By Steve Weisman
I know I sound like a broken record, but I’m going to say it again. “I love to sight fish!” Maybe I am just an overgrown, old kid and it’s my video game fix, but I am serious, I’d rather sight fish than any other type of fishing.
That’s why I was pretty grumpy last week after we received those six inches of snow. I feared the ice wouldn’t get good enough and I wouldn’t be able to get my portable shack out where I wanted to go.
However, this past week, I found six inches of good ice, and a couple of days of melting helped take care of the snow cover (along with some freezing temps at night), and I could get where I needed to go.
You know a bite is occurring, when you see 40 portable shacks in a bay, and that’s what has happened on the south side of Little Millers.
My answer to this is go really early and avoid most of the crowd, fish on the fringe away from all of the hubbub, or I strike out to find a more secluded spot. For bluegills, I am always looking for some good weeds to hold the fish. They might be standing or down on the bottom, but these fish relate to weeds.
However, that’s the hard part, striking out on your own and making sure the ice is good.
Each time I have gone, I’ve been able to catch 50-60 bluegills and end up keeping 20 or so that are 8-8½ inches in length. Not the big ones with a hump but nice all the same.
I’ve kept to the shallows, 4-6 feet of water. Water clarity is good enough that everything opens up like a big picture window beneath the ice. I always use my portable Fish Trap Pro to make it dark enough to see down. Plus, I the protection from the wind, and every once in a while, a little heat makes everything pretty cozy.
I find sight fishing to be like an educational workshop. Each time out it’s a challenge to figure out the presentation they are looking for, basically how they want the bait presented.
I always have two poles rigged with two different lures in case I want to change things up. For instance, my two go-to lures for bluegills right now have been a 1/64-ounce Clam glow red Drop Jig and a 1/32-ounce gold Dingle Drop jig.
I then tip them with either a wax worm, silver wiggler or a piece of Maki plastic. I will switch off from time to time if there is a lull in the action. Sometimes the change will make a difference.
Those darned bluegills are great teachers and show me different reactions to my bait and presentation. Sometimes they come rolling in like a freight train and just nail the bait, or they will come in so hard, they will go right on by before they can set the brake.
Sometimes several will come in at once. Then it becomes a competition as to which fish wants the bait the most. However, there are times, when they will all just back off and swim away.
Sometimes only a single fish will come into view. Sometimes they are within six inches of the bottom, and sometimes they will come through less than a foot from the bottom of the ice!
Sometimes they want a hard, tight jiggle, sometimes a subtle tight jiggle, sometimes a tiny wiggle, sometimes just still. However, I do know they do not like spinning baits. Keep the bait straight and don’t let it spin.
When they bite, don’t set the hook when the bait is in the mouth. Most likely, the fish will spit it out, and you will come back with nothing. I try to set the hook just as the end of the hook is entering the mouth.
Sometimes they won’t take the bait and the hook straight on. Instead, they will take it from the side or even from the head. No sense in setting the hook here. There is no chance of a hook-up.
As the fish enters the picture, I will try to make sure that the hook is facing towards the fish. Sometimes they come in too quickly, and I don’t get a chance to do this. So, my hope then is they will take a portion of the hook, and when I set the hook, it will slide into the upper lip.
There is so much more, and I could go on and on. However, this gives the basics for having a good sight fishing outing.
If the fish aren’t there, I will always give it a fair shot – say 10 minutes or so. If nothing happens I will move several yards. If nothing happens, I will move again. After hunting around, if I find no fish, it is time to change it up and go shallower or deeper or just plain move to another part of the bay or another bay.
Cutline: (photo by Steve Weisman) A nice batch of bluegills taken last weekend of West Okoboji.
Lots of portable shelters have appeared on the south side of Little Millers Bay. Ice should continue to thicken and allow anglers to become more mobile.