(Jan. 06, 2014 - Braham, MN)...
By mid to late winter more and more bluegills and crappies show up in deeper water and can make for some easy pickin’s. They’re easy because they show up on good electronics and can usually be caught, as long you’ve got "right stuff".
Deeper water depends on what type of lake your fishing and can be as deep as twenty to thirty feet and as shallow as ten or less. There are good gill lakes here in the Midwest that really don’t have much for deep water and ten feet maybe as deep as it gets. Fish will move to the deepest water rather quickly and be there for most of the winter. They’re also the easiest to nail down because the fish only have so many options and you don’t have to cover that much water or drill that many holes to get on ’em. They’re also the ones that are most likely to be in peril this year with arrival of early ice and plenty of snow which shuts off sunlight and can kill a lake due to a lack of oxygen. The twenty to thirty footers could also be the deepest water available and might mean right out in the middle of the lake. They’re not all that tough to figure out either but with more water and more possible hangouts you may have to work a little harder to find the mother lode.
In either case finding fish is a matter of drilling some holes and getting a bait in front of a few them and seeing what will bite. It also means using power augers and being mobile. Last season I drilled almost all of my holes with the new Ion electric auger and will be doing the same again this year. The Ion cuts holes quickly and does it without the hassle of gas and the smell of exhaust. It’s also available with a six inch auger which serious panfish purists will really like. With a fish finder like the Humminbird 597ci Ice you can watch the tiniest bait drop and see if anything comes in to take a look. After cutting a hole you can drop a tiny jig like a Northland Mooska tipped with a couple of eurolarvae and watch it on the Bird and soon see if there are any fish around. The Mooska jig is small in size but drops quickly because it’s made out of tungsten which is heavier than lead and produces more feel. Fish will at least come in for a look if they are there. If you don’t see fish in ten minutes or so it might be time to move on. You may not have to move that far though and will depend on how much water you’re planning on trying to cover. If you pick up a fish or two you’ll probably want to drill some more holes in the same area. What you’ll probably find is little packs of gills and crappies will move in and you can maybe pick off one or two before they move on again. You can sit and wait for more to show or you can do some hole hopping which usually translates to more fish on the ice. Hole hoping can mean spending some time outside and when I rely on my Striker Predator insulated suit to keep me warm. Not only is it extremely warm and comfortable but it also floats which provides for some peace of mind. They also make a light pair of insulated waterproof gloves called Second Skin that help keep your hands warm (even when you’re handling fish) but still provide for some all-important feel.
Super light action rods and light line is a must for working tiny baits in deeper water and ’gills especially are all about eating tiny. That means one or two pound test line like Northland Fluorosilk and the tiniest jigs like the Mooska. Reels like the Black Betty 6061 from 13Fishing are made for handling the lightest presentations and do it without twisting t line which spinning reels can’t help but do. The 6061 resembles a fly reel which is the latest rage in panfish gear but is a whole lot more. For one thing this high-tech reel can free-spool the lightest baits, has a smooth carbon drag system, and is geared so you can reel nineteen inches of line per crank. You can match it up with a Wicked 20" super ultralight rod and you’ve got the latest and greatest in feel and function.
Icing big ’gills and crappies is pure fun and it’s all happening right now so there’s no time waste. See you on the ice.