Here’s a ice fishing report from Muskie Matt:
I was finding 5-6 inches of good clear ice with a couple inches of “white” ice in the areas that were sloppiest with slush. Other areas held that 5-6in of clear ice with another 4-5in of “white” ice or frozen slush. If you’re using a 4-wheeler be cautious but you should be ok in most areas. Our ice conditions are variable this season, 6in or less in some areas, 10in in other areas.
I put the tip-ups aside yesterday for a little panfish jigging. An affair that usually begins by drilling a bijillion holes and fishing each one looking for your quarry. Ideally air temps in the high 20′s and light wind allow for fast searching, of course I went when it was 8 degrees and wind howling pretty good making wind chills in the -5 to -10 range. Needless to say I took the one man shack with, it slows down the search process but… it’s warm! It also helped that I had an idea of where to start looking and 20 or so holes later I began to come across some crappies, two more holes and I was on them pretty good. Bad part was it took me till almost sunset and this particular lake is a “day bite”. Managed to get a good dinner for myself in 30 minutes or so, nothing huge, 10-11 inchers but damn fine eating nonetheless.
I discovered they had a preference for tiny jigs with a piece of minnow hung on it, so I began ripping my poor little crappie minnows into pieces, messy but it worked. I tried a full minnow on a bare hook under a bobber… no takers, and I tried tipping a jig with a maggot which did give up a couple fish but the chunk of minnow out-performed all.
I’d suggest starting your search over lake basin areas adjacent to weed areas they use during open water times. Crappies will usually suspend in these areas during the winter months, anywhere from 15 to 30 feet down depending on the lake being fished. Some exceptions may be lakes such as LVD where weed clumps abound across massive 12 foot or so flats areas. Then you’re looking for the “right” weed clump to fish around that particular day…
An interesting characteristic of these fish is how your presentation has to change, sometimes on a daily or even hourly basis, to get them to bite. Yesterday my bait had to be 4-5 feet off bottom and SLOWLY “waved” up n down to get a hit. Any closer to bottom and forget it, they just wouldn’t hit. Get the bait up high enough and you’d see em’ appear on the Vexilar and come up to the bait… get a hit every time that way. Modern electronics are a great help in fishing this way as it allows you to see and guage the fishes reaction to whatever you’re doing. It can be done without electronics, it’s how I started, but it’s more of a hit n miss approach in an already tricky game.
Get more ice fishing tips and reports by listening to the RFRG internet radio show tonight at 7pm. Also stop by the Chicago Muskie Show at Harper College in Palentine, IL this coming weekend. Visit with us and Muskie Matt at the Wild Eagle Lodge booth.