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Posts Tagged ‘Ice fishing’

Today was the first day I was able to get on the ice this year. I have been trying to get out but it seems like there has been something going on every nice weekend.  The weekends nothing was going on the weather was so cold I didn’t want to leave the house.  I don’t mind ice fishing when its zero or less outside as long as I am already on fish. I don’t want to be scouting in that weather.

Today I had to sign my son up for baseball at 11 so I figured I would get out for the afternoon.  I stopped by the tackle shop for a couple new jigs and some bait. The lady behind the counter told me good luck I hear they got a foot of snow up that way.   This was not encouraging but I was going ice fishing so off I went.

I pulled into the parking lot at the Elm’s golf course where I planned to walk out from. However, when I got there I realized I couldn’t even see the ice from the parking lot. The wind was ripping and blowing snow all over.  After a few minutes of contemplating braving it I decided to go check Green Point. I pulled there and it was better but still not very good so it was off the Lake View.  I arrived at Lake View at the same time as a couple other guys that were heading out and there was once shanty out there already.  Again the wind was ripping but I had made up my mind I was going to give it a try. I unloaded the 2 man shanty from the truck bed and filled it with gear. I have a single man as well but the plan is to fish with my oldest son and wife tomorrow so I figured I would just deal with dragging it so I was ready for tomorrow.  This tuned out to be a mistake.

As I drug the shanty to the ice I realized I never put my ice cleats in the truck. The ice was snow covered so I didn’t think it was going to be too bad.  As I started out onto the ice I realized I was wrong. The ice was smooth as silk underneath 3 to 4 inches of snow making dragging the shanty very difficult. With no other choice, well besides going home, I pressed on.  I tried multiple techniques to move myself and the shanty with out falling.  No of which worked all that well. The third time I fell I decided that was where I was going to fish.  I cut two holes and set up the shanty.

Anyone who has set up a shanty in high winds by themselves know what kind of shit show that quickly turns into.  After a brief fight I was inside somewhat out of the wind. I cleaned out the hole and dropped in the Vexilar. I saw I was in six feet of water and there were fish down there.  It took a couple tries to figure out what they wanted but then I had my first blue gill hooked. It was a decent one around 8 inches. I say around because it fell off the hook and managed to land right back in the 6 inch hole which it more than covered before it flipped and swam away.  I wasn’t happy about that but hey at least there were fish there and they were what I wanted.  The next few minutes when well as I landed a few nice gills and placed them in my bucket.

Then a gust of wind came up that almost flipped the shanty. I fought to keep it held down as a few things fell off the seat next to me. Luckily not landing in the other hole I had cut that I was now realizing would not be used.  As it settled down I moved my seat position further back as to keep more weight on the back of the sled. I caught a couple more gills all keeper except one. The wind was blowing snow under the sides of the shanty but I was on fish and that was all that mattered. Then it happened, a wind gust so hard it flipped the shanty up on it’s side with me in it. I struggled and managed to hold it from flying away on me. As I got it back onto its bottom I realized it was time to pack up the shanty.  Why didn’t I bring that single man shanty again?

After It was packed up I decided I would fish with out it as long as I could. This was interesting as the snow was being blow into the hole and the Vexilar screen.  I lasted about 15 minutes landing a couple more gills and losing a really nice one that got caught on the transducer.  If I was using a heavier jig I could have lasted longer but the snow in the hole and ice on the line got to be too much of a pain.  When it was all over I had 11 gills in the bucket. Considering this was a complete shit show that only lasted about an hour or so I didn’t think that was too bad. I am hoping for lighter winds tomorrow.

 

 

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There have been some better reports coming from Sandy Pond over the last week.  People have been catching some good perch off the elms. Not huge numbers but 20 to 30 keeper fish. This is a big improvement over the start of the season.
The Northern Pike fishing continues to be good using large minnows under tip ups.

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I was told the bite was slow on Onieda and yesterday proved it. I fished out of Taft Bay with Andy Hilton. We got bait at Apps and headed out about 2.5 miles from the Taft Bay park.

The morning started slow with lots of lookers and a couple lite bites that we missed. Around 10 a.m. Andy hit a good perch. Shortly after I dropped down a Jigging Rapala and an 18 inch walleye wacked it. I caught one more short one and then dropped 2 at the hole. Andy dumped 2 at the hole and landed one about 16 inches along with another perch about 14 inches.  He also landed a big small mouth bass probably going 3 pounds.

We talked to 5 or 6 other guys that all had worse days than us. The fish are there but they are picky. It was very cold so we didn’t move deciding just to keep trying to get the fish we were on to hit. If you are headed on to Onieda there is plenty of ice (16+ inches) but the bite is slow for now.

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Northern Pike caught on Sandy Pond

Northern Pike caught on Sandy Pond

So you have decided you want to try ice fishing but don’t know where to start. You have a few options. The first and least expensive is find a friend or co worker that is already into ice fishing and ask them if they would take you. This will cost you a few bucks for gas, bait and maybe your friends lunch. This will give you a good chance to experience ice fishing and if you decided you don’t like it your not out anything.

The second option would be to hire a fishing guide who offers ice fishing trips. This will cost you about $300. That may seem like a lot of money but it will be worth it for more than one reason. First off if a guide is offering ice fishing trips they spend a lot of time on the ice and will know where the fish are and what they are hitting on. During a normal season I spend 2 to 6 days a week on the ice. I cover a lot of water until I find the fish. The guide you hire will also likely have top notch equipment including a shanty, heater, fish finder, quality rods and reels, and tip ups or tip downs. This will not only give you a better experience but also introduce you to the different equipment you may want to purchase in the future. Your guide will also provide all the bait needed. If you are going to hire a guide make sure you specify that you are new to ice fishing and are looking to try it out. Let them know the type of fish you are looking to catch and make sure they are confident in being able to put you on that species. In the Central New York area the major species of fish caught ice fishing are Perch, Sunfish, Bluegills, Crappie, Pike, and Walleye.

