Monday, March 12, 2018

There's GOLD in Northern Iowa

(a bucket full in the last hour of the day)
David Gissel made his first trip
 to Clear Lake with me, I will
assume he wants to go back next year!
Thousands upon thousands of ice anglers flock to Clear Lake, Iowa each winter in search of gold, gold as in Yellow Bass.  These feisty fish are a blast to catch, they are known to knock your bait harder than any other fish, and test your drag on every hookset.  Clear Lake itself can be a beast to tackle on your own because of its size.  There are several access points that will get you on the "big lake" or the "little lake", also called Ventura Lake.  Even though the lake is large, walking can easily put fish in your bucket, however using an atv, utv, or snowmachine will help your chances.  Yellows can be found all over the lake at any day.  They are very nomadic fish and anglers wanting to ice a bunch of fish must stay on the move.  Another big attraction of the "gold" in Clear Lake is the amount of yellow bass you can keep...there is no limit on the number of fish you can keep.  They are an invasive species and if anglers do not harvest their catches it will harm the ecosystem of the lake and fishing will suffer for all species.  More info on the Iowa DNR site HERE about the Yellow Bass.

With the no limit, anglers will keep a 5-gallon bucket full on a good day.  They are very tasty in many ways.  Fried, or as part of fish chowder are my favorite ways to enjoy yellow bass.  Jigs or spoons work well for these fish and it is really about drilling as many holes as you can to find them, once you find them it can make for an awesome day of catching.  Spikes, waxworms or cutbait all work at times, experimentation is needed to find what the fish really want.  If you are a Clear Lake newbie or rookie, stop in at Clear Lake Bait and Tackle and they will get you the bait you need and point you in the right direction.

This past weekend brought many lakes with no or very unsafe ice, so north I had to go to find some good ice.  Clear Lake had well over 15 inches of ice everywhere we drilled in the two days.  There were quite a large numbers of anglers out on Saturday, many large groups of anglers working together and having a good time.  The group I met up with fished the little lake and big lake throughout the day catching yellows on both with a few crappies mixed in too.  Hopping from one hole to another looking for yellows hovering over the lake bottom was key to catching many fish.  Moving around and checking countless holes with the Vexilar FLX-28 made this easy.  The instant readout kept me going from hole to hole until I found the magic one...then the bite was on.  Fishing in a group is fun and can really help when fishing Clear Lake, I crossed paths with many friends this weekend and met a couple new ones along the way.  Some yellow fillets in the freezer, and another fun trip on the ice with friends catching fish...perhaps for the last time of the year...perhaps.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Should I stay or go?

This past Saturday Mother Nature was just not kind.  Friday was beautiful, temps in the high 30s, light breeze, and sunny, Saturday was cloudy, a strong East wind and chances of rain/snow/sleet possible for most of the state.  Sometimes you just have to load up and go, which is what David Gissell and I did.

We headed down to Otter Creek Lake in search of some Yellow Bass action.  Now, if it wasn't late February and the ice season winding down we probably wouldn't have made the trip, but you never know how many weekends are left to hit the ice.  We made the trip knowing that the weather would ultimately rule the day and probably force us off the ice sooner rather than later, so a 70-minute trip was as far as we wanted to go.  A couple more Independence anglers met us there, as well as Chad Pietig from Marshalltown...always good to see the Marshalltown boys! 

With a stiff east wind predicted we knew it wasn't going to be an easy day...and it wasn't.  The yellows were pretty picking on this day and small jigs had to be used to trick most of the yellows, and as usual spoons came into play as well when the bite increased from time to time.  One thing that I observed today was how easy it is to find fish while working as a group.  At any given time we had 4-5 guys hopping from hole to hole in search of the fish.  This is made really easy when everyone can be mobile with their Vexilars to cover dozens of holes in the matter of minutes.  Turning up the cone angle on the Pro-View transducers and "stirring" the hole really helped to pick up some extra fish as well on the shallow flats.  The action was pretty consistent, and the Vexilars were not black much at all, triggering the fish to bite was a challenge on this day.  the old saying, "Fish bite least when the wind is from the East" was certainly true today.  David and I ended up with about 40 keeper yellows, released many gills and some crappies as well.

