(photo submitted): The original Fish Trap paved the way for the wide variety of portable shelters made today.

Ice fishing continues to evolve

(photo by Mark Devore) (L to R) John Amick, Bill Elling and the author hold six nice trout during their trip to Lake Taneycomo.

Fishing for Taneycomo’s rainbow trout

December 5, 2014 Comments (0) Fishing Notebook

Out on the ice

By Steve Weisman

(photo by Steve Weisman): 12-inch crappie taken from Lake Minnewasta.

(photo by Steve Weisman): 12-inch crappie taken from Lake Minnewasta.

Hasn’t our weather been crazy the past few weeks. From bone-chilling cold, to snowy to well above freezing temperatures, I think we’ve seen it all.

In many places, especially on our smaller lakes, the ice is good enough for ice fishing. In other places, especially on Big Spirit, East and West Okoboji, there are definitely some suspect areas…patches of open water across West Lake.

So, I have ventured on two different lakes so far with mixed results.

The first was Lake Minnewashta last week. I fished in front of the south boat ramp and found 8-10 inches of good ice. One thing about Minnewashta, you will catch fish, lots of fish. However, you will have to battle lots of small yellow bass, bluegills, crappies and perch. BUT…on the right day at the right time and at the right place, you also have the chance to catch some nice fish.

The first day I thought I had the secret. I didn’t get there until about noon and only fished until about 2. However, I ended up with 14 nice fish: a 12-inch crappie, 3 other 9-inch crappies, an 11-inch yellow bass, 4 other 8-inch yellows, 4 decent perch pushing 9 inches and an 8-inch bluegill.

Yes, I did catch lots of little 3-4-5 inchers, but it was good action.

With the stained water, I used my Vexilar to “see” what was going on. I’ve found that tungsten jigs work great for this type of fishing. So, I chose one of Clam Pro Tackle’s pink (glow) size #14 Dingle Drop. It shows up well on the flasher without having to set the gain too high, gets to the bottom quickly, yet it fishes light and is easy to get a good cadence going. I tried wax worms and plastic, but I found a couple of silver wigglers on the tip of the hook worked best. On this day, when the line of the fish moved to the jig and went dark red, I knew that I was going to get a bite.

The second trip a couple of days later was not nearly as good: just four eight-inch perch and lots of 5-6 inch perch, bluegills, yellow bass and crappies. I fished for an hour or so and then left to check out Little Emerson Bay on West Okoboji.

I was concerned about the ice conditions on Little Emerson, but all of the holes that I drilled (all of the way out) showed anywhere from 7-9 inches of good ice. However, the ice is so clear in many places that you can actually walk along and see the weedbeds and holes in the weeds!

For that reason, I tried to find ice that had a little snow on it to break up the light. From 2-4 p.m., I saw no fish. Another angler reported seeing only half a dozen or so. He left about 4:30 and had seen a dozen by that time.

I stayed until 5 p.m., and about 4:30, I began to see some activity. However, it was only one bluegill at a time, no schools at all. The first bluegill sighting was such a shock that I changed my jiggle pattern, and it just backed away and left. The second bluegill approached while I was checking the time on my cell phone, and I felt a pull. I looked down and here was a bluegill doing everything it could to get caught. I changed the pattern, and it left!

I then caught three straight fish. Over that time, I caught three of the six bluegills that I saw. There was still time to fish, but I had a middle school choir concert that I had to get to.

Again I used the pink Dingle Drop.

My guess is cloudy days would be better and that early morning and late afternoon will be best. Of course, as the ice thickens and we get some snow on the ice, the bite should also change.

I certainly hope that this winter’s ice fishing proves to be better than a year ago!

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