Jensen: Tips for successful late-winter ice fishing

Jensen: Tips for successful late-winter ice fishing

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The groundhog in Pennsylvania that predicts an early spring or extended winter recently emerged and didn’t see his shadow. That would suggest that spring will arrive early this year. Statistics indicate that Phil the Groundhog is right about 40 percent of the time. If recent weather is any indicator, it would appear that the groundhog is going to be right this year. Some of us look forward to late ice-fishing because it can be so good. I think that March in the upper Midwest is my favorite month for ice-fishing. The days are longer, the weather isn’t as cold, and the fish become willing biters. Following are some things to keep in mind to catch more fish through the ice until the end of the ice season.

First, be safe. Ice conditions can change quickly. Ice that was safe on Monday might not be safe on Friday. It might not even be safe later that day. I remember a day a few years ago on a large Minnesota lake when we had to improvise on our exit strategy. The ice at the landing where we drove on in the morning was no longer safe late in the day and we had to use another landing several miles away. Pay attention to ice conditions.

Channel catfish

Chris Scholl caught this channel catfish through the ice on Clear Lake in north central Iowa in March a couple of years.

Also keep close tabs on the regulations. Some states close walleye season in February, some states let you fish walleyes year ‘round. Some areas of some states allow walleye fishing all year while other areas of the state close the season for a while. Know where you are and what is allowed.

Early and late in the day will be when the bite is often best, but plenty of fish can be taken at mid-day. Often though, presentations will need to be altered.

Bob Jensen column sig

Bob Jensen

Fishing The Midwest

If perch, walleyes, or crappies are the goal, start off with larger baits, something like a Pinhead Mino or Leech Flutter Spoon in an appropriate size: Eighth ounce and bigger for walleyes, and smaller for perch and crappies: Start with the eighth ounce size, but expect sixteenth to be most productive much of the time.

As the day progresses, the bite can get tougher. The additional light can shut fishing off a bit, but some very successful ice-anglers believe that the noise as more anglers get on the ice pushes the fish away from structure or just shuts them off. If you’re seeing fish on the sonar, try down-sizing. For perch or crappies, tie on a little Drop-Kick Jig tipped with a waxworm or spike. I like to have a rod spooled up with two or three pound test Floroice line for these finesse presentations. If walleyes are acting uninterested in the spoons, try a hook/splitshot/minnow under a slip-bobber on one rod and an eighth ounce jig with a minnow on another rod. Six pound test line will often get more bites than eight pound test for walleyes.

One of my very successful ice-fishing friends says that in March there are lots of bugs and worms hatching on the bottom of the lake, and that we should use baits that mimic those food sources.

Another very successful ice-fishing friend confirms that bug- life is hatching on the lake bottom, and the fish see so much of that bug-life that they like something that looks different.

The month of March signals to most of us that the end of another i Chris Scholl caught this channel catfish through the ice on Clear Lake in north central Iowa in March a couple of years. ce-fishing season is in sight. It also signals some of the best ice-action of the year for many of us. Find out for yourself how good ice-fishing can be in March.

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