Drilling holes with a hand auger, kicking the slush to the side of an eight inch hole, and scooping out the slivers of ice is the start of some fun time on hard water. This is the beginning of a good day of ice fishing.
Late last week radio show co-host partner Jim DaRosa of the Fishing Line and Outdoor Radio Show and I walked on hard water. We shared some time on the ice jigging up bluegills and a couple of small bass from a private pond in Will County.
It could get cold being on the ice. So when you start to feel that tingle in your fingers and toes, it’s time to start moving around.
Ice fishing is unlike fishing from a boat. On the ice, you have to select your spot wisely. No matter what specie it is, cold blooded fish will not travel far to take your presentation.
Knowing the lake and its structure will help. Drilling more holes will help too. Many times ice anglers will switch from one hole to the next than come back to the first. Fish will move some but remember, fish close to structure; weeds, trees, or drop offs.
“I like to move around a lot.” DaRosa mentioned. “I enjoy fishing open water from my boat because it’s easy to move around. But on the ice, going from one hole to the next makes it interesting and keeps the chill off.”
We fished a two acre pond and had it all to ourselves. The weather was mild with temperatures just near freezing. Cutting holes with a hand auger was easy as the ice was only about nine inches thick.
The day started with putting out a couple of tip ups. They were baited with red worms and let down to rest on the bottom. Recent reports were that this was the way to catch winter catfish. We tried several spots and no takers.
“We had flags flying all morning but no cats. Every release was fishless. It must have been bluegills.” DaRosa claimed at the end of the day.
It didn’t matter though as the bluegills kept us pretty busy.
While the tip ups were set and waiting, our ice rods were rigged with small ice jigs tipped with wax worms or Gulp micro baits. We also tried black Mini Mites.
The bluegills were biting and most all caught were seven and eight inches long.
They started out by taking the live bait. But when the micro baits were tried, the fish we caught were bigger. Some nice bull bluegills and some slab sized hybrids came up through the ice.
The black Mini Mites proved to be the ticket for many of the gills. They worked well last year and they lived up to their reputation last week.
It was good that there was hardly any wind. Being on the ice was quite comfortable. Without the need of an ice tent, we were able to move and drill more holes. We never really got cold and the action never stopped. All in all, it was a very good day.
There are plenty of ponds and lakes here in Northern Illinois that have safe ice. Our pond had a solid nine inches. But last weeks slight warming trend warrants the use of caution. Check on the ice conditions at local tackle shops or by cutting holes in the ice at the shores edge. Make sure the ice is at least thick enough before venturing out.
Crappies, bluegills, bass and yes, even catfish can be caught through the ice. So sharpen your auger blades and pick up some bait. It’s time to walk on hard water because great fishing is not that far away.
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