It’s time to think about ice fishing
Fishing the Midwest
There’s still time to take advantage of open water fishing, but it’s also time to think about going ice-fishing. This year, particularly this year, if you want to go on an ice-fishing trip, you need to make plans now. People are fishing more than ever, and competition for lodging is intense in ice-fishing country. Through the years I’ve had the opportunity to ice-fish on lots of bodies of water for a variety of fish species. There are a good number of places that provide fond ice-fishing memories for me, but today, I’m making plans to try to return to the following three ice-fishing hot-spots.
My first real ice-fishing trip a good number of years ago was to Big Stone Lake on the Minnesota/South Dakota border. I had been there fishing open water walleyes earlier in the year, and while there, was told of the ice-fishing opportunities for perch. I made a return trip when the water got hard. The catching was outstanding. I’ve been on the ice on Big Stone several times since, and continue to be impressed with the action. An angler may need to do some sorting, but we’ve always come up with a good number of perch appropriate for the table. In the past few years the bluegill bite has become more prominent. Big Stone has more than a few true slab bluegills.
A couple of hours east and north of Big Stone is the Alexandria Lakes area of Minnesota. In addition to being an outstanding open water region, there are lots of ice-fishing opportunities for lots of fish species in the Alex area. Panfish opportunities are plentiful, and the walleye action can be very good as well. Sometimes we forget that largemouth bass can be taken through the ice, but they can. The Alexandria area has some of the best bass fishing that can be found anywhere, open water or through the ice. Although largemouth aren’t targeted frequently in very many places, if the thought of catching bass from under the ice is appealing, the Alex area is the place to make it happen.
I consider Clear Lake in north central Iowa to be my home lake. It’s where I caught my first walleye and where I’ve caught many walleyes since. It’s also an outstanding ice-fishery for a wide variety of fish species. In recent years, Clear Lake has developed a well-deserved reputation as a world-class yellow bass producer. Yellow bass are voracious feeders. When an angler gets over a school of yellows, if the appropriate bait is presented, it will be eaten. It seems that yellows are almost always willing to bite. Yellows are also very prolific. They reproduce quickly. Because of this, there is no limit on yellows on Clear Lake. Keep as many as you want to clean: They’re outstanding on the table.
Clear Lake also provides crappie ice-action, and there is a growing perch population.
Now about the catching: When it comes to ice-fishing and panfish, small baits are usually best. Something in the Genz series of Drop Jigs will be a good choice much of the time. The tougher the bite, the smaller the jig. In clear water, start with a subtle color, but don’t hesitate to try bright colors. Get the fish’s attention with aggressive jig movement, but when a fish moves in to look at your jig, slow the action down. Try tipping the jig with a Maki Mino, but go to a waxworm or spike if the fish are finicky.
Wherever you fish, your sonar unit will be key. Don’t fish a hole very long if you don’t see fish on the sonar. If you see them and they don’t bite, try a different lure size, color, or action. If they still don’t bite, keep moving in search of biters. You’ll eventually find some.
As mentioned earlier, wherever you decide to go ice-fishing, now is the time to make plans to do so. If you do, your chances for success will be much better.