Using the group work method and the power of the Vexilars really made it a fun day on the ice, even though we had precipitation falling on us for several hours in the morning.  The was solid, and will hang on for awhile there, but things will go pretty fast if we get more rain.  Stay safe out there and remember to use all your ice fishing safety gear as the season winds down.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Holiday Lake Derby

This past Saturday was a unique opportunity I couldn't pass up.  Holiday Lake, located near Brooklyn, IA held an open fishing day/derby.  Anyone could pay $20 to enter in the event and fish the lake for a day, enjoy lunch and talk with the nearly 400 anglers that showed up.  There were also dozens of prizes donated from businesses to help the event raise money.  The main purpose for the event was to raise money for the fish committee of the lake.  They have numerous fish structures in the lake, and have an extensive stocking program to make the fishing opportunities for the land owners a positive one year-round.  364 days a year the lake is closed to the public, only land owners in the Holiday Lake Association can fish the private lake.  Like I said, this was a unique opportunity to chase down the famous gills and perch that I have heard about in this lake.

The turnout for the event was probably more than the committee expected.  Over 400 anglers showed up to participate in the special fishing day.  I traveled down to the lake with David Gissell and met 3 friends from the Des Moines area to fish for the morning.  No contour maps are available for the lake so the plan was simple...drill as many holes as possible and hop around to see where the fish were holding for the day.  At times we had 3 different augers punching holes at the same time, covering water and constantly keeping the Vexilars in the water looking for the fish.  We focused on the northeast cove and ended up with a pretty consistent bite for gills.  Each guy in the group caught their limit of 10 gills or were within a fish or two of that feat.  David caught the only crappie, a nice 12+ incher.  I ended up with the only 2 perch in the group, one that measured just over 12 inches.  The group caught a couple walleyes as well.  All-in-all it was a good fishing morning, as most of the gills we caught were of keeper size.  We never found any structure to fish, so focusing on depths of water and the imaginary contour map we were creating with the augers and Vexilars kept us actively on fish.  Down sizing jigs seemed to help after the first couple of hours of fishing, helping us to catch fish all the way up to the 1pm lunch time.

A big thanks to the Holiday Lake fish committee for making this day possible for anglers to try a different location to fish during the winter.  Below is the flier from this year, and hopefully they will have a similar event next year, if they do, I highly suggest giving it a try.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

ISU Ice Tournament at Hickory Grove Lake

Our Top 10 for the day

The Iowa State University Fishing Club held their annual ice tournament at Hickory Grove Lake today.  It was a nice turnout of 17 teams for the event. Weather for the day was overcast/drizzle throughout the day.  This actually helped the bite from the previous blue sky day on Saturday.  Once again, Mark Anderson and I joined up to fish the event.  The tournament limit was your top 10 panfish.  The lake has a good population of bluegills, some crappies and some green sunfish mixed in too.  We knew we had to focus on crappies to end up towards the top.

We both hit the lake on Saturday to look things over.  The previous weekend I was able to confirm some things we already knew about the lake from previous years.  We took our past experiences and what we saw on Saturday to come up with a game plan.  We had a solid plan A that we hoped would give us some crappies, and a plan B for big bluegills if we needed it.

The forecast on tournament day was cloudy with intermittent rain all day long, temps were in high 30's and was very comfortable to fish.  The overcast day definitely helped the fish bite all day long.  Water clarity in the lake was over 6 feet, the clouds definitely played in our favor on this day extending the bite.
We never did try plan B on the tournament day as plan A was very good to us.  We fished water from 14 feet to 25 feet deep.  Moving frequently helped us to stay on the moving schools of gills and crappies.  Light colored jigs seems to be the trick for us with a waxworm, although there was an hour or so mid-morning that the fish preferred red spikes.  Just more proof it is always good to have a variety of bait with you at all times.
One big advantage we had today was using the Vexilar FLX-28.  Almost all fish were caught suspended off the bottom several feet.  Utilizing the zoom feature to fine tune jigging cadence and capitalizing on then minuscule target separation really made working the fish a fun and an easy task on the day.
We ended up weighing in 9 crappies and one big bluegill that out-weighed other crappies that we had caught throughout the day.  Our 10 fish weighed in at 7.84#, good enough for 2nd place.  The winners, Chad Angell and Josh Sansgaard took 1st with 8.52#.  This event proved once again that this lake has some great fish in it!

