Anyone that enjoys the outdoors knows the importance of lending a helping hand to expose people to the world around them. Both of us, along with several of our buddies, had the opportunity to assist Vermont Fish & Wildlife at their “Free Ice Fishing Day” kids clinic that was held at Lake Elmore. We were excited for the opportunity and were on the ice around daylight to help set up for the event.
After setting up numerous stations, we got the augers running and began punching holes for the jigging and tip up demos. As the 10am start time approached, everyone involved put the finishing touches on their stations and we all got a rundown on how things were expected to work.
Our station took a while for much traffic to show up as the anglers needed to visit several stations before grabbing a rod to attempt to catch their own fish. Once people started coming, it took a little over 4 hours before things began to slow down!
One of the most best parts of the day was seeing that even though it was a kids clinic, many adults were were just as involved with trying to learn how to fish. We had groups from as far as Connecticut come for the experience!
As for the quality of fishing, it was tough catching fish that were big enough to cook up at the fish frying station. We only caught a few keeper perch and one pike all day. Fortunately, the numbers of smaller perch were very high and most participants were able to catch at least a fish or two.
Weather-wise, it was a beautiful day and being part of a well run ice fishing event made us feel very fortunate. We can’t wait to help with future events!
It was an interesting day to say the least. After a short morning of trolling boards, I headed to Champlain for some crappie, Launching my boat around 11 am, things were as usual. I had my gear loaded, unhitched, and had my rope clipped on to the bow with the excess rope secured in my tailgate ready to back in. Everything went as planned until I hit the water. As my boat started to float, I heard a loud pop and slowly watched my boat float away deeper and deeper into a dense mat of weeds.
Now in my defense, I hate swimming. I don’t go unless it is completely necessary. I actually contemplated waiting for another boat to come in to rescue me. I though for probably longer than most would have before stripping down and taking a plunge into the nastiest water I have every been in. It took me several tries to get in the boat but I made it work. It was a lot harder than I would have imagined! I spent the next few hours in my underwear drying off which lead to a wicked sunburn on my pasty legs.
Fortunately, after my hardships of the day, the fish were willing to bite. I ended up putting together a limit of nice fish over the next few hours with many throwbacks and some nice bass to boot. There wasn’t any color the fish would hit other than white. All my fish were caught on “Live” Baby Shad by Lake Fork Trophy Lures and the crank bait was dead. With the warm water, it had to be moving slow.
Not having a plan on where to go makes leaving in the morning tough. Regardless, I hitched up and headed. I would decide on the way. Coming up with a game plan, I decided that crappie were going to be the target for the day.
Arriving at my destination, the water looked good and so did the weather forecast. I made my way to my starting waypoint and got to casting. I went fishless for about an hour even though I was seeing bluegills on beds. I figured that the pumpkinseed here would be easier to catch so I switched up locations and found a secluded hump with about a foot of water covering it.
The fishing started slow. With no breeze, the fish were spooky and I only caught them on long casts. As the wind started to pick up so did the fishing. I was able to make short casts and I caught them on just about every lily pad around. I felt like I had caught the majority of fish on the hump so I left in search of my original target; crappie.
I resumed my pattern of working taller weeds in deeper water and any structure I could see. Still nothing. The fishing slowed down all together other than a few small pike and bass. I thought I was going to get skunked!
I figured if nothing else, I would catch a few more pumpkinseed and call it a day so I headed back to the hump. A few seeds into the pass I noticed a large dark spot moving towards me. I casted at it and pulled the first crappie of the day. Before I knew it though, they were gone.
Knowing that they were there made things more interesting though. I figured now that they cruising the weed edge feeding. While the wind made locating the weed edge from a distance difficult, having the milfoil almost at the surface helped a bit. On my first weedline cast, I caught another crappie. Then another. Then another. Soon I was making sense of what the fish were actually doing. While the outer weed edge was good, the pockets in the weeds were also very productive.
After two hours of catching crappie, I needed to get going to make it home for work. I caught 38 keeper sized crappie that were all released and a pile of bluegill and pumpkinseed on this weed edge/pocket pattern.
A well and long planned trip for pike turned out to be a hellish day on the ice. Although the temperatures were suppose to be warm the 30 mph winds would make things interesting. Arriving on the ice with a bucket of bait, we opened up holes from the day before and started setting traps in about 5 feet of water.
Quickly, we learned that the “warm” temperatures weren’t warm and the breeze cut right through all clothing. It was so cold that for the first time since Minnesota back in December, I felt the need to wear gloves and my balaclava!
Luckily, the action came in 2-4 fish bursts so we got time to warm up in the truck between sessions. Because of the cold, many of the fish that we caught never came out of the water. Of all the fish that we caught, I took one medium sized fish home as I have never tried a pike.
Highlight of the day started with a few pieces of bacon to grease the pan for the venison that was to follow. Nothing like a hot meal on a cold day!
After spending the morning alone searching some bays on Lake Champlain that I don’t fish much, I made my way to fish with my buddy Jamie on the southern part of the lake. We had hopes of catching the evening bite for some crappie in deep water.
