the best of both worlds. I used a red jig with a white with red flake jamei from Maki Plastics. This day reaffirmed us that you don’t need to have live bait to be successful. We also found that the fish wanted a slower cadence than we would usually follow. The fish weren’t super aggressive but would usually bite if located. Many of the bite came very light. Spring bobbers were almost a must to detect bites!
While it was great to be back on the ice and the crappie bite was phenomenal as the sun started to set, we knew that we should be off before dark as the shores were weak. With the past few days of warmer temperatures and rain, it will be interesting whether or not we will be on the ice this coming weekend. If not, its back to the woods we go for the start of Vermont’s muzzleloader season!