Friday, February 24, 2023

4 Steps You Will Want to do Soon

I LOVE Catching fish, and enjoying many meals of my catches throughout the year.  This simple recipe has become one of my favorites.  I typically use Yellow Bass, but Bluegills and smaller crappies work well too.

Step 1: Bake fillets for 12 mins at 350 degrees

Step 2: Break up the fillets with forks into shredded pieces

Step 3: Add your favorite TACO Seasoning

Step 4: EAT UP!

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

The "Magical" Yellow Perch

The Yellow Perch is chased all around the upper states of the US threw the ice.  The characteristics of these fish make them fun to chase down, they look gorgeous and are pretty tasty too.  These unique fish live in quite a few Iowa lakes and are thriving in the Upper Mississippi River Pools along the NE State border.  Finding these fish are the hard part during the winter months.  Long walks to out of the way backwater areas are the first step, but that just begins the quest.  Once you get to a perch location, your walking has only just started.  If you want to have a successful day on the ice for perch, you have to put in the miles.  Perch move.  No matter if you are in Iowa, South Dakota, or Minnesota, if you are expecting a good day of perch fishing, a lot of walking is what you will need to do.  Perch move.  It is highly unlikely that you will land on a school of perch and not have to move around to stay with them.  My experiences have shown that needing to find several school of perch each time out is necessary.  My favorite baits are spoons for these fish.  You can drop down quickly on the fish, and the treble hook no doubt helps hooking up too.  I like a 36-inch rod, my favorites are the Clam Dead Meat series.  These are set up very well for a variety of spoons, and the length is key to hole-hopping quickly.  Never sitting down or kneeling on the ice keeps you moving and will get you more perch.  Perch move.  A good, quality reel is vital for these fish, I use a variety of Quantum reels in the "15 size".  The Smoke model is by far the best, while the Throttle and Drive work well too.  The larger spool helps with line management, and allows the baits to fall faster.  Being able to move quick is key, packing light is part of staying of mobile, a couple of rods rigged up, auger, Vexilar and your food/drink for the day is all you need.  Too many items will slow you down, the perch will not slow down.  Perch move!  

I love these fish, they are fun to chase down, and at times impossible to chase down.  If every fishing trip was perfect, I think the allure of the fish would die.  The chase...I love the chase.  Stay dry my friends, another month of frozen water left...hopefully.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Time for FRESH Line

There is no doubt that the mid-winter blues are here for us.  The easy bites and eager fish are no longer so cooperative on the ice.  The recent rain, then heavy snow pac on most of Iowa's lakes has caused the slowdown to increase the typical mid-winter blues.  I am not sure of the exact science, but sunlight surely does play into it.  The fish, typically are more lethargic this time of year than any other time.  As ice anglers we need to do everything possible to get bite possible this time of year.  Smaller jigs and live bait offerings are a good place to start, but over the past few years I have noticed a big difference after changing line on my finesse rods.  

Fresh line does two major things this time of year.  First, you will immediately notice the or spin of your lure will almost disappeared.  This is crucial this time of year when panfish will look and study your bait.  This can be seen first hand when sight fishing, or when using a camera to study the fish.  When your jig is spinning...which is not a natural thing for microorganisms to do, the fish will simply back away.  Secondly, your line will now be "less curly".  New line, no matter what reel you use will always have some memory, this is worst with a spinning reel.  The coils in the line will give an advantage to the light biting fish.  When there are coils in your line, you loose a lot of sensitivity and direct contact with your jig.  When fish are slow and picky, you want total control over your jig and you want the utmost contact with your jig.   My favorite ice line for panfish is 2lb test line.

If you are experiencing the mid-winter blues, get to your Scheels and grab some new line.  Soon you will be catching more fish through this tough winter slow-down.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Don't Overlook Your Reels for Ice Fishing

It's all fun and games...until someone loses a fish!  All too often those "big ones" get away when we are ice fishing.  Most of the time while on the ice, people across the state are fishing for panfish.  This allows anglers to use two or three pound test line.  By doing so you can manage your line much better, keep it flowing off your reels more easily, and stay under the radar of detection from the fish.  All these are great reasons to use small diameter line during the winter, and in most cases is necessary to have a good day of fishing during the cold weather months.  However, there will come a time when a hungry bass, walleye, catfish or pike takes your panfish offering.  All too often this battle is lost very quickly and the larger species of fish is swimming away with your lure.  

This unfortunate event can be the result of many things; weak spot in your line, sharp toothed creatures, a bad knot, or a drag malfunction.  The more and more I tangle with larger fish (mostly a non-target species) the more I believe that it is the latter that will cause heartache or success.  A well manufactured drag system set properly can bring in fish much larger than your line specifications will indicate.  I was reminded of this once again this past weekend while perch fishing.  My Vexilar lit up bright white and without a hesitation a rather large Northern Pike decided that she like my jigging spoon and was going to eat it.  The fight was on, about half way through the battle, as she was stripping drag for the third of fourth time, I said to my friends watching, "I'm sure glad I hooked this fish with this rod and reel".  Of the three ice fishing combos I had brought along that day, the one I was using has the best reel on it.  The drag is smooth and it was working wonderfully.  The pike made run after run, and finally it had to give up.  I won this battle with two-pound test line and the Quantum Smoke S3 reel.  It has the smoothest drag I know, and on that day it was put to the test!  When choosing your next spinning reel, check out the drag components, it is pretty simple, the more parts or discs in the drag assembly, the smoother the drag will be. 

