Monday, January 30, 2012

Sunrise at Hickory Grove

January 29th found, David Bowles, Chad Pietig and I heading to Hickory Grove to chase some bluegills and try to find the elusive crappie in that lake.  We hit the lake right at sunrise...which is absolutely awesome in its own right.  With the help of Mr. GPS, we were on our first brushpile right away.  To our amazement we found about 8 inches of nice ice on the lake.  The bite was slow to say the least, until the sun popped over the horizon and lit things up, by that I mean lit the VEXILARS UP!  We all were catching nice gills and the occasional green sunfish.  The green sunfish were hanging deep down in the brush, as usual.  We wore that spot out, and kept several nicer gills for David's family to eat up.  We moved to brushpile number two for the day.  Again, by using the GPS this was done in no time and we had a dozen holes drilled and started fishing again.  More bluegills were caught but not as many.  Chad even found a few gills between the brushpiles as they were cruising around.  Off to brushpile number three for the day.  BOOM, once again the Vexilars were flickering and showing fish immediately.  This brush was in the deepest water of the day, right around 25 feet.  You guessed it, more bluegills.  Finally, we made our way to spot number four for the morning, this being a deep main lake drop-off.  Again, the gills were there and most of them were suspended in the near thirty feet of water.  Not typical of bluegills, but with our Vexilars they were quite easy to catch around the 12-14 feet area.

All colors of jigs seemed to work well today, which is not normally the case at Hickory Grove.  The fish that we found were fish that were working over brushpiles or on the steep drop-off looking for food.  We fished a total of about 4.5 hours, so we moved when the bite slowed down, which is key at this time of year.  You can catch so many more fish by being mobile than waiting in one area, especially when February is right around the corner.

A great day was had by all, even though the crappies avoided us.  In total we estimated at least 80 bluegills found their way up to the brisk air and sunlight that day.  A good morning no matter where you are fishing.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Plan "B"

                Last weekend was a great weekend to be outside.  Of course, on the top of my list of “things to do” was to go ice fishing.  I was invited to fish a private pond, and I thought I would share that experience with some fellow ice anglers.  Three friends and I met a buddy at Casey’s from Pleasant Hill and we were off to catch some big bluegills that this private pond is known for.  All five of us were excited about this opportunity as we traveled to the pond with high expectations. 
                With all our safety gear and fishing equipment, we walked toward some shallow water with weeds present, a perfect location for wintertime bluegills.  I started things off by drilling about 30 holes to locate the bluegills.  In just a few minutes all five of us had our Vexilars down the holes in search of that first fish of the day.  We could see fish movement under the ice with the Vexilar electronics, but they were very hesitant to bite.  We all thought, that it was going to be “one of those days” when you had to practically beg the fish the bite.  Well, it turns out that we were just fishing for wrong type of fish. 
                Soon, after a quick tackle adjustment from small jigs to the larger Salmo minnow imitation baits, we were catching fish.  They weren’t the big bluegills that we were expecting, but what we did end up catching were largemouth bass.  Every one of us were catching the bass, it had seemed like they took over this shallow part of the pond and they were keeping the bluegills out.  We did get a few nice bluegills mixed in, but we all had a blast catching those bass.  Most of them measured from fourteen inches to sixteen inches, which makes for an awesome fight on rods that are less than two-feet long.
Mark Anderson and I with two nice Black Crappies
                The action on the bass slowed down quite a bit, and I suggested we try some deeper water.  We walked the short distance to other side of the pond near the deepest water, about 20 feet.  This time Brian fired up the auger and popped about 30 holes.  Once again, five Vexilars went down the holes and the catching began immediately.  Most of us hooking up with a fish on our very first drop, and when we set the hook, we knew these weren’t bluegills, they were pulling too hard.  The first fish on the ice was a nice black crappie.  In crappie fashion, these fish came in suspended in the water column, almost exactly half way up.  All five of us had a blast catching these crappies, and once again in true crappie form they came through this deeper part of the pond in schools.  There were numerous times when two or three guys would be battling a crappie at one time.  Then, of course was the battle of whose is bigger began! 
                Some baits that were working well for the crappies were the standard, small ice fishing jigs, and color didn’t seem to matter.  Waxworms, spikes, or plastic tails caught these fish and they were not very picky.  This often happens, and spoils you when you fish a private location.  Rarely are they this cooperative in public lakes where they see every trick in the book every day.  One thing that I experimented with was some tungsten jigs.  Tungsten is a metal that is much more dense than lead and therefore it sinks at a faster rate.  This helped me to catch one fish, and get my bait back down the hole quickly before the school had time to move on.  I was able to catch three or four crappies from each school when others were getting one or two, and that tungsten jig really helped me do that.  If you haven’t tried tungsten ice fishing jigs, I highly recommend them, especially if you are fishing in water that is deeper than 10 feet.  
                Thinking back on that day of ice fishing, I can’t help but remember the smiles of group as we were catching the bass, and then the crappies.  Although it wasn’t what we were looking forward to that day, it won’t be a day that is forgotten anytime soon by my friends.  Our hopes of catching big bluegills had to wait until another day, but the bass and crappies that we did catch, were amazing!  Without making a move and changing techniques, the day could have been chalked up to another one of those days…when the fish weren’t biting.  Plan B saved our day and made an ice fishing memory that will last a long time. 
                Private ponds can be a blast to fish, but like I mentioned, they sure do spoil you.  To make yourself a better fisherman, try as many different lakes and ponds as you can.  With each trip, you are not only figuring out where the fish are living for that day, but also what techniques it takes to catch them.  Be safe on the ice, and always take friends with you to enjoy the adventure.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The first one...

As many of you know, I enjoy fishing.  It has been my ambition since I was a small boy back in Independence, Iowa.  I guess I have the Wapsipinicon River to blame for that, among the many people who took me fishing as I grew up; my dad and mom, great-uncle "Tough", Kevin Christensen, Chuck Marshall, Jack Toale, and my numerous high school and college friends.  I always looked forward with to the next fishing adventure no matter who it was with.

My goal for this blog is to share my fishing stories with you.  Sometimes it may be articles that I write for newspapers or magazines, or simply a recap of my day of fishing.  I truly love to chase fish and find where they live so my family, friends and I can catch them.  I hope you enjoy my future blogs.
Brian Bowles and I at a recent ice fishing trip to Clear Lake to catch Yellow Bass.