As we all get older our priorities seem to shift, we strive to order our lives in the best way we know how. Allowing our children to have the opportunity to love the outdoors and it’s offerings has moved to the top of the list for us. We were able to get Bobby’s son Henry on the ice for the first time this past weekend and it was truly a special moment for both father and son.
The day was set aside as a relaxed family day with most of our close friends. Fishing was low key as it was not the number one priority. We set up a few tip ups on a local inland lake, we cooked some food and just enjoyed each others company. Henry made it longer than we expected, lasting an hour and a half on his first ice fishing adventure. The fishing techniques was simple, “grab the line a run Henry” seemed to bring a few fish out of the hole. The look of pure enjoyment on Henry’s face after the first fish came through the hole was enough to make this trip a success.
It is so important to get our youth out of the house and experience the outdoors. Society is changing every day and our children have lost the experiences we were all so fond of growing up. If you get the chance please give a youth the chance to love the outdoors as we all do. They’re growing up fast with the use of technology, please try to put a Vexilar in front of them instead of them in front of an Xbox.
Our long and drawn out early ice this season has put a damper on our night trips but we finally made it out for a few hours last week. Ice conditions were good with almost a foot of ice as we scouted an area to set up for the evening. It’s usually in your best interest to doing a little bit of scouting before you land on a spot for the night, especially if your fishing a new body of water or if the fish your after are difficult to pattern.
We cut a string of holes an hour or so before dark. We focused our attention a few different points of natural structure. This particular basin lake had a few small weed covered humps protruding out of relatively deep water. We started our line of holes on and around the hump in an attempt to locate fish. After fishing through the holes, we decided to cut along the weed edge on the first major contour break. It didn’t take long for us to hit a hole with with active crappie in it. After we iced our first fish, we decided that was enough for us to set up the Clam hub and our Hydro Glow fishing light for the night.
There were some active fish in the area as we were able to hook into them right off the bat. The fish were coming through in waves, maybe five to six at a time right near the bottom. Most times we find them suspending just above the weeds but that’s the beauty of having a fish finder. Adjusting to the bite is much less troublesome when you can see where the fish are rather than guessing.
The fish bit pretty consistently until 7:15 but we stuck it out until 8:15 in case things changed. They didn’t so we headed home and packed up for the next morning!
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 trip for the day would be a quick but early one. My plan was to arrive to the lake and have my holes drilled by 6am in an effort to capitalize on and early morning perch bite. The perch that swim in this particular body of water are typically that of the larger, “jumbo” variety and the best best has always been the first hour of light. I made it to my coordinates a little after 6 and talked briefly to a fellow fishermen as I cut about 8 holes. The bite hadn’t started yet according to the voice coming from the shanty so I was relieved that I hadn’t missed it.
I fished my first hole without a mark on the Vexilar and then moved to the second. As soon as the transducer settled in the hole, I could see there were a few stacked beneath me. The perch in this lake are notorious for non-stop movement when they’re feeding. If you’re able to catch more than 3 out of a hole you’ve done good. The best method we’ve used is the leap frog method the chase the school, but i’m without a fishing partner so that wouldn’t work. This year, for some reason the fish seemed to be staying put, meaning they were in the exact same holes for a better part of a month. Because of this, a nice area had been all plowed out for decent fishing conditions. I quickly caught 8 nice jumbo perch and was now on my third hole as were a few old timers. The guys that plowed the area out a few days prior pulled up and asked me how the fishing was. I replied with “they’re just starting to turn on now”. Well once that was said they decided they needed to make some more room for themselves to fish so they began plowing more of the area out. The fish were gone once that plow hit the ice.
I fished through the rest of my holes without marking any decent sized fish and picked up my auger to venture away from the plowed area. The fish had vacated the area completely. It’s amazing how noise on the ice can impact fish in 35 feet of water, but if I had a plow blade being dropped in my house i’d probably leave too! Oh well, it was good while it lasted.
After a successful jigging new waters, we decided to test out the night time crappie bite. As many of your probably already know crappie can often be great night time feeders. Most fishermen choose to fish at night using some sort of illumination, anything from a lantern to a car headlight. For a few years now we have been fishing for crappie and trout at night use the Hydroglow Fishing Light. The Hydro Glow illuminates by using Green LED’s which are less abrasive to the fish and their feeding attitude.
We cut three holes, put the light in the middle hole and shacked up. As you can see in the pictures below the light really illuminates the ice and the water underneath it. It didn’t take long for the light to begin attracting bait-fish and crappie. Dylan hooked into a crappie within the first 10 minutes of the light being deployed. Night fishing requires a lot of patience. The fish typically are cruising at night searching out an easy meal. The longer you can stay in a hole with fish nearby the better chance you will have of putting a few topside. We fished them the same as we would during the day. Small jigs tipped with Maki Plastics and spikes.
The area we were fishing didn’t have much for weeds or any other kind of structure. When you would mark a fish on the bottom they were usually pretty easy to entice them into biting. We were able to ice a decent number of crappie with a few bluegill and perch mixed in a matter of a few hours. Not a bad first trip for a new spot.
As a new year started, we decided to embark on a new adventure. As outdoorsmen, the two of us are constantly trying to learn and expand our knowledge. For a few years now we have been talking about Walleye. We’ve done our work in the spring, summer, and fall months to consistently locate decent numbers of fish but have yet to dial them in the through the ice.
