Sunday, March 5, 2017

Last day on the ice for 2017

Yellow Bass are a tasty fish that inhabit
a few waters in Iowa.  These fish are an
invasive species and there is no limit
on them.  Clear Lake has a huge population
of these fish making it a top destination
year-round to catch these fish.
Mother Nature ended ice fishing around the state much too early this year.  With most lakes thawed completely, only the largest in the state still were partially frozen.  Mother Nature did do us a favor by a recent cold front last week, which sent temps in Norther Iowa into the teens at night.  This was just enough to save the ice, and in reality even strengthen the ice for one last time of the year.  Portions of Clear Lake was still frozen over and shoreline access was still pretty good.  I had no choice but to travel north to take one last look at the ice conditions and see if they were reliable.  I was in for one last day on the ice, but in the back of mind I knew that it could just be a long truck ride for no reason...either way, I had to give it a look.  Mark Anderson was headed to the lake Friday afternoon, and I was so glad to get the text from him saying that the ice was in good condition.  In my mind it was Christmas Eve...I really was going to get one more day on the ice chasing the hard fighting Yellow Bass.
I was totally shocked when I got to the lake a little before 8am around the Farmers Beach area.  The ice was solid to the shore and several anglers were already out on the ice.  Mark Anderson, Jacy Large and Scott Fischer were going to join all together today to team up against the yellows.  Mark reported a very good bite in the main basin of the lake the afternoon before, so we were all very excited to get there.  Well, Mother Nature was kind to make the ice very solid, however the strong winds out of the east sent the yellow bass into shock.  For over two hours we drilled and drilled with no luck at all.  In a few areas the Vexilar FLX-28's showed some fish, but no bites, to say the least we were in shock.  Instead of staying in the larger group, we decided to split up.  Mark and I kept drilling across the lake to no avail, not a mark (ice was consistently around 10 inches).  We settled in to some shallow weeds and caught a few perch.  At this time it was time for plan Q.  Mark hopped over to the little lake and found the ice just as good, 8-10 of good ice.  I stayed and poked around the weeds where the ice was not great, honeycombed but yet still sturdy.  I found some crappies and a few more perch, but then Mark found the yellows.  There were about a dozen or so anglers already on the little lake, and the fish were biting.  All of us joined him soon after that the bite was fantastic for the next 4 hours.  Yellow after yellow came topside the ice and we were all wearing smiles and having a blast, the day was saved and we all went out on top at the end of the ice season.  Working together as a group really paid off, as we could find the school as it moved around.  Quickly drilling holes to area where fish were seen on Vexilars.  It was an awesome way to end the year, well, besides walking all the way across Clear Lake!
~~~Please use extreme caution if you venture on the ice, the top of the ice was deteriorating quickly in the afternoon with the sun high and wind howling.  The ice that we fished on Saturday, March 4th will change by the hour with the warm temperatures.  Use every safety precaution if you venture out anywhere.

Monday, February 20, 2017

KCRG-TV Channel 9 In the Great Outdoors: January Ice Fishing

John Campbell caught up with me and friend Keith Donnelly a month or so ago and did some filming.  A short 2-minute version played on KCRG TV-9 news, and then he made this extended version.  I hope you enjoy.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Clear Lake Yellow Bass Bonanza

The Clear Lake Yellow Bass Bonanza has quickly become the ice fishing outing of the year here in Iowa.  Each February hundreds of ice fishing anglers swarm to Clear Lake, Iowa to take part in the event.  The event kicks off with a banquet Saturday night, a full dinner is provided to all tournament anglers and hundreds of dollars of prizes are given out.  A quick meeting of how to be safe on the ice and the event rules concludes the night.  I have participated in national bass tournaments not quite the size of this event, and they do not come close to the organization and pre-planning.  It is a fantastic event that is run absolutely amazing for the amount of anglers present.
Sunday morning all anglers gather on the ice at MacIntosh State Ramp.  This year the Ventura Fire Department had coffee and breakfast burritos for all to enjoy, I sure filled up!  This years' event was the largest to date, 265 teams participated bringing almost 600 people to Clear Lake for the weekend event.  Everywhere my partner and I went Saturday and Sunday was filled up with anglers taking in all Clear Lake has to offer for anglers around the state as well as Minnesota and Nebraska.
