Prime time for ice-fishing now

For those us who like to spend time fishing, the winter in our region is always long.
We have a lot of ambition for those first few trips of the season. Once we get into January and February, however, we go because we like to be out there—though most days we really don’t enjoy the cold temperatures, deep snow, and tougher fishing all that much.
As we get into March, there is renewed ambition because the weather usually is better, the days are longer, and the fish bite better than they have all winter.
The last couple weeks of March always are some of my favourite of the entire year because I spend most of them on the ice, enjoying all of the world-class ice-fishing opportunities we have across Sunset Country.
With plenty of snow and good ice, we still have at the very least a couple of weeks left where conditions should be pretty good.
Crappies are a popular species of choice across the region. As the snow starts to melt and more sunlight makes its way through the ice, crappies amp up their activity level quite a bit—likely because they know spring is coming.
My good friend, Jamie Bruce, explains that crappie anglers should be looking for active fish that are suspended off the bottom.
“Always look for fish on your flasher that are suspended off the bottom,” he stresses. “These are always the most active fish in the lake and they are almost always catchable.
“In fact, don’t even drop your jig down the hole until you mark fish on your electronics. [And] when you do finally mark fish, always watch your jig or spoon go down on the screen and stop it before you get to the level of the fish.
“If you make them come up for your jig, they bite it nearly every time! If you drop it to the level of the fish or, even worse, past the fish, you risk spooking them and not getting a bite.”
More non-resident anglers travel to Sunset Country to battle lake trout than any other species because they know how active trout are during the winter; and that their odds of catching a big fish are better here than any other drive-to location in the country.
Instead of focusing on the usual deep points or bluff walls, however, try trout fishing in shallower water than you normally would.
In lakes that have a healthy perch population, trout actively will feast on them. Look at the mouths of those shallow, weedy bays in 30 or 40 feet of water and you’ll be surprised at what you find.
Small perch near the bottom indicate that trout will not be far away. It’s an overlooked location that can produce big fish and good numbers.
Walleye anglers have been having the best results over the past couple of months fishing main lake structure, like humps and flats, but now is the time you can start fishing some new locations and shallower water.
I love to get off the big lakes and start fishing the smaller back ones late in the season. Many of these smaller lakes absolutely are filled with fish and many of them don’t have any access during the open-water season other than by float plane.
My experience has been that these inland lakes offer mediocre fishing during most of the winter, but they really heat up in March.
Fish in front of creeks that might be flowing into these lakes or along sandy shorelines. Walleyes spawn shortly after ice-out, so fish will be headed for spawning locations.
When you fish these small lakes and shallow water, it seems like walleyes like a set line more than they do a lure that’s constantly jigged. But try both and let the fish tell you what they want.
If you like to catch big pike, there is no better time than the next few weeks as they make a rush for shallow, weedy bays, and it is the best time of year to target whitefish because they start to group up in deeper water.
Whatever species you like catch, prime time is coming up if you like to ice-fish!