Author: Scott Stankowski
Stevens Point— Catching bluegills consistently through the ice on any given body of water takes a knack of know-how. Sure when the fish are biting you can throw down any jig, put a wax worm on your hook and set it down and catch fish.
But to consistently put decent-sized gills from ice up to ice out you have to be able to vary your tactics. Time of year, water temperature, as well as the amount of oxygen, will determine the temperament of the fish themselves.
Give the gills a cold spell late in the year and they will be lethargic. Put some oxygen in the water and warm it up and they may be a bit more aggressive. Knowing these ideas in advance can help any angler out on the ice. If I were smart, and that is a big if, I would have a bunch of different jig poles set up with different setups. Like most of you, I have my favorite jig pole and I like to stick with it.
That means I am tying and retying as the day goes on to consistently put the fish on the ice. Once I or the boys find out what they want we share with each other the presentation for the day.
Having electronics is sometimes a key when the fish are finicky. Knowing they are down where you are fishing is over half the battle. I like to stick my Aqua-Vu down the hole to take a gander at what the bottom looks like on any particular day.
Lakes can change significantly in as little as 2 weeks. What it looked like then may not be what it looks like now. If there are a lot of dead weeds down there that means decomposition is occurring and using up oxygen. If there are fish they will be a bit on the slow side.
The greener it is, the more oxygen around and that should translate into more aggressive fish. If I am using my Vexilar as well and I notice fish coming to the bait and just holding at the depth I try a variety of different proven tactics that work.
I typically like to start my day with some sort of teardrop jig tipped with a wax worm. I slowly work it down the water column to find the active fish, stopping about every six inches and bouncing it to attract gills.
There are a few times when once I get a fish marked that I will slowly raise it to entice a bit. Gills for the most part do not like the rise like perch or crappies and prefer the drop and sit. Sometimes it takes a while for the fish to decide to bite so holding steady is a key.
I have taught the boys not to use a bobber but to watch the line and feel the fish with an ultralight sensitive rod. Spring bobbers work as well. Even then if the fish are lethargic you cannot tell. Two weeks ago we fished a cold spell, you could tell when you had a fish as the line would move in the water horizontally. If you set the hook the fish had it engulfed. Keeping the hole free of ice was important to notice the bite but even then we caught a lot of fish just by guessing the fish was on due to it sitting still on the Vexilar.
If we are marking fish but not getting any takers I like to switch it up to small. This past season, the boys and I have been starting out with that. We vary between a Northland Fishing Tackle Tungsten Mud Bug Jigin an orange or chartreuse but there are times when darker is better. The horizontal presentation also gives it a different look.
There are times when you have to jig like crazy to get the fish to notice the presentation. Trust your electronics and once you have a gill on screen, slow it down.
With the new Impulse Rigged Stone Fly, the game has really changed. This lightweight jig flutters on its way down. This setup is meant to be fished with a lightweight line in conditions without wind. This past weekend I was getting all kinds of lookers-on my Velxilar from the tungsten set up and so I switched to the fly and tipped it with a spike. The small presentation coupled with the lightweight and impulse scent was too much for the gills to handle. I went from marking and catching nothing to catching fish consistently.
We were fishing in an area where the water had warmed and there was green, so I assumed the fish should have been more active. What I did not take into consideration was that there were a lot of people in our area and a group of guys that chased their tip-ups down with their trucks rather than by foot causing the fish to be more cautious.
There is nothing better than outsmarting finicky fish. Knowing the pulse of the fish before you head out can help you decipher the puzzle. Remember that more oxygen and warmer water means potentially more active fish but that is just a piece to the puzzle. Water clarity, the amount of snow on the ice, and cloud cover can all play a role in further complicating the matter.
The bottom line is to have a variety of presentations ready and put the pieces together so that you can eat the pieces of the fillets in a delicious fish fry.
Until next time,