My buddy and I took the day off to hit Lake Champlain. There seems to be a good number of fish in the islands this year so we thought getting out while the traffic was limited might increase our success. We got on the ice early and cut out a decent sized area before my auger threw a blade. Luckily, we had a backup hand auger which we wouldn’t need until later in the day.
The fish started biting before daylight approached so we knew that we got lucky that we didn’t have to move with the power auger being down. As sunrise approached, we honed in on a few different holes that proved to have a better flow of fish passing through.
We worked round and round steadily picking fish most of the day. Around noon, the bite slowed up big time so we cut a small half circle of hole and found what direction they were moving in. For the rest of the day, we cut small groups of holes to follow the fish as they moved towards deeper water.
Our theory of having better luck when less people were on the ice didn’t seem to matter but by no means was the fishing poor. We caught fish all day and didn’t move much from our initial starting point.
I returned to a place that I swore off for the rest of the year as the bite had been slow and very busy. With a heavy wind in the forecast , It was one of the places I thought that I would be sheltered though.
The fishing was as expected. It was slow but there were a few pickers in the mix if you hole hopped enough. With one decent fish per hole in the right area, it took a while for dinner to find its way into the bucket.
The majority of the fish were found cruising around open water suspended quite a ways from any weeds. Very backwards from a normal bite here. With late ice in the air, you can’t rule out any of the usual locations.
The fish were also particular with what they wanted. They liked a small gold jig and bubblegum plastic with one to two maggots stacked on top. From hole to hole the cadence also changed. Some liked it pounding while others preferred deadsticking.
It was a frustrating day but I ended up with a nice mess of fish to take home!
The posts have been lacking lately but with a change in the seasons coming, times are busy!
After a solid solo morning trip for gills, the main focus of my day was an evening trip I had planned with a buddy. He wanted to catch some cusk but after a few weeks since my last trip, I was unsure how the bite would be. Regardless, I had a bucket of dead shiners and plenty of batteries for the headlamps.
We were set up well before dark with cutbait staggered between 20-60 feet of water. No action occurred before sunset and it took a while for anything after dark set in. With a super slow bite in progress, we hooked up the hydro glow and jigged up smelt to pass the time.
Fortunately, the smelt were willing to bite. With only a few cusk coming topside we at least redeemed our night. After a few hours we packed things up and made way for home!
Our hopes were high that we were going to find crappie in a pond that we had never been on before. It was going to be a nice day the only X factor was going to be the snow conditions in a part of the state we hadn’t been to recently.
Our hopes were quickly squashed when we saw a lake untouched by anyone and a bout 18″ of crusty snow. Regardless, we packed our sleds and made way for a few spots we identified by means of satellite imagery.
The walking was miserable and the loads of small perch and bluegill were over whelming. The highlight of this stop was capturing some cool footage of crawfish in shallow water.
After struggling to make it back to the truck, we came up with a new game plan which included a well traveled spot that was sure to have had some recent foot traffic.
We grabbed some lunch and got back on the water. The walking was much better but the fish were still no where to be found. Our past experiences here were that the morning bite was the best but you could still pick all day long as the fish constantly moved around. Between three of us, we caught one fish from noon to almost 3. Things were not looking good.
We tried three other spots before coming up with a quitting time. As we returned to our first stop at the new location we said 3 was the cut off. If the fish weren’t biting we were going home.
Wouldn’t you know it, at 2:55 it happened. The big perch moved into the shallows and by 4:30 all three of us we were off the ice with limits of slabs!
We could have called it a bust much earlier in the day but our stubbornness kept us going and it paid off!
Does anyone like slush? I don’t think so. The slush today was bad and it got much worse as the day wore on.
We began the day in the dark and set up in a new location. It took a few extra holes to the a good layout of the area but when all was said and done, our spread spanned a depth range of 5-24 feet of water.
The flags started immediately with a few run and drops, bass, and pike. The target were walleye but they sure were playing hard to get.
As the day passed, the action remained slow and flags became more scarce after about 11am. We made a small move with a few tip ups in the early afternoon after seeing a walleye on the underwater camera which my buddy jigged up almost immediately after. The move proved ineffective but it was closer to walking off none the less.
At dark we gave the bait a few more minutes to soak in hopes that the walleye would move in. The final few traps yielded a walleye and a bass. Whether they were on for a bit or us moving closer made them finally move, it’s fun to see a flag spring up under the bean of a headlight!
It was a tough day but even a tough day is good. It makes you appreciate the good days that much more!
I had plans to fish alone for the day but a buddy was getting out of work early for an evening smelt bite. I figured it made sense to be in the area so I headed to a nearby panfish pond.
It was a beautiful morning with temps getting into the mid 30’s by the afternoon. The fish bit well to make things even better! I found fish in a concentrated area and only had to cut about a dozen holes for the duration of my time there.
