Everyone looks forward to early ice but early ice isn’t always easy to gauge when it will happen. This past Sunday, I hit the road early with a few buddies in search of safe ice. With a week of cold, we knew there was a good chance that something would have locked up solid. Throughout the course of the day we checked nine different ponds, three of which were strong enough to hold us up safely.
The first pond we ventured out was was a warm water pond with nice milfoil patches. We covered about 2/3 of the water in no time with just spud bars and an underwater camera. While everything looked good, we couldn’t locate any fish. With super clear ice and a lot of surface noise, we figured we were just pushing the fish around because of the noise we were making. As a secondary method, we tried removing creepers after verifying a constant thickness throughout and sneaking around hoping that the fish had settled. No such luck. Instead we packed it up and continued looking.
A few ponds later, we were able to creep out on a medium sized trout pond. The ice was super clear which kept us on edge. We got over enough water to catch fish, but the whole situation didn’t seem worth it so we kept on looking.
As we kept heading, we finally struck gold. A medium sized, shallow pond with a mix of cold and warm water fish. The only problem was none of us had ever fished anywhere in the area. We took the time to check the entire body of water with the spud bars and vexilar for depth.. About 45 minutes later we were drilling holes and prepping our poles for first drop. We drilled better than half of the fishable water our and started fishing.
Within only a few holes, the fish were marking well but not biting. After a few dropped fish, we really focused. Maybe 15 minutes into fishing, I landed my first fish of the winter; a 4″ crappie! Good start and another body of water with crappie added to the list. As the day wore on, we honed in on our presentation and found that orange and white were the key colors. As for cadence, small pulses or dead sticking produced the most bites. We caught a good mix of crappie and perch. One pike made it to the surface but snapped the line at the last second.
As dark approached, the ice had melted a bit and some standing water was present. We decided that we had pushed our first day on the ice to its limits and it was time to head home. What a great to start to another season!