Quantum Smoke S3  Size 15
Ice anglers take a lot of pride in their rods, but we often forget out the reels we choose.  I have seen anglers pay $40-$150 for an ice rod but then get a $25 reel to pair with it.  Take a look around your ice combos when you get a chance, perhaps your next upgrade should be on some reels, not the newest, latest, greatest rod.  Good fishing to you, hope you find this helpful, and you have the chance to catch your next BIG ONE!

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Baits and Lures you Need for Ice Fishing


This article in its entirety can be seen in the January Issue of "The Iowa Sportsman" Magazine, click below for the online version of the entire issue.



Ice fishing opportunities are increasing across the state of Iowa right now, and there is no better time to go out and give it a try.  What was once a simple sport of drilling a hole in the ice and sitting on a five-gallon bucket has turned into a high-tech world of endless possibilities.  Thirty years ago, there were a couple of companies that made ice fishing jigs, and they all looked very similar, today there are so many choices it may leave you a little cross-eyed.  Let’s explore the endless choices ice anglers have in the modern-day world of ice fishing.

One thing that hasn’t really changed much in ice fishing is the two basic offerings you can drop down the hole to entice your targeted species.  Anglers typically choose a jig, or a spoon.  These two types of baits have served ice anglers well since the beginning.  I don’t see any changes to these two lures when it comes to ice fishing.  Jigs are typically known for bluegills, crappies, yellow bass and perch, while spoons are used for bigger fish, such as large crappies, bass and walleyes.  This is one misconception many ice anglers have today, spoons are for EVERY species of fish living under the ice.  The sooner you gather up the many different sizes of spoons available on the market, the more fish you will be catching.  Let’s dig into these two different lures for ice fishing, as well as live bait and plastics.

JIGS: Gone are the standard jigs of yesteryear, a trip to any local tackle shop or a Scheels will have you mesmerized by all the different colors and sizes of jigs.  The color patterns seem to be endless, as well as different sizes for these small baits.  Like any tackle box, your ice fishing jig box should have a variety of colors and sizes.  Each seasoned angler has their favorites, and until you find your favorite for the water you fish, have a good stock of the basics for sure.  Blacks, whites, reds, greens and gold will cover most situations very well.  Jigs also come in many sizes, and two different metals: lead and tungsten.  The tungsten jigs will be much more expensive due to the extreme measures it takes to make them compared to a lead jig.  Both work great, and at times lead will be better than tungsten, and sometimes tungsten is better than lead.  A good rule of thumb is if you are fishing less than ten feet of water, a lead jig is a good choice, if you are deeper than ten feet, a tungsten jig may produce better.  The theory of this is all about the fall rate of each jig.  The same size lead jig will fall slower in the water column than a tungsten jig.  If you find fish under the ice, sometimes they want that slow fall and slow rocking motion of a lead jig.  Fish in shallow water can spook when dropping a jig on them too quickly.  It may be hard to believe that there is much difference, but the fish and the waters in West Lake Okoboji will prove this point time and time again.  If you are fishing deeper water, the tungsten jig will fall quicker and get down to the fish much faster than a lead jig of the same size.  If you are “fishing fast” on the ice, a tungsten jig will help you do that.  Jigs come in two different styles, a horizontal jig and the less popular vertical jig.  The jigs are as their name indicates, the horizontal jig rests side to side, while the vertical jig stays in the upright position.  The horizontal jig gets used much more by anglers, however on those tough days, give a vertical jig a try, they look completely different in the water and sometimes the fish want something a little different.  Jigs will catch all sizes of fish, but typically are chosen to target bluegills, crappies, yellow bass and perch.

SPOONS: Like the jig, the spoon has developed into a huge array of choices for anglers in the past couple of decades.  Today, all the larger tackle companies have a spoon on the market as well as some smaller tackle makers too.  The shape and sizes of spoons vary from company to company as do the many different color patterns designers have come up with.  Again, like the jig, anglers have their favorite styles and colors that they will try.  Spoon colors really do touch every color of the rainbow and the patterns are truly spectacular.  When selecting a spoon, the size can be as or more important than the actual color.  Many times during the ice season, the predator fish are feeding on a particular size of bait.  If your spoon matches that size, you are going to have a wonderful day!  Use your flasher to see how the fish react to your spoon and make changes if they are not biting.  Perhaps a smaller, larger or different color would be better.  Common colors all anglers should have in their spoon box include white, glow colors, red, green, gold and silver.  Like the jigs, spoons will catch every species under the ice, when in doubt, give them a try!

BAITS: No matter if you are fishing a spoon or a jig, tipping it with live bait or a plastic is a must.  There are days when fish are aggressive and an unbaited spoon catches fish, but those are not the norm.  Adding a waxworm or spike to your jig will give it a bigger profile and add much needed scent to your lure.  I always carry both kinds of live bait, as some days they really want a waxworm, while some days they really want spikes.  Live bait can be tedious to keep alive and having to bait your hook often isn’t a lot of fun under freezing conditions, however some days it is a must.  I will always try plastics on my jigs too.  Some of the larger plastics can help slow down the fall of your jig and adds a lot of action that live bait does not.  Using plastics on really cold days can help you to fish a little faster as you won’t be changing your live bait out.  The main thing with plastics and the live bait varieties is to change things up and try different combinations.  If you are looking to get some plastics for the first time, these three colors are “can’t miss” for your time on the ice: white, red and motor oil.

Ice fishing is a great way to spend a couple of hours, or a couple days enjoying the winter season here in Iowa.  The sport has really grown in the past decade, and with that growth so has the baits and lures we use to enjoy our time.  If you have a good variety of jigs, spoons, live bait and plastics you will surely fool some winter fish in the upcoming months.