With a few tip ups soaking, the jigging bite was decent. The tip ups kept us quite busy but not with hook ups. Many of the flags were from the bait getting knocked. Many of the fish that were marking on the graph weren’t willing to bite. It was immediately apparent whether or not a fish would bite though. The bites were hard and most of the time came in short bursts of 3 or 4 fish. Using heavy jigs were important to speed fishing that is requited for these roaming crappie.
I fished with my buddy Jamie and a group of 6 guys today. Mainly they wanted to set up tip ups so the morning bite was consumed with drilling and setting an ample number of traps across the lake. Although it was a nice day. A slight breeze in the air kept it from being warm.
The bite wasn’t hot but a few quality fish made the day. The highlight of the day was a 17-3/4″ crappie that weighed 2 pounds 13 ounces. One of the guys out there with us caught it on a tip up with a medium shiner. When approved, it will enter the record books at number 3.
Other than a slow but steady bite on the tip ups, jigging produced a few fish throughout the day but never any heavy runs. As evening approached, I was gathering up the last small cluster of tip ups that were out by myself. With four left on the ice, one fired and started screaming line. After a few minute battle, I had a 30 something inch pike topside. After getting someone for a picture, I released the fish and finished picking up.
A cold day warrants spending the day in a shelter. For this day, four of us sat in my Clam Big Foot XL4000T. We had a spread of tip ups out and the action was pretty good. There were loads of perch around and they were willing to bite. Mainly we were running fatheads but we also had medium shiners on a few in case any larger fish went by. For the most part, our action was steady for about two hours. After that, things slowed up pretty well and the cold really had us sticking to the shelter. It wasn’t taking long for the holes to freeze up solid enough so that we had trouble busting them free. After a few hours of very slow fishing and cold weather, we packed up out gear and went out bite a buffet. The fish in the tank had us wondering what they were biting on!
I spent the day filming tip up fishing pickerel for Tom Gruenwald Outdoors. With an odd ball target like pickerel, there were many options on where we could go but what better than Lake Champlain. Having the right to put out 15 tip ups per person greatly increased our odds. As it turned out, we couldn’t get that many out! As we set up our first tip up, we guessed how long it would take for our first flag to pop. Jamie guessed six and I guessed seven. It was five, so neither of us were right but for the remainder of the day we had steady action.
We caught several pike and plenty of pickerel. During some of the downtime we jigged up panfish. As the sun started to set, we were told that there was plenty of footage and we could pick up. After I picked up the first two tip ups I saw that the third one was bumping the hole. I quickly snagged it up and soon landed my biggest pike ever on camera. It went 36″ and unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of it yet. The camera man snapped a photo for me but hasn’t had time yet to send a copy to me. When it comes I will post it up.
I fished with a buddy today at a spot that I usually stay away from because of the trek in. With hopes of suspending crappie and some pike on tip ups, the walk in wasn’t so bad!
The action started off with a pickerel before we got our spread of flags out. With short bursts throughout the day, We both stayed warm chasing the action down. We both caught some decent pike, pickerel, and bass but nothing overly large. The crappie on the other hand were almost non-existent. Mainly in the deep water were bluegill, pumpkinseed, bullhead and perch. Can’t forget about the mudpuppy too!
It seemed like the pickerel were in less than 7 FOW, the pike were 7-12′ and the bass were deeper. As the sun started to set the cold breeze really sunk in and forced us to pack up and head for home.
With the crazy weather that was plaguing Minnesota during our trip, our equipment took a beating. Most nights, we had to pull out all of our jigs to prevent rust and set up our shacks so that they could dry out and not just be a block of ice on the porch. At times our cabin was quite stuffed. Fortunately, the pellet stove kept the front end of our house at a comfortable 82!
Finding fish on Mille Lacs wasn’t a problem. It was the catching that has us stumped. We spent a great deal of time just trying to put some fish on the ice so we could get a pattern of what they were feeding on. After 6 days on the ice, we finally found a jig/plastic combo that worked somewhat consistently. We ran a white Clam Pro Tackle “Epoxy Drop” with a pinched off tail of a motor oil “Stoni” from Maki Plastics. While this caught some fish it certainly wouldn’t catch them all. They were beyond picky. Many fish would come in, put the jig right on their eye, and then swim along with it touching the entire length of their body. It was frustrating beyond belief! While out there we thought of several factors of why the fish were so hard to catch. The obvious factors were the severe cold temperatures, full moon, and decaying weeds. Another factor that seemed to frustrate us more than anything were the abundance of tiny yellow perch.
One afternoon while we were attempting to catch some fish, we set up a few tip ups for pike. Shortly after getting them out the first flag popped. About a minute later, Andy pulled a nice pike through the hole. Because of the freezing cold and wind, we didn’t measure it but we figured it was in the high 30″s around 12 pounds. During our stay, we saw numerous pike of trophy size both looking down the hole sight fishing and on the camera.
Having an underwater camera was a huge factor in locating effective patches of weeds and fish. While cabbage was abundant, it seemed that the crappie and bluegills were more loyal towards the sparse patches of dense milfoil.