With a slow spring warm up, seeing 55 on the graph was a welcomed surprise. From the trips that we have had in the boat so far this spring, nothing else has matched up or even come close. Even though the water was warm, finding the fish was difficult. We fished every bit of water that we have located fish at and nothing. Not even a bite. Over the course of a few hours, the water warmed only slightly. Not having much for luck, we packed up and headed elsewhere.
Arriving at our destination, we headed towards the shallows working slowly in hoping to stumble on the fish and they moved in. There was not much happening but we kept at it. Eventually, we found some bluegills in 4-5 feet of water. They were not present in numbers but the action was more than welcomed. As we kept tip toeing in shallow, a few crappie were busting at the surface. We sat still for a bit and then got to catching. The fish were skittish in the clear, shallow water we we did our best to minimize movement and sound.
The day wasn’t spectacular but it was good to see things actually heading in the right direction!
The plan for the day was to locate some late ice panfish. We were on a bay that usually provides some great fishing but has been dead all winter. Getting on the water around sunrise was the plan as reports said the shores were not super solid.
We made it on the ice and started off with a plan of cutting shallow and working deep. While my buddy cut ahead, I followed using my underwater camera. Sure I was looking for fish, but weed composition was also being kept track of. With the number of bass and pike moving in for the spawn, dense weeds would be necessary for our target species.
It took a while to find some fish but for the rest of the day, the area that we fish was small. Even though the target for the day was crappie and pumpkinseed, white perch were the most common species. Big ones too!
Picking at the panfish between runs of perch was fun and they bit well until about 3. At that point, everything shut down. For about an hour, we walked in every direction trying to locate where they moved to. They were no where to be found so we decided to pack it up for the day and come back early in the morning for round two.
With work coming at the end of the day, I was hopeful that the fish would bite so I could head in content.
On the ice early enough for a morning bite in the dark, I was surprised that nothing bit other than small perch and a few pumpkinseed. As the sun came up, the fish became more active. Up until about the time that I could sight fish, the bite was steady. They were coming in and not messing around.
As the sun came up, I was forced to start moving around to stay on the fish. There didn’t seem to be a concentration anywhere but each hole held a few. With as cold as it was, it was tough to stay outside so hole hopping with my shack was the best bet. With a little breeze in the air, I was happy to be warm inside!
Throughout the course of the day, I didn’t see a single crappie but the number of bass cruising around was wild. They were everywhere and being able to avoid them was probably the biggest benefit to sight fishing! As the end of the day drew closer and closer for me, the bite started to pick up. The quality of fish also went up. While it was bittersweet to have to leave before dark and as the fish were biting, making money is also a good thing to focus on from time to time!
I was on the water early in hopes of finding that the crappie were biting at daylight. With a big storm rolling in later in the day, the odds seemed to be in my favor. With holes punched in the dark, I was really for some action. The sun was coming up and I knew that I was in a spot that the crappie were using.
The bite started slow and I found that most of the active fish were bluegill. I sat in one hole that was constantly flooded with fish. The sight fishing was tough until the sun was bright enough to shed some light under the ice. Using my camera, I found that there were small and medium crappie but they couldn’t compete with their competition. After 2 hours in the hole, I had caught a ton of bluegill, some big perch, and a bass.
Although I gave up my morning to a spot that I had been fishing for a while, I had intended to dedicate the rest of the day to exploring new parts of Lapham’s Bay. Using Navionics and Google maps, I highlighted a few locations that I thought looked ideal to funnel fish.
The walk seemed long as the snow at this point was coming down so hard that I couldn’t see across the bay. Arriving at a slowly sloping point coming up into a shallow flat, I started punching my holes on the deep end. I figured that the bite would get better the shallower that I got.
As expected, I found a sandy slope leading up to some good looking milfoil starting in 6 feet of water. Again I found plentiful amounts of bluegill and perch but no crappie. At this point in the day, I had pretty much stopped fishing and was spending all my time searching with my camera. The fish were relating to weeds and were not scared of the camera.
After working through a large section of new water, I decided that getting on the road before conditions got much worse.
After getting out of work at 8 am, I made the snowy drive to my destination. While I had already missed the morning perch bite, I was determined to figure out a way to pick at a few mid day. After grabbing fatheads and rigging up several rods with a variety of presentations, I trudged through 8″ of snow to get over deep water.
The snow was still flying and for the first hour, the fish weren’t biting. I tried big, small, flashy, and dead sticking. Nothing seemed to work any better than old faithful; the drop shot rig. While I didn’t pick many fish, the ones that I brought topside were quality. After about 3 hours of slow going, I decided to change up my target species and go shallow for bluegill and pumpkinseed.
When I got shallow, the snow was quite a bit deeper due to the wind that was blowing it all in. I spread my holes wide over a weedbed with intentions of punching more when I found the fish. It seemed to take quite a while to find any concentration of fish. Two or three out of one hole was good.
Around 2, the roads had worsened significantly and I contemplated heading home. As a long shot, I said one more set of holes that paralleled the weed edge. This is where I found the best size class, as well as the best numbers. They were aggressive charging up 3 or 4 feet my intercept my dropping jig.
By the end of the day I had pulled 5 bluegill that were 11″ as well as many in the 9-10.5″ range. Can’t complain with a day like that!
After a few days at work, it was good to get back out on the water and yank on some fish. I started the day chasing deep water perch. They were schooled up following weed edges in 25’+. Most of the fish I caught were in 31 FOW and aggressive. It didn’t seem to matter how you worked your jig. If there was a fish, it bit! At times I had schools 10 feet thick! The only think that spooked them was cutting holes. It didn’t take long to realize that cutting one hole at a time was the way to go. Pretty good way to start the morning!
After the perch shut off around 9:30, I headed to some nearby weeds and started looking for the bluegill. In the mix I also found some pumpkinseed,pickerel, and largemouth. The fish were cruising above the weeds all day which was strange. Usually they hunker down for the mid part of the day and make me work for them!
Work for the week starts tomorrow but that is still plenty of time for a great day trip with a few buddies. We took our time getting on the ice because of the limited afternoon bite yesterday and the lack of sleep from last nights trout trip. This move worked out in our favor. Not only did we eat a good breakfast but the fish were just starting to bite when we got going.
For 4 hours, I sat in one hole with constant action the entire time. I was fishing in 5.8 feet of water but never went more than 3 feet down. The majority of the fish I caught were within 2 feet of the surface. The larger crappie were within only inches of the surface. I was running a gold Drop Jig from Clam Pro Tackle with a pink Jamei from Maki Plastics and the fish were inhaling it. While the bluegill came in and closely inspected it, the crappie just swam right through without blinking. It was pretty exciting.
I ended up heading home with a limit of crappie and some great memories shared with friends. Sunday seems so far away!