Sunday, March 31, 2019

It has begun!

First fish of the year, 3.19# on a
Wigs Jig and Hot Rod Baits Chunk
The 2019 OPEN WATER season has started here in NE Iowa.  I was able to get out on the Wapsi River for a few hours today and look around.  It always amazes me how rivers change from one year to another.  Some things always stay the same, but there are always things that Mother Nature changes.  It is one thing I love about rivers and the one thing I dislike about rivers.  moving around on the Wapsi River in Buchanan County hasn't been easy the past decade, and this spring has already shown me that is isn't going to get any easier.   It will be difficult to navigate around the sandbars, but the current will hopefully carve out a place for boats to enjoy the water and fish that swim in them.  On this day, we were after largemouth bass.  This time of the year on interior rivers is best time to catch a giant.  We went looking and ended up with three bass over 3#, one just missed 4# at 3.91 pounds.  It was a good short trip and both Keith and I caught some bass.  A win-win for early April, it sure was a good feeling to really set the hook with the long rods!

Monday, March 25, 2019

OK, truly the last time

A couple buckets of BIG
Clear Lake Yellows

This time I am for real, this past weekend was the last day on the ice for me this season.  March 23rd, the second latest I have ever ice fished, last year I was able to ice fish into April.  Clear Lake was our choice on this day, knowing the ice was good and a chance to catch some yellows was all I needed to pack the gear in the truck and head north one last time.  It is always a long ride home, thinking back over the year and already looking forward to next year.  It was a good day on Clear Lake, and the yellows did not disappoint.

There were four of us in the group on Saturday which always makes things easier when trying to track down the yellows.  We made quick moves at first after a few smaller perch and a couple nice crappies.  Once we found an area that the yellows were cruising through we made smaller moves to try and stay on the hungry fish.  The day was beautiful, temps were in the high forties with a light breeze and plenty of fish to keep us busy between telling stories.  On this particular day at Clear Lake the yellows seemed to be very close to and in the weeds.  We found a nice big patch of eel grass that the fish were relating to, no doubt chasing bugs and worms, and caught most of our fish there.  Time of day did not seem to matter as they bit pretty consistently through the noon hour and into the early afternoon.
Hoping from hole to hole with my bucket system and Vexilar FLX-28 helps me to stay on the move and see if active fish are below me or not.  If not, it is a quick move to the next hole.  Something that I am getting more and more comfortable with is the 36-inch Jason Mitchell Meat Stick paired with the Quantum Throttle.  The length of the rod and smoothness of the reel make for easy work hopping around and dropping down to jig for another yellow.  Spoons seemed to be the best option on this day, several colors were working well, silver, gold, green, and my white/yellow Reins Tungsten Spoon.  I am really looking forward to using these more this summer and next winter.  A great spoon with a quick fall and flutter action.

That is a wrap on the ice season...I really do mean it this time.  It is once again time to transition to the boats for my next fishing adventures.  It was a great ice season, and I am looking forward to the next one.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Last Time for the Winter

There is always "one last time" at the end of the season, and this past Sunday was that for the ice fishing season.  David Gissel and I decided to make it a full day and try to hit three different lakes for three different species.  We headed south to our crappie lake and started popping holes around some brushpiles.  We started seeing fish immediately on the Vexilars, we just had to find the right baits that they wanted.  Jigs with plastics started to get some fish immediately and soon David started to pull the crappies up with spoons.  It was more of a bet here at the right time to get the fish to bite.  The crappies were on the move and no matter what we tried they were in and out very quickly.  We hopped around the lake hitting the deep basin, and several brushpiles, along with adjacent drop-offs.  All areas gave up some keeper crappies but the locations nearest the brushpiles were definitely the
best on this day.  After about 30 keepers we were off to the next lake in search of some big bluegills. 

This lake had the potential, but nothing panned out.  We hit many different structures, deep and shallow water, nothing...and nothing.  We struck out and didn't want to spend anymore time on this last day of ice fishing searching.  We had decided to head for lake #3 on the day in search of some Yellow Bass and a to try a new jigging spoon.

The REINS Spoon in the 2 and 3.5 gram model
I was looking forward to the third lake as I had a new jigging spoon I wanted to try out.  Reins fishing came out with a tungsten jigging spoon this year in multiple sizes, large enough for open water bass and small enough for panfish too.  I had a feeling they were going to be great for the fast-action yellow bass.  Yellow Bass are always fun to chase, and when I say chase that is exactly what it is.  You have to drill, and drill, and drill to chase them down.  We did find a pattern pretty quickly as looked at the piles of fish on the ice.  All the fish were in a straight line, all in 11-12 feet of water.  They were cruising this contour up and down the lake.  The Palputin Spoon from Reins was the ticket.  They performed to my expectations and then some.  The quality of hook that comes standard with these spoons is like nothing I have ever seen before in the world of ice fishing.  When you set the hook on a fish, there was no coming off.  These are the real deal, and when you see a mark on the on the Vexilar while hole hopping these spoons get down to the fish fast!  It went perfect with my favorite rod/reel of the year, the Quantum Throttle and a 36-inch Jason Mitchell Meat Stick has been a go-to combo all year long for hole hopping.  It was perfect on this day too.

Will this be the last day on the ice, probably?  The next weekend is pretty busy and traveling several hours north to get on safe ice just isn't in the cards. It was a great day on the ice, and a perfect way to remember the year on the ice!

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!