The third option would be to go out and buy the basic ice fishing gear and give it a try on your own. If you feel that ice fishing is going to be for you this is a good option. There is some basic gear you will need. First off you will need an auger to cut through the ice. I don’t recommend the blue Morra augers. They will work ok at first but will not last. Spend a little extra and buy at least the Strike Master Lazer auger. This is a good starter auger. As you get more into ice fishing you may want to upgrade to a better hand auger or even a gas powered one.  Don’t forget to get an ice scoop to clean all the slush out of the hole after you cut it.

Then you will need something to catch fish with. If you are planning on just fishing for panfish or walleye then a couple jigging rods will do. I recommend buying one with a good reel that has an instant anti reverse. With out an instant anti reverse you will miss many hits when setting the hook due to the bail spinning back until it hits the stop.  You can pick up a decent rod and reel combo for around $30. You will want one light action for sunnies and gills and a medium action for perch and walleye.

If you plan to fish for pike you will also need some tip ups. The style you choose is all personal preference. I personally like the polar style as they set up easy and very seldom do you get wind flags.  However the Laker style are nice if you are setting long strings as the higher flag will be easier to see in the distance.

Tip downs are also a great option for perch fishing. There are days where my jigging rod barely sees any use as I am busy chasing my tip downs all day. This is a problem I love to have.

The bait you need will depend on what you are fishing for. For perch jigs or spoons with spikes, a minnow, or a perch eye are best. I like the Forage minnow jigs the best. They are shaped like a spoon with a single hook molded into it. You will also find a variety of soft plastic baits that can be applied to your jig or spoon that will also work. For panfish you will normally want smaller sized jigs tipped with spikes. There are times where small spoon such as Frostee’s tipped with spikes or a perch eye can be the ticket.  For pike you will want large minnows to fish on your tip ups. You will want a steel leader or a heavy mono leader on the tip  up with a good sized treble hook. Hook the minnow through the back and place it about 3 feet from bottom. If you want to jig for Pike large jigging spoons tipped with a minnow or a jigging Rapala will be your best bet. As for Walleyes I like to use medium sized jigging spoons tipped with a large buckeye or fat head minnow. Overall your best bet is to hit up a local tackle shop and ask what has been working. They will be more than willing to show you what you need for lures and bait. Start off with a small box of the basics they recommend and go from there adding a few each time you stop for bait.

The last thing you will need is a bucket or sled to haul your stuff out on the ice. Jet sleds are my preferred sled for hauling gear but a simple kids sled will work at first. A bucket can double as a seat and a way to bring your fish home.

Ice spikes that connect together and can be worn around your neck are a great safety item to have. They are designed to be used if you fall through the ice to help you climb back onto the ice. They are cheap insurance at about $9 a set. I always have them with me and always wear them on early and late ice.

There is a lot more gear that you could purchase but this would get you fishing. If you plan on getting serious about it you will want a shanty, a heater, fish finder, and possibly an under water camera. These all will make the ice fishing experience much more enjoyable but are not necessarily needed to get started. I will get into these items in more detail in future posts as this is just discussing the basics.

Now that you have a the gear you need the question is where to fish. This is again where hiring a guide or going with a friend will help a lot. They will already know the hot spots. If you are fishing on a body of water that gets any fishing pressure it will be easy to see where people are catching fish. All you have to do is look for the “city” of ice shantys and head in that direction. I normally wont set up any closer than about 30 yards from another shanty. I don’t like it when someone sets up on top of me so I don’t do it to others. If the person has tip ups or tip downs out be considerate of them too and don’t set up in the middle of their spread.

If you are fishing a body of water that doesn’t get much pressure or is private fish the same types of structures you would in the summer. If there are drop offs, brush piles, or weed beds these are the places you should start. If you can get a contour map of the lake or pond it will help with this.

Staying mobile is a big part of my strategy and should be yours too. If I don’t find the fish I am looking for in the first 10 minutes I am moving. I may only move 10 feet or I may move 100 yards. It all depends on the water I am fishing.  This only applies to jigging. If I am setting tip ups for pike or walleye I will spread them out over a big area to start and move them towards the tip ups that start producing. When tip up fishing I give them an hour before moving if I haven’t had a hit.  If I am moving my whole tip up spread its to an entirely different section of the lake as I normally put out 5 tip ups covering at least 100 yards. Again this is a subject that will be discussed in future articles.

I hope this post has helped you if you plan on trying ice fishing this year. Again if you are going to give it a try I recommend going with a friend or hiring a guide. It will make your first trip much more enjoyable than trying to do it on your own.

I appreciate any questions, comments, or ideas for future posts. Good luck and see you on the ice.

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There was safe ice today on Sackets Harbor inside the marina. The pike bite was good. I am thinking it might be fishable tomorrow but after that it will be no good until it gets cold again.

The pike and panfish bite on Lake View has been ok but again tomorrow will be the last day I would venture out on it until it gets cold again.

Rollaway Bay on Black Lake had a very good Crappie bite and had 6 inches of ice. It might stay good through the weekend but I would make a phone call or two before making the drive.

As you can see this warm weather is going to put a damper on our early ice. Hopefully Christmas week will lock everything back up for us and we will be back out there.

Take advantage of warm weather and hit the rivers for Steelhead or Brown Trout. That is what I will be doing tomorrow morning. The trout bite has been hot in Oswego and on the Salmon River.

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2 Nice Perch caught Ice Fishing on Henderson Harbor

The perch bite was good on Henderson Harbor

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