The first body of water we hit was one that we spent some time on with a buddy who knows how to catch walleye. Through several trips we located located humps, deep holes and other subtleties that might hold fish come ice-up. With that knowledge and a few tips from our local walleye “professor”, we plotted a course for an early morning walleye bite. Arriving to the water well before daylight, darkness and excitement filled the air.
If you haven’t looked into the Navionics app for your mobile device you should. By using this app we were able to input coordinates which would take us directly to a small hump/ledge as our destination. We drilled holes surrounding the structure hoping to catch fish as they slid up down and around the structure to feed. Our presentation was nothing special. We used tip ups with large shiners staggered in depth within a few feet of the bottom. We set from 11 feet of water out into the mid 20’s hoping to cover as much water and as many walleye locations as possible.
We were maybe halfway through our set as the first flag went off. After a brief struggle, the first fish head of the new year filled the hole and Dylan was holding a beautiful 21 inch chunky walleye. Getting that first fish on the ice sure did feel good. Something totally new to us and we didn’t even have lines in the water for 10 minutes! While still celebrating the success, Bobby and a close friend of D&B Mark, both landed a nice walleye each within 15 minutes of Dylan icing the first. Boy it sure was shaping up to be a good day!
As the day progressed the fish seemed to slide into the deeper water as did our baits! The majority of our morning flags came between 15-20 while mid day flags were mainly between 22-28 FOW. The bite slowed as the day wore on but we were having action just about ever half hour minus the constant pestering from the perch.
Around 1, we had to start heading home as we had run out of bait and were pulling unbaited traps from their holes. We released a bunch of nice walleye and took home some slabber perch. It was a great start to the new year and I’d say we have the confidence to run this pattern elsewhere that we explored this past summer!
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!
With a late winter storm hitting the area for the second half of the weekend I decided to journey to a bay I had only fished once this season with hopes that the crappie and sunnies had gathered for their pre-spawn ritual. I picked my buddy up and we headed out no knowing what to expect. The weather has finally broke out of it’s freezing cold spell which it seemed like we were in all winter and I knew it was only a matter of time that things started to heat up, no pun intended.
We arrived to the bay and was greeted by a good friend that had been fishing for a few hours already and the prognosis didn’t look good. The fish seemed to be scattered, being a large bay we had our work cut out for us. After talking with my buddy we made our way to one of my waypoints and began to drill. After working through the first series of holes and only managing four keeper perch and a bass we headed to another waypoint in hopes to find a few more fish. As we were getting close I realized that my mark was smack dab in the middle of about 30 tip-ups. I approached the fellow fishermen and asked if they minded if I fished around their set-up, like most Vermonters they didn’t mind and after a few short stories I began to drill the area out. With a lot of time left in the day I had decided that if we didn’t stumble upon the fish quick we were going to make a big move down to a bay that I had fished a few more times this season. I worked this set of holes without marking a fish, I knew this fish were around but time is everything when you don’t have a lot of it, especially to fish so we packed up and headed out.
The second stop would prove to be worth the trip. We met a few buddies out there who had found some fish, all the credit goes to these guys. The area was all drilled out so we had our greeting and got to work. The crappie had moved into the area within the past few weeks and they were thick. I have actually never seen it like this in this bay. This particular bay had very thick weeds at the beginning of the ice season, they had now died of for the most part and the fish were cruising the tops of them, and when I say cruising, I mean cruising. The fish were on the move and it was to our advantage to have a few of us there to stay with them. The good bite lasted for a solid hour or so and then turned into a slow pick. It was a great time with good friends and as it would turn out, a great way to end my season on the ice. It was time to head home, pack the ice gear away, and get tied up for spring walleye and crappie, till next time…….
Saturday Febuary 8th brought us to round 3 of the Vermont Sportsman Hardwater Tounament Series at Mallets Bay on Lake Champlain. Conditions weren’t ideal at all, with temps in the teens and a wind chill around zero. Besides the weather, the bay was going to present it’s own challenges. The portion of Mallets Bay where this event was held, had ample room for fishermen to move around and fish plenty of water, but the fish seemed to be located on one particular weed bed which meant the fishing was going to be close quarters.
At 6 am, we were given the go ahead to start drilling holes and use our electronics but no lines in the water until 6:30. Most of the 36 fishermen all headed for that one weed bed and started drilling their holes. In hind sight, I think we drilled all the fish out of that area, as we started fishing the action was slow. Those that made slight adjustments in location were able to stumble upon the larger groups of fish that had been drilled out at first light. Dylan made a slight but significant move east and was able to connect on nice crappie that ultimately won him big fish for the day. Funny part was it was the same hole that his crappie came from yesterday! The bite was tough to say the least for the better part of the day. The fish were scattered and easily spooked when we would punch a few new holes.
Towards the end of the day, Dylan figured out that the crappie were suspending about half way down the water column and they were cruising, which means you didn’t always mark them on your electronics. Jigging at four feet would often bring a cruising crappie in and make them bite. This was a major adjustment made, as we had been fishing in the weeds for the better part of the event.
At the weigh-in Dylan checked in his 6 fish limit with two seeds, two crappie, one bluegill, and a perch giving him a weight of 3.68 pounds and good enough for first place along with his big fish prize. Bobby struggled all day to say the least not catching any crappies and weighing in a limit of seeds and dink perch for a weight of 1.78 lbs. At the end of the day, the win for Dylan was a major boost in the points moving him up to first place from 6th. Bobby’s weight caused his to drop a few positions down to 6th from third but he’s still in the hunt. The final points event for the season will take place at Laphams Bay in Shoreham on Febuary 22nd. It’s going to be a shoot out!
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.