Thursday, March 7, 2019

Eastern Iowa: Lake MacBride

Please practice catch and release when you can. 
A dozen to take home.

Each fall begins preparation for the upcoming ice fishing season.  What takes place in these months often shapes how the winter will go.  The winter has been a busy one personally and on the ice too.  Last fall a particular lake was on the "Hit List" for this ice season.  Lake MacBride was this lake and this past weekend it was time to check things out. 
The lake is known for ice that doesn't grow as rapid as nearby lakes, but there is no shortage of ice this winter in Iowa.  It was the perfect time to hook up the snowmachines and get to business trying to see what the buzz was all about.  The lake has had good reports for crappies and keeper walleye all fall and into the winter.  Crappies are a main target of mine in the winter so of course that was the reason this lake was on my hit list.  David Gissel has a knack for finding crappies too, so it didn't take much arm twisting for us to mark it on the calendar. 
To our surprise as we pulled up the lake was very busy, numerous groups and pairs spread all across the southern arm of the lake.  As we entered the lake and took a look at the GPS units we could see that most anglers were targeting the rock piles spread throughout this area.  We decided to start looking at the deeper banks and points in search of roaming crappies.  We looked, and looked, and looked but after dozens and dozens of holes the Vexilars were blank.  Next on the list was to try some brush piles.  This didn't take long with the GPS units.  Soon we were drilling out every brushpile we could find and soon catching fish, mostly crappies.  A quick tip for those using the Pro-Ducer on the Vexilar models, it was very easy to see the brushpiles by turning up the gain or the cone angle and stirring the hole with the transducer.  This showed us which way to drill next and in the end found us the piles much quicker.  Once on top of or near the brushpiles we would turn the gain down to decrease the cone angle back to 9 degrees, giving the us the most direct look into the brush below. By getting the most out of our electronics we made the most out of catching crappies all day long.
A variety of baits were working throughout the day, jigs with plastics or spikes seemed to be the most consistent along with a small jigging spoon.  We would tip the spoons with numerous spikes to use the baits' scent to its fullest potential.  The water in areas of the lake was dirty, so I think the spoon really helped the fish to see the bait from a distance.  I used the 36-inch Jason Mitchell Meat Stick for almost the entire day.  I have paired this rod with a Quantum Throttle size 10 reel.  This combo is ideal for hole-hopping as it drops the bait very quickly and has the long rod for easy jigging without using the reel.  The reel is so smooth in the cold weather and the drag is second-to-none. 
We ended up with dozens of crappies on the day, and David took a dozen home for a meal.  Most of the crappies were in the 7-9 inch range that we came across that day, however there were a few 11-inch fish mixed in as well.  Several bluegills on the day, but all were quite small.  The bonus fish of the day had to be the numerous Spotted Bass we caught.  Neither one of us had ever caught one through the ice before (Lake MacBride is the only lake that has them in Iowa) and they put up quite a fight for us.  We caught several around the 14-inch mark for the day.
One of the bigger Spotted (Kentucky) Bass
Looking back on our first trip to MacBride on the ice we did many things right to find fish.  However, we spent a lot of time in the deeper, main lake water that didn't produce a bite.  Perhaps it was just that particular day, or maybe that lake sets up that way, the crappies just don't use that structure in the winter.  Each fishing trip is test, and a chance to learn for the future.  We sure had fun learning on this day!

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