Prime time to hit the ice

As winter grows old for many across Sunset Country, late March is prime time for those of us who like to ice-fish.
Longer days, warm sun, and great fishing are some of the highlights to hitting the ice at this time of year.
Before I head down to Alabama later this week for my next FLW Tour bass tournament, I’m hitting the ice hard—getting in as much fishing as I can while the conditions are still good.
With the snow pretty well gone from the ice, transportation has been great for trucks and ATVs. It’s pretty tough going now on a snowmobile because there is no snow to keep everything cool and lubed up.
For the past few days, I had some friends from Northland Fishing Tackle up for a trip that they make every year. They come to test out some of the new baits that they are planning to release for 2016, as well as take some pictures and videos of the big fish that we catch.
These guys really enjoy coming to Northwestern Ontario because of the variety of trophy fish that they can catch. In three days of fishing earlier this week, we caught big walleye, lake trout, pike, whitefish, and crappies (it was really good).
One of the reasons I like to ice-fish so much at this time of year, aside from the nicer weather, is that many fish start to show up in predictable locations as they await the ice break-up.
Pike and walleyes start to congregate near spawning areas while whitefish pile into deep holes. Crappies and lake trout just seem to ramp up their activity level.
We managed to wrangle up a few monster pike this week with dead ciscos rigged on a quick-strike rig beneath a tip-up. I’ve said it before (and it was proven again) this is, by far, the best way to catch the biggest pike of the year.
The rigs we were using were the Northland Predator Rigs, which hang your dead bait in a natural fashion.
The walleyes we caught all came on Northland spoons like the Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon and the Macho Minnow. One-quarter oz. models were the best and the colour didn’t seem to matter a whole lot.
We were using their new UV-coloured baits, which are brighter in deep water and easier for fish to see from longer distances.
Lake trout, meanwhile, were hit-or-miss on Lake of the Woods but we did catch a few big ones—mostly on white tube jigs. We seemed to do better in shallower spots rather that the traditional deep holes they like to hang around.
Crappie fishing was pretty good once we found them. We had to drill about 100 holes before we found a good school in the area that we fished. But once we did, it was fast and furious action, catching fish almost as fast as we could get our baits down to the bottom.
It’s all about finding these guys with your electronics because they don’t move around a whole lot.
For whatever reason, whitefish seem to really pile into the deeper holes at this time of year. We were catching them suspended about 40 feet down over 80 feet of water.
Small spoons worked best. You can get their attention with bigger baits, but they have such a small mouth that it’s tough to hook them.
As for new tackle, Northland has a really cool new spoon coming out in 2016, as well as some great new panfish jigs and accessories for ice anglers. All of the new stuff worked great this week!
I really enjoyed getting out on the ice while I’ve been home, but I’m ready to go chasing bass again so I can forget about the terrible tournament I had in Florida a couple of weeks ago.
Look for my report from Alabama’s Lewis Smith Lake next week.