Monday, January 28, 2013

Weekend Ice-Fishing Report - January 26-27, 2013

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.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Early 2013 Ice Fishing - Trip #2

Ice-fished some brushpiles on a local reservoir on Saturday, January 5th.  My buddy Jay joined me, as well as our friend Chris and his son Nathan, and another friend Jim.  The ice was 9" of  solid, clear ice, with just a dusting of snow on top in most places, and bare ice on the rest.

A Conservation Officer checked up on us, which was nice to see.  He visited for awhile, hoping to see us catch something.  We'd fished for over an hour before he arrived, and drilled plenty of holes over several brushpiles, but hadn't even SEEN a fish yet!  I finally caught a Largemouth Bass before the Officer left us.

Jim was the last to arrive, soon after the Officer left, and located a brushpile that hadn't been fished yet this season (no old holes over the top of it), and he started catching fish.  He called us over.  He caught more fish. I caught a few Crappies up to 11", another bass, and a bluegill  here.  Then the action died.
Black Crappie

White Crappie

We drilled more holes around that brushpile, but no more fish were located.  Eventually, Jim, Chris and Nathan left.

Jay  covered a large area with his electronics, and located another brushpile that hadn't been fished yet.  We were on fish immediately.  I caught another crappie or two, a couple more bass, and lost a nicer bass just under the ice when it tangled in my transducer cable.  The action here ended abruptly, just after both Jay and I had some huge 18"-2' of solid red (fish) show up, then disappear.  Whatever it was spooked the other fish away.  We couldn't find a single fish after that.

It was odd how few fish were on these brushpiles.  Last ice-season, the fish were stacked on them.

I used only jigging spoons tipped with ice-fishing plastics (no live bait), and ended up with 7 Crappies in all, plus the 4 Largemouth Bass and 1 Bluegill.  It was fun, but considering how much time we spent, the catching rate was not good at all.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year's Day - 2013

Last weekend, I could have gone ice-fishing.  I had the time, my gear was ready...I just simply chose not to. Very weird!

But I did go ice-fishing yesterday (New Year's Day).  I visited a public pond in town that I had not ice-fished before.  I had fly-fished it during open water, and thought I knew where the fish would be holding.  I was wrong.  Since I marked no fish at the first 5 spots I tried (4'-7' deep), I decided the fish must be in the deeper water.

Turned out the fish were scattered in small groups or singles, and constantly on the move.  They were in 10'-14' of water.

I drew a nice fish in using a jigging spoon, but it just followed the spoon up and down without striking.  I switched to a tungsten jig tipped with a Gulp! Waxworm.  Live waxworms and maggots are great ice-fishing bait, but over the last couple of years, I've determined to weed myself off the crutch of using live bait, even during ice-fishing.  I've discovered live bait isn't necessary, even during the tough conditions of winter.

I fished about 4.5 hours, and most of the time was spent waiting for the next group of fish to show up.  If they didn't show up for 10-15 minutes, I would move to another location.  I ended up landing at least 14 Bluegills (biggest I measured was a fat 8-incher, and all were really close to that length).

I also caught one crappie, which was cool, because I'd just caught one crappie during the open-water season here...and supposedly they were never stocked here.  I also caught a largemouth bass of about 12", and lost another just below the hole that looked considerably larger.

I discovered that releasing a fish back into the hole would immediately make the small group of fish beneath my ice-hole disappear.  I could NEVER catch more than one fish from any group of fish.  So, one time I tried just putting the landed fish on the ice until the group moved away, to see if it made a difference.  That time, I caught about 6 fish from the group before it moved on.

There were a LOT of Canadian Geese flying around most of the morning!

Also, the ice was a very safe 7" thick everywhere I measured.  Air temp started out in the morning at around 5 degrees Fahrenheit, and was supposed to reach 17 degrees F (I never checked to verify that).