Saturday, my partner Jacy Large and I hit the lake in search of Yellow Bass schools.  They were not easy to come by like many previous trips to the lake, but we kept drilling and kept dropping the Vexilar 28's down the holes waiting for the groups to show up.  Fish were reacting to spoons of many different colors and several different colors of jigs too.  Once we found them in 7-10 feet of water, they seemed to bite well.  We found several places that the Yellows were roaming and felt comfortable as we packed things up for the day to head to the banquet.
The banquet is always a good time, with great food and a chance to catch up to guys that enjoy the sport of ice fishing as much as I do.  Stories are shared and future ice fishing plans talked about.  Each year at the banquet is the listing of prizes to be given away for the various places that Kevan Paul and his crew at Clear Lake Bait and Tackle give out after the weigh-in on Sunday.
Sunday came with nice temperatures but a stiff 20-mph wind that never let down all day long.  It made some bites tough to detect, but we made our way through the day.  We hit 4 different areas, but really settled in to an area around the 9 foot range.  Drilling was a constant as we made smaller moves to stay near the schools.  When the day was done, we had our limit with some really nice fish, the longest was just over 10.75 inches.  We were proud of what we accomplished, a limit of yellows and now it was up to the scales to decide how we fared against the other teams.  When things settled down, we ended up in 16th place overall.  We have fished the event 3 times now, and each year we strive for a top 25 placing, we were very happy to be called out at 16th and collected our Grizzly40 cooler for our prize.  It was an awesome weekend full of fishing, and seeing friends that love this sport like I do.  Thanks to Kevan Paul and his gang once again, they keep making this event bigger and better every year.  If there is room next year, you better plan early to get your place reserved at the best ice fishing event the state has to offer!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Hickory Grove Lake Tournament

1st Place- Hickory Grove Lake
This weekend marked the annual Iowa State University Fishing Club Ice Tournament at Hickory Grove Lake.  This college organization puts on a few open ice tournaments each year to help raise funds for their organization.  This is an event that I have fished for many years, as I really enjoy fishing that body of water.  The past couple of years have been a bit of a disappointment in terms of finishing high in the standings.  This year, my partner Mark Anderson and I discussed it was time to "swing for the fences".  The previous weekend Mark did the heavy lifting and scouted the lake from a new perspective.  We focused our time before the tournament on trying different locations to try and find the roaming crappies that live in the lake.  The numbers of crappies in the lake is not great, the bluegill population is as strong as it has ever been.  Of course catching a few crappies makes a huge difference when you need to weigh in 10 fish for the tournament.  Don't get me wrong, the bluegills are of nice size in the lake, and plenty of keepers to go around, but when you are after the heaviest weight, crappies are the way to the top of the leaderboard.  We found the crappies and fine tuned the cruising patterns before the the event using the trusty Vexilar FLX-28s,  These units are nice to work with when finding fish.  The cone angle of the Pro-View transducer lets you see a vast amount of water beneath the ice, making our job of finding fish easier. Could we count on the crappies to stay the course?  Tournament day couldn't get here soon enough!

With a bit of surprise the crappies did stay their course, and the size of them were even a little more than we expected.  We were able to come away with dozens of fish on the day, and we did manage to get 10 crappies that took us to the top for the win.  We also weighed in the largest fish of the tournament, a white crappie that weighed 1.14 pounds.  It was a remarkable day, one that will not be forgotten for a long time.  It was once again a great day on the ice with Mark and other ice fishing friends enjoying the wonderful lakes and fish and Iowa.