Top 5 Results:
Angell/Sansgaard     8.52#
Reed/Anderson         7.84#
Stanley/Martin          4.50#
Kjormoe/Dolash       4.48#
Tom/Don                  4.40#

Friday, January 19, 2018

Ice Seminars at the UNI-DOME

Join me at the UNI-Dome this weekend for seminars including; Using Electronics on Ice, and Top Iowa Ice Fishing Destinations.  See you at the DOME!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Central Iowa Icesticks Badger Creek Ice Tournament

Central Iowa Ice Sticks, a Facebook group held an ice tournament at Badger Creek Lake south of Des Moines this past Sunday. The event brought teams in from all over the state to compete for the largest bag of fish.  Each team had to catch 8 sunfish and 8 crappies to weigh-in for their team total.  I teamed up with my usual tournament partner Mark Anderson for the event.  Mark was able to look over the lake to try and locate the bigger panfish.  Badger Creek Lake is full of fish, but getting those larger fish to bite would get you in the top of the standings.
We hit the lake bright and early on Saturday to find as many different areas that were holding the bigger fish.  Mark found some better fish the week before and they were in the same general vicinity this past weekend.  I hit areas that were not checked the weekend before, along with some deeper "crappie" hangouts.  We had a plan A, B, and C for the tournament on Sunday, we were feeling pretty good about getting a good limit.  No matter how much you plan, or how many areas you have, you just never know in an event of this size.  I have said it several times, but Mark and I work very well as teammates, even though we don't fish together very much during the ice season, when it is tourney time, we put it all together and make things work.
8 Sunfish/8 Crappies
weighing 10.85# and the WIN
We ended up staying with plan "A" all day long, which consisted of staying near the main channel of the  middle-lake area.  We worked over a large area, trolling through the area looking for active fish.  Being mobile and using our Vexilar FLX-28 made finding and catching the fish fairly easy this weekend.  This was one weekend that saw the fish taking a variety of baits, colors, plastics and livebait, it was more of a search and find on these particular days.  Mark had the big fish bite for the day, bringing in a Red-ear sunfish that weighed 1.08 pounds, an amazing fish.  We finished our bag of fish with 3 red-ears, 5 gills and 8 crappies.  The crappies were right around the 0.70 pound range, the bluegills were all very nice as well.  We ended up WINNING the tournament with a total of 10.85 pounds, almost 3/4 of a pound over 2nd place.  It was just icing on top of the cake of a fantastic weekend of fishing!

Hats off to Randy Bieghler for running his first ever tournament, I hope he continues his efforts in the future, as his first one was well ran.  Badger Creek is a healthy lake right now, one to put on your ice fishing list.
Many baits worked on this particular weekend

Monday, January 8, 2018

Weather changes in Winter

The past couple of weeks have been quite a roller coaster of weather patterns.  Fronts seemed to move through every other day, mix in a couple snow showers and an abrupt rise in temperatures which saw over a 50 degree change in a 36-hour period.  Yes, it is Iowa and winter is here.

One nice thing all this weather did do was to grow a lot of ice.  I am very thankful for that, and this past weekend I was able to hit 2 different NE Iowa lakes in search of some panfish.  Aided in that was my trusty snowmachine, making traveling a breeze.  David Gissel and I hit the road to the north to Lake Meyer in search of some gills and crappies.  The first hour was great, several fish and some nice keepers of both species.  Then, someone flipped the switch, nothing.  Fish were reluctant to bite and really disappeared from the structure we were fishing.  We fished many different spots, some with brush, some without and not much was shown for our efforts.  Out of curiosity we chatted with a couple other anglers, same story, the bite was just off.

Plan B, we could head home early, or hit another lake.  We decided that two lakes couldn't be off, so we had to stop at Volga.  We had a similar game plan and it worked much better here.  The fish were very cooperative, as long as we were prepared for them.  The bite was not a strong one, very light in fact.  A spring bobber or a very sensitive rod tip was mandatory for catching fish.  The fish were lighting up the Vexilar constantly around the brushpiles, but did not give us any hard bites at all.  Very subtle bites, but keying into the bites and using our gear made for a great afternoon of catching gills and Crappies.  Two lakes in one day, I have no idea how many holes we drilled, all I do know is I can't wait until I do it again!  Be safe out there.