I got out to do some ice-fishing both days this weekend!
On Saturday, my friend Jay and I visited a local public pond. We fished from 8:15am to 11:45am. The fishing dropped off noticeably after 10:30am.
Using a 4mm tungsten jighead tipped with a Micro Nuggie plastic, my first fish of the day was a 13" Crappie!
I ended up catching 5 Crappies, total, and the others were all in the 10" +/- range.
I also caught at least 14 Bluegills (nothing big...up to 7.5").
Using a Swedish Pimple jigging spoon tipped with a green Micro Nuggie plastic, I landed 4 Largemouth Bass (chunky 13-inchers).
A couple bigger bass got off at the hole after some really long and excellent battles. I got to see two of those bigger ones, since the ice was clear, and both shook the hook just under the hole, or even up into the hole. I guessed one to be at at LEAST 17”, and the other one was just enormous…easily a 4lb fish, possibly 6lb range, which is pretty darn big for Iowa, especially in a public pond.
On Sunday, Jay and I braved the ice-covered roads and fished the same pond again. Overall fishing seemed just a little slower, and once again the fish seemed to noticeably hit less frequently after 10:30am. I used the same gear as on Saturday.
This time, I caught a couple tiny Bluegills before hooking my biggest Crappie of the day, another 13-incher!
I caught a total of at least 6 Crappies (including one on the jigging spoon), and the others were in that 10" range again.
I also landed at least 13 Bluegills. The bigger ones showed up under my ice-hole about 3'-5' deep over 9' of water.
I only caught 3 Largemouth Bass on Sunday, but the biggest one was a healthy 17-incher. The others were the chunky 13-inch fish.
I enjoy smoking a cigar while I am fishing. I don't inhale the smoke (at least, not on purpose), I just enjoy the flavor. Sometimes when icefishing, the enjoyment factor is marginal. When icefishing inside a pull-over portable ice-shack, even with the ventilation flaps open, the smoke can get rather painful on the eyes. Several times, it just got to be too much, and my eyes were just stinging and streaming tears, making my nose run like a faucet. What a guy will endure just to enjoy a good cigar! I smoked 2 cigars on Sunday. During the second one, I saw something large swim under the relatively clear ice. It was moving towards my ice-hole. And then it swam UP the icehole, and the MUSKRAT poked his head up and perched his front feet on the lip of the ice, facing right towards me. It was comical. After swimming around under the ice, it must have needed a few breaths of fresh air. Unfortunately, it probably got a lungful of smoke and stinging eyes for his efforts. He only stuck around for 5-10 seconds before diving back down and swimming away under the ice again.
I thought I’d share a gear review.
For the last couple of seasons, using fly-fishing reels for ice-fishing has started to become very popular. The fly reels don't coil line nearly as bad as spinning reels do, so there is less lure-spin down in the water below the ice. I’d bought the Black Betty ice-fishing fly reel, and mounted it on a used St. Croix ice rod I bought from my friend Mike G. That Black Betty reel sucks. I absolutely hated it. Even with the spool loosened as far as I could, the reel needed too much effort to reel backwards to let line out. Its an attractive reel, it just isn't for me. I will be getting rid of that reel at my earliest opportunity.
As a replacement, I bought the Ice Hopper Tight-Liner reel from Sportsman’s Direct. (I just looked, and it appears to have been taken off the website? Must be out-of-stock?) I unspooled the line off the Black Betty, and respooled all that backing and line onto the Tight Liner reel…and mounted the reel on the St. Croix rod. I put a Swedish Pimple jigging spoon on it, tipped with a green Micro Nuggie. I used it Saturday and Sunday this past weekend. Both days I caught bass on it, which all went on some amazing runs. Even the one crappie I caught on the spoon fought well!
(See the top picture of this thread to see a picture of reel, along with a bass caught on it.)
I LOVE that reel! Its exactly what I was hoping for. Fits great in the hand. To let line out, you just reel backwards. Sometimes the mono sticks on the reel (gets wedged between other line wraps, or whatever), so you have to manage the line a bit so you don’t end up reeling it backwards back onto the reel! That’s not the reel’s fault, though…it would happen to any fly reel. When a fish takes off running, you palm the reel to put some pressure on it (I had the drag set pretty light, but those bass were pretty strong.) I landed 7 chunky bass, the biggest was a 17-incher. Lost a couple larger ones (see the report above from Saturday). Also caught at least one crappie on that set-up.