Tips on trolling for hard water ’eyes

Trolling has always been a way to find fish that are neutral or lethargic in the summer time. Trouble is, when the water gets hard and ice forms, it is really hard to go out and start trolling.
Most ice augers even today do not cut a groove in the ice but instead allow the anglers to drill a series of holes quickly and easily. And this series of holes can be used by the angler to start his trolling run.
Using a depthfinder through the ice allows a degree of precision you can only dream about in the summer. While trolling, for example, you get a vague idea from your depth finder of the structural elements, like points and indentations in a drop-off.
And if the wind isn’t too stiff, you can more or less repeat a pass or hold your boat directly above a piece of fish-holding structure.
In the winter, however, you can literally mark an ‘X’ above the tip of a point and walk a trail along a break line. You can map every detail of a reef and know for the rest of the winter where to drill your holes.
Such precise scanning of the bottom is possible because the depthfinder reads right through the ice. Just squirt some liquid on the ice, place the transducer face down in the puddle, and note the reading.
You then can move another two feet and take another reading. In this way, it’s possible to hone in on fish or on the most likely place to catch them before drilling a single hole.
Let’s say I’m working a sunken island that tops out at eight feet and is covered with vegetation that ends at 14 feet. I’ll drill holes all over the top of the structure that I’m going to jig in, and I’ll drill some more holes along the edge of the weeds where I’m going to place a tip-up.
I’ll put the tip-up with a shiner minnow right on the edge of the weeds, then go jig a lure in the shallower holes. You give the tip-up a half-hour to produce something and if the flag doesn’t pop, then move it to another hole.
If I don’t get a bite on the mid-lake structure, I know the fish are relating to the shoreline. Here you’re fishing weeds, weedlines, and drop-offs.
Drill a series of holes along the weedline first to give you an idea where the points, inside turns, and edges are. Then drill some holes here-and-there over the top of the weeds. Set the tip-up and shiner right on the edge and go jig in the weeds.
I like the spoon, which is a heavy metal vibrating blade bait, to search in the weeds for a couple of reasons. First, this lure is heavy enough to poke through any mats of vegetation and get right down underneath where the weeds thin out and the fish wait to ambush unsuspecting prey.
Second, the lure vibrates and makes a sound that draws these aggressive feeding fish into the lure’s range.
I work a hole for about 15 to 20 minutes. I don’t have a depthfinder transducer in the hole when I’m fishing like this because the lure is often under or in the weeds and it’s impossible to see the lure or any fish.
In lakes where the weeds are sparse, a depthfinder can help you see the lure and show a fish if it moves up to the bait. But typically you’re fishing in water less than 12 feet deep so you can’t really see fish on the sonar unless they are right on top of the bait.
Sometimes the tip-up gets a lot of action and the shallower jigging is not producing. When that happens, I’ll use the jigging rod in the deeper holes. On the weedlines, I like to use a quarter-ounce Northland Fire Eye Minnow and tip the treble hook with the head of a minnow.
Of course at this time of year, it is hard to troll to find active fish but in a sense, you can apply the methods you use in the summertime. Drill holes from the shallowest portion of the structure you are fishing and then continue to drill at various depths as the structure drops off into deeper water.
Then instead of “trolling” along the structure, you can use tip-ups to cover from the deepest to the shallowest point. Tip-ups enable you to cover more water than you could with a minnow and float. A flag can be seen from several hundred feet away.
Most places allow you to use two lines and so if you have a number of fishing buddies with you, you can cover the structure at various depths and, in effect, troll the edge of the structure.

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