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 had a few hours to kill one Saturday so I decided to go check on the crappies in a pond that has had our numbers lately. The weather was cold with a high of the day reaching 9 above but with the wind chill it was hovering right around zero. I have had one good day in search of crappies on this pond, which was last winter right around this time of the year so my hopes were up.
I made my way out to a point and drilled out my grid of holes working from 8 feet of water all the way out to 20. I knew that the fish were going to be mostly dormant but I was hoping by covering a lot of water I would be able to find them balled up somewhere. The pond has very little shoreline contour and the spot I chose was one of the only points that had a sharp break with weeds on the inside falling off into an inside turn of the deep basin. It’s didn’t take long to mark some fish on my FLX-28 Vexilar released this year.
I started deep and began picking up mostly Yellow Perch. I know that the crappie run with the pumkinseed in this pond so once I found them I was hoping I would find the crappie. Usually the target depth is 18 feet but all I was find in the deeper water was perch. I cut a new grid of holes along the shoreline headed towards a natural pinch point working along the edge of the weed bed. The closer I got to the pinch point the more pumkinseeds I was catching, I knew that I had to be getting close. I drilled and drilled and fished using my T7 custom rod and my Maki Plastics for four hours and was never able to find the crappie. Sometimes you get them and sometimes you don’t, every venture out is still a learning experience.
Having been tied up with other responsibilities for the past two weekends and not able to fish I was excited to get back on the ice. I decided to make a day trip to a spot 2 hours away. We arrived at our location with decent conditions. The mercury was finally above zero for the first time in five days, and the wind at this point wasn’t an issue. I loaded my shack and made the 80 yard walk to where I would be fishing for the day.
I drilled out an area, shallow to deep. It’s always a good idea to cut your holes first thing, one it will save you time later and two, it will spook the fish only once if the fish are sensitive to sound. I started fishing the deep hole to begin with. The vex was marking fish in 16 feet of water all through the water column. First drop produced a small crappie, second drop, small crappie. One thing that I have noticed about this spot is that these fish school in relation to size most of the time. If you’re catching small fish you’re in a nursery school of fish. I made a move to the next hole working my way out of the deeper water up towards the shallower shelf. Right off the bat I hooked into a heavier fish, bass. OK; well now I know the bass are set up waiting for those small crappie to make a mistake, I made another move, this time more drastic. I found ten feet of water, fish were stacked on the bottom four feet. First drop was a beautiful 13″ crappie. Next few fish were all decent in size, bigger than before. We continued to work the 10 foot range and were able to produce several decent fish through out the course of the next few hours.
As the morning went on the wind picked up and it became difficult to fish outside of our shacks. As the sun went higher the fish slid shallower. This is something we have noticed before while fishing setbacks off the main river. The fish tend to seek out more cover even if it means going shallower when deep holes are present. Large weed flats are great places to find active fish during high light conditions. Another important thing to note was that the fish were not tolerating a presentation for long. I was constantly changing my jigging cadence and my Maki Plastic to keep the fish interested. These plastics teamed with a Bentley gold colored tungsten jig worked well for both the deep and shallow water applications we used today.
All in all it was a good day, unfortunately I wasn’t able to “fish” the way I wanted to as was confined to my shack for comfort. It was a good day learning a few new tricks and applying some older ones to be successful.