Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cold Water Panfish

A few years ago we would have never thought about heading out to fish a lake in January. At most it would have been a comical gesture. Lately however, we have developed techniques that have consistently produced fish. As the water temperature has begun to drop we have adjusted our techniques in order to catch the fish. In late November we began fishing for crappie with minnows suspended under floats. We fished Rocky Fork Lake which we knew to have a marina that spanned several acres (10 at least) of the lake. We each use ultra-light set ups spooled with 4 pound test, and a typical bass sized spinning reel on a 6-7 foot rod spooled with 8-10 pound test. We use a simple rig consisting of a knot, bead, float, split shot, and small aberdeen hook, typically a size 6. We fished from 6 to 20 feet of water, sliding our knot up or down after an hour without a bite. The bites were few and far between, we'd catch a fish once every 45 minutes or so.

Two Ultra Lights Tightlined
In the middle of December, on my Christmas break I ventured to Bass Pro Shops to look at what they had to offer in ice fishing lures. I strolled from one isle to the next and found a few jigs in one isle, and a couple small spoons in another. I bought what they had to offer at the time, which happened to be a few Glitter Glow Moon Jigs, a variety of small spoons, and some small gulp alive products to tip my jigs and spoons with. With my newly purchased lures I set out to the lake one weekend. On the way there I grabbed a few dozen minnows and some wax worms. I quickly rigged two ultra-light set ups with moon jigs, one tipped with a wax worm and the other with a minnow hooked through its lips. I dropped the minnow rod to the bottom and reeled up a foot or two and then sat the rod down on the dock. Watching the tip for any movements that would indicate a fish rather than my minnow struggling.
With my second pole I tipped the moon jig with a wax worm and quickly dropped it to the bottom. I then pulled up a few inches of line with my order to feel every little nibble. I then proceeded to pull the jig off of bottom 4 or so feet. I then opened my bail and dropped the jig back to the bottom. I repeated the process several times until I got a bite. While paying close attention to my second pole as the minnow erratically bounced my rod tip.

Glitter Glow Moon Jig and Anise Bomb
When the water temperatures are in the mid 30's, bites are really hard to detect. In order to catch the most fish I try to use both feel and sight to detect bites. This means pinching my line between my thumb and index finger to increase the amount of vibrations I can feel, and by watching my line to determine when a fish has put slack in my line when the line should be tight. To increase visibility of my line, I have switched to orange colored Trilene Sensation 4lb test. I have on several occasions dropped my jig a few feet to notice that my line has stopped sinking, I know that I haven't hit bottom, therefore a fish must have my jig. Most of the time this is the case. Even when you watch your other pole as it lies on the dock, you can see the line slack, or move one direction or the other. Not all bites are the typical peck, peck or thump that you feel during the warmer months.

Ultra Lights Spooled with 4lb Orange Trilene Sensation

When things get really slow, or cold, I set both of my poles on the dock. Occasionally picking one up to twitch it a couple times. I then place it back on the dock and wait for bites. Once a bite is detected I do one of two things; the first is if the rod is bouncing like the fish is hooked, I simply set the hook and begin reeling. We call these bites, "No-Doubters" because there is no doubt that the fish has your bait. Secondly if the rod is bouncing like your getting pecked at, I'll slowly drop the rod tip and watch my line. If the line sinks, the fish doesn't have your bait. If your line goes slack, then the fish has the bait in its mouth preventing the jig from sinking. I then set the hook and begin reeling. If the line doesn’t go slack I simply hold the rod and pinch the line between my fingers and jig my bait a few times, dropping it to bottom and lifting it back up.

Using two ice fishing jigs has been by far the most successful way to catch the most fish, however it does seem that you catch more bluegills this way. When we are targeting crappie in particular we will use our second rod as a float pole, in which we suspend a minnow several feet off of bottom. At times, typically during periods of low light such as dawn and dusk, the minnow suspended under a float will draw more bites and produce more fish than the jig method. Therefore we tend to bring 3 rods each when we fish, 2 equipped with jigs and the other with a slip float set up.

We are still learning and trying new techniques, baits, and lures. I continually tell myself that I'll invest in a portable fish finder when fishing gets real tough. Fishing has yet to slow down enough to justify buying one.

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