TOP 5 finishers:
1st- Reed/Anderson           8.56#
2nd- Angell/Sansgaard       6.62#
3rd- Heim/Heim                4.92#
4th- Janiel/Hohaanselt        4.60#
5th- Large/Fischer             4.40#

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Filming with KCRG

Iowa's Great Outdoors took some time to follow my good friend Keith and I to a farm pond in search of some January fish.  It turned out to be a great 2 minute clip.  Once again, John Campbell did a fantastic job of bringing the outdoors to the folks of Iowa.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Weekend at Okoboji

Stan's Bait and Tackle hosted a great bluegill
tournament on Little Emerson Bay
A weekend spent at Okoboji is always a good time for several reasons.  First, the morning scenery on this lake is like no other I have ever seen, the sun comes up over West Okoboji like a story book cover.  Another of course, is the vast amount of species anglers can fish for at these lakes.  I am pretty sure I could spend the entire month on this chain of lakes and not get bored of chasing down its many species.  My travel companion and tournament partner Mark Anderson made the trip with me, and as always we had many laughs on the ice and many conversations about the fish and fishing locations we tried.  During the time there, my buddy Mark or I caught the following species of fish: Bluegill, Walleye, Perch, Drum, Crappie, Northern Pike, Largemouth Bass, Yellow Bass, and Channel Catfish.  Obviously, these lakes offer an endless array of fish to catch!
Fishing is a life-long adventure, you just never know what you might learn at any given time to make you a better angler for the rest of your life.  The best part of that is then sharing it with friends or my kids as they have taken a love for ice fishing as well.
We schedule the trip because of a bluegill tournament that was held on Little Emerson Bay on Sunday.  I have grown to love sight fishing big Okoboji Bluegills...but that was not the case this year.  For some reason or another the bay has been cloudy all winter long and sight fishing was not part of the trip.  We found a few areas that were holding nicer bluegills on Saturday and had a pretty good game plan of what we were going to do for the tournament on Sunday.  Those big bluegills that attract anglers from neighboring states, they were nowhere to be found by any tournament competitor.  Of the 30 teams/60 anglers that fished the event a 0.74 pound bluegill was the largest fish.  That is a great bluegill but doesn't compare to years past.  We fell short of the competition this weekend, finishing in the middle of the pack, but many fish were caught and lessons were learned.  Disappointed, yes, we both were but we will fight again another day.  A big Congratulations to friends Chad Angell and Josh Sansgaard on another ice tournament victory!!!

My largest fish ever caught through the ice
Channel Catfish: 7 pounds 10 ounces
22 inch rod, 2# test line
Another component of this trip was to try to fish for other species on the lakes.  Saturday afternoon we took a short drive to East Okoboji to fish there.  I have never iced fished there and was willing to take a look at it.  We were hoping for some yellow bass and crappies.  On this adventure a couple other friends joined in that were fishing the tournament as well.  The four of us drilled a lot holes on the breaklines to discover no fish on the Vexilars.  We continued looking and drilled out to the deeper basin, this is where the Vexilars started to light up.  For the last 70-90 minutes of daylight the fishing action was great.  Big yellows, nice black crappies, a keeper walleye and my biggest fish ever through the ice, a catfish.  It was quite a roller coaster those last few minutes of light, but we squeezed as much as we could into that day of fishing and we all enjoyed it very much.  It is fun to fail, and then conquer the fish...even if it was for a brief amount of time.  Lessons learned, experienced and remembered for another day on the ice.

Monday, December 26, 2016

A trip North

After the cold blast that hit Iowa last weekend, the ice has been growing quit nicely.  Reports of 6-12 inches of ice in Northern Iowa sent my friend Jacy and I on a trip before the Christmas holiday to that area.  Clear Lake was the destination, and the turnout was fantastic.  Clear Lake, Iowa is not only a great little town to stay in, it offers quite the variety of fish to chase after.  After doing some Internet searches and talking with friends we made a plan to hit several lakes in this area.  The number of lakes within a 30 minute drive of Clear Lake is pretty amazing.  It gives an angler ample opportunities to catch whatever species they desire.  In the two days of fishing our Vexilars were lit up quite often, we caught the following species; perch, yellow bass, crappies, bluegills, walleyes and bullheads.  The Bullheads were quite a surprise, as each time we thought we had a nice perch on, but the smooth-skin slimer came through the hole instead.  Beside the snow storm we fished through on Friday, leaving us soaking wet, it was a great few days in the Clear Lake area.  If you haven't been to Clear Lake lately, plan a trip.  Clear Lake Bait and Tackle is the place to stop for all your needs, live bait, shack rental, and guided trips for a variety of species.  Kevan Paul will help make your stop to Clear Lake a great one if you don't know the area.