Milder weather, hotter fishing

It’s safe to say that all of us enjoyed the “tropical” weather that showed up over the past weekend. I know I did!
After nearly a month of bitter cold, it’s nice to get a little break from the deep freeze or, as some people have been calling it, the Polar Vortex.
It was evident that a lot of people took advantage of the milder weather to get out on the ice for some fishing over the past weekend because when I was in Kenora on Saturday morning, I ran into several people buying licences and bait at the local tackle shops.
I’m not sure if it’s the more stable weather, or maybe the ice making less noise, but the fish just seem to bite better when it’s nice out—even in winter.
As anglers, we probably help the cause when it’s nicer outside because we drill more holes and are more likely to move from hole to hole looking for biting fish, as opposed to just sitting in a shack all day waiting for the fish to come to us.
Plus, our line, rods, and reels aren’t freezing constantly on us so we can feel bites a little bit better and our equipment is less likely to fail.
This past Saturday, my friends and I mixed things up, spending some time fishing lake trout during the day before moving on to a walleye spot for the prime time evening bite.
We caught three trout but they were all big fish (more than 10 pounds). The biggest was a fish somewhere between 15 and 20 pounds caught by Ashley Haines, who spends plenty of time on the ice with her boyfriend, Jamie Bruce.
The hot lake trout bait of the day was a four-inch white twister tail grub fished on a 3/8 oz. jig head.
The walleye bite in the evening was somewhat more productive in terms of action as we caught a number of nice “eaters” and a couple of big fish, which were released.
My buddy, Karl Engstrom, had the hot bait of the evening—a quarter-ounce gold Northland Macho Minnow spoon tipped with a minnow head.
Karl is one of my neighbours so we get out fishing quite a bit, and it’s not very often that he beats me. But on Saturday evening, we had a race to see who could catch their four keeper fish the fastest, with $20 on the line, and he won.
I’ll probably never hear the end of it.
Then on Sunday, my friends and I were back on the ice looking for crappies. Although it’s a workout trying to get around right now in all the deep snow, we were able to find some fish after drilling about 50 holes.
The deal with winter crappies on most of the lakes across Sunset Country is that they school up in very tight groups in the main basins of the bays or lakes that they live in. These generally are large, flat areas so it’s sometimes necessary to drill a number of holes to find the fish.
But once you do, you’re usually in for a pretty fun day.
We ended up catching quite a few nice crappies once we found them, and especially enjoyed the almost above-freezing temperatures.
After getting my ice-fishing fix over the weekend, I’m starting to think open water again as I prepare to leave for Florida at the end of the week for the first FLW Tour event of the year down at Lake Okeechobee in a couple of weeks.
At this time of year, it’s pretty easy to justify leaving early to go down there. I have a new boat and motor for 2014, so I need to get some hours in on it and make sure everything is working properly.
I also need to get fishing again with a regular-sized fishing pole before the tournament starts after using two-foot long ice-fishing rods over the past couple of months.