BackWoods Sportsman OutDoors
new england outdoors

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The BackWoods Sportsman OutDoors Staff

Q: Now that the ice has left and we finally have open water, are there going to be fish along the shorelines if we don't have a boat in the spring?

A: Yes, right after ice out there may not be many or any fish cruising along the shorelines but as the sun warms the shallow waters a bit, there will be plenty of fish moving in. Once the shallow waters along the shore warm to the right temperatures, there will be a variety of fish species looking for locations for the spring spawning ritual. If you are able to walk along a shoreline and there are rocks or wood in the water, those locations will be warmer as they absorb more heat from the sun. Spring time we like to go along fishing the shorelines and targeting objects in the water as the big crappies will move in there searching for their spawning mates. Definitely give it a try and you may be quite surprised by the size and quality of the fish that you may catch.

Q: With late ice this season, do you use boards to get onto the ice with opening shorelines?

A: No, as we get older and a bit wiser, we don't put ourselves into that sort of danger for the sake of catching a fish. No fish is worth risking your life over. Typically if the shore that you are trying to get onto is opening and the ice is rotting, look to the other side as that shores ice may still be solid up to the shoreline. If you can find the shoreline that is in the shade most of the day, that ice usually doesn't soften as fast. Word of caution though, no ice is safe ice and we don't recommend anyone to going onto the ice. Always go with a partner, bring your safety equipment, picks, rope, whistle and keep checking the ice every so often with a spud bar or drill a hole and check the thickness. This time of year the ice thickness is not consistent all over the place. Be very careful out there.

Q: Do you fish with electronics?

A: We don't leave home without them. We typically carry with us a Electronic flasher, Vexilar or Humminbird, and also a underwater camera. For the flasher's, we don't so much use them for finding out the depth but we use them to look for actively biting fish. When you drill a number of holes you can go from hole to hole with your flasher and see if there are any fish in them. If none show up on the screen, then move onto the next one and check that one. Once you find one that has some fish in it, then drop your bait to the level that they are at and start working them to see if they are aggressive. If they just sit there and look at it, time to move onto the next hole. We want to fish a hole that has active feeding fish and don't want to waste time if they are only looking at it. We also will use an underwater camera if the water clarity is clear enough. It is a lot of fun watching what the fish are doing down there as well and seeing what the fish are relating to under your hole. But this solely depends on that the water is clear enough to see anything as if it is cloudy, you won't be able to see much or very far.

Q: Do you rely on a certain color for your ice fishing jigs?

A: Not really. For the fish that we are seeking to catch underneath the ice sheet, we are normally only looking for the aggressive biters. Most holes that we drill have fish underneath them and we can see them on the electronics, but if they don't bite right away, we call them sniffers and move on to the next hole. The fish that we are looking for are the ones that as soon as you drop a jig down there, one will come screaming right to it and either hit it right away or after a little jigging coaxing, they generally will bite then. The sniffers that we leave behind we will go back every now and then as at some point they may or will turn on and become aggressive as well. The way that we move around, we only catch a fish or two out of a hole unless we are getting to a time, especially before dark, when they become very aggressive and we may not leave that hole as the fish keep replenishing themselves. There are times when color does matter but if you are only looking for the aggressive fish, it may not matter.

Q: When fishing a repeat lake, do you fish the same areas over and over or do you look for new areas?

A: No matter what the lake size is, there are many places to fish and places to find fish. When you are fishing on the open water, you generally don't fish the same exact spot time after time; you move around to locate your fish. We generally don't like to or won't fish the same area twice. With a good lake map you can find similar areas to where you fished before and should be able to catch fish in these new areas and sometimes better quality fish at that. Even if we fish in a same general area, we will fish a different edge of that structure. Many times we will fish the opposite side of the lake from the previous trip and just like being in a boat; we are always on the move trying to find the fish. Drilling many holes on an ice fishing trip is common place until you locate the fish and then you will slow down and either work that area or fine tune your presentation for getting the fish to bite. Once we find a good area on any lake, we log that into the GPS on our phone so that we have that for future reference. More times than not, fishing the same area more than once typically will be disappointing for the results that you are looking for so normally we won't fish the same area.

Q: When setting ice lines with minnows as bait, how do you hook them?

A: Typically we lightly hook them through the back near the top fin that way they hang naturally under the hook and can swim freely around so that they look natural in the water when a fish comes by. There is another old timer way of hooking minnows and that is using two minnows at one time. Hook each minnow through the tail in opposite directions and this will allow the two minnows to struggle and fight each other trying to swim in their opposite directions and this is more times than not, something the fish have never seen. You may want to experiment with different hooking's and the only one that we don't do is hooking the minnow through the lips. Doesn't allow them to freely swim and hampers their ability to breathe as well.

Q: When going to a lake, what or where do you look to start fishing during the ice season?

A: A lot of the work is done before we even leave our home. Start by looking at any available lake maps that you can find online. If you have a smartphone, Navionics has an application for little money that will also give you contoured lake maps. Google maps are a good place to look as well as well as researching the fishing forums and looking for that particular lake and any fishing reports that you can find. What we generally look for are irregular contour lines and areas where there are flats that drop-off into deep water. The bigger fish that we seek in the winter months are usually found in these deeper waters. By targeting these areas that are different from the plain areas, you will be starting where fish tend to congregate much more quickly. On your lake map where these areas are, if you have it on your smartphone, the built in GPS will show you where you are on the lake overlaid on the lake map to the area you want to fish and that way it will get you very close to the location before you even start drilling holes. By targeting these irregularities, this puts you at an advantage that other anglers don’t even know about and that will put you onto fish that much faster.

Q: In your fishing reports, I see a variety of fish species that you are catching on the same outing. How are you able to catch a variety of fish on one trip?

A: We work very hard at locating fish every time that we are out on the ice. Coming across a variety of species, is an extra bonus that we typically are not trying to accomplish. What is giving us the opportunities at catching multiple species is that we don't just fish one spot. We may have set lines that will stay in an area but once those are set up, we may drill 60 or more holes and we are always on the move looking for active fish in those holes. By using electronics, fishing a hole typically will only last 2-3 minutes if there is no activity and if none, move on to the next hole. The key that we are looking for is finding actively feeding fish in a given hole location. Once we find that, then we may stay at that particular hole much longer. The key is to keep moving and finding actively feeding fish. Thanks for the question.


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