I fished above the weeds with an orange Caty teardrop and maggots. The fish were aggressive and I was able to sight fish once the holes stayed clear of slush because of the sun. While all the holes had different weed layouts, there were a few with weeds almost to the surface. Those holes with tall weeds allowed me to catch the fish within about a foot of the ice. What fun! Around 3, I packed up my gear and made way for our rendezvous point at 3:30.
The smelt spot we selected was ideal because of a plowed area nearby that kept us from having to risk getting stuck in the 16″ of hard packed snow that blanketed the entire lake. We guessed that the depth would be around 40′ deep.
The fishing began slow with a few yellow perch being the first guests coming through the hole. As darkness approached, the smelt showed up in force. At first, they were staying loyal to the bottom but after landing a few, they began to suspend higher and higher.
While the fishing was good, it wasn’t as good as when Mary and I went recently. The fish tonight were much more hesitant of coming right to the surface. They still bit hard we just couldn’t sight fish!
The fish are starting to stage up in the areas we wait to see them in all winter. These are the times when big catches and big fish are the norm. Whatever you enjoy fishing for, there aren’t many times better than this!
I had a relatively slow morning for keepers but the number of small fish was unreal. As I neared the limit of small fish coming through the hole, I started to scheme where else I could go. I settled for a nearby cove.
It took a bit to find a concentration of fish but I was rewarded with big seeds and footlong crappie. They were set up in sparse weeds with a large thick mat nearby. As the hours passed the quality never changed. I hole hopped until it was time to head home and had a mess of quality fillets!
As I add more years on to my age, I grow more and more concerned about getting our youth involved. A few of my students approached me about advising a Hunting/fishing club and without a doubt I accepted. I’ve had the chance to take them on the ice few times this year and as February break was almost over I took two of them to what I thought was going to be a hot bite and a positive time on the ice for these youngsters.
We made our way to the lake with a few extra Vexilars for the boys to use. Dylan and I had fished this spot the previous week and it was a hot bluegill bite. I thought it was going to be an easy day for the boys giving them a little confidence by putting some fish in their buckets. I drilled the area out and got the boys all set up and ready to jig. It didn’t take long for the two of them to start a baseball game, there was a great deal of swinging and missing going on as I fished beside them. After a few tips on presentation and ready the electronic in shallow weeds they were both hooking up a bit more. We fished for a few hours and I soon realized that the fish just weren’t here. I cut another grid of holes and went searching. I was able to locate some fish but they had slid to the weed edge in 9 feet of water and the weeds were right to the ice. This wouldn’t be a problem for me and Dylan but knowing that I had two young fishermen with me that had no experience reading electronics in thick weeds I decided it would be best if I took them to another body of water to target deep water suspending crappie.
We packed up our gear and made the short trip to a nearby setback. This particular setback was well known for a decent crappie bite early ice and I was hoping there might still be a few fish we could talk into biting. The conditions were poor, we had about 16 inches of heavy snow to deal with. I sent the boys out to clear a few spots in the channel for me to drill about 20 holes. It didn’t take long for one of them to get hooked up. As a matter of fact I don’t think I had even got my rod out yet. The first fish to come up was a decent little crappie, which to these boys was like pulling up a piece of gold. We had a short spurt where the fish would bite but it seemed like you’d only catch fish out of a hole that was fished for the first time, these fish are the fussiest crappie I have ever met. Both boys were able to catch a few fish, one even landing a nice pike. That’s what this sport is all about. Teaching and passing on what we have learned to the generations will only support a positive experience for those to come.
The weatherman called for a nice day and was right but he was way off on the wind forecast! We set up on a recent bite that we had located with hopes the fish hadn’t moved.
The fish were there but no concentration remained. We fished round and round searching for something better. We cut in all directions but only one or two quality seeds would come from a hole.
As we got further from our initial waypoint the number of perch in the 7-9″range was unreal! Happy to be catching fish as quick as you could pull them, we posted up. The fish bit until the cold wind drove us home around 4.
While the flatfish weren’t there in numbers perch saved us. Maybe next time things will be better!
The day started off terrible. We were on the ice with two buddies and cut a ton of holes over a large area that usually produces this time of year. For the hour and a half that we were there, two of us cut while two ran under water cameras. We saw two small perch and one pike. Not what we were hoping for!
We made plans to check a few other spots depending on the foot traffic and to keep moving if it was busy. The first location was a bust so onward we went. The second stop wasn’t much better but there were a few holes between tip up fishermen. As we walked out, we knew the water was shallow but cutting shallow to deep is a good strategy so that’s what we did.
The first hole was in just over 3 FOW. Nothing. Second hole same depth, loaded with pumpkinseed. We decided to cut out a small test area. Things were looking up and there were also crappie, perch, and bluegill. The fishing was slow but most holes offered up a few fish. As we fished in circles, we found a few directions to cut in. The fish were all over but no concentration was evident.
Throughout the course of the day, we had some good runs of fish and the quality was decent. Action was constant all day as long as you never posted up in one spot for too long. All fish were high in the water column excepts the crappie. Kind of strange!
As the day faded, it was time to head for home. The wind was picking up and there was no need to get cold!