I had the opportunity this last weekend of February, to observe two different ice fishing trips on two separate water bodies about ten miles apart. Both lakes are similar with one main difference. Both lakes are mainly infertile which means they have very little nutrient loading or aquatic vegetation. One lake has clear water, is about 45 foot deep, 250 acre private reservoir that has never had any fishing allowed since it was built in the late 1800’s. The other lake is public water, natural in origin, and is also clear water with an average depth about 45 feet, and about 300 acres in size.
The private reservoir hosted an ice fishing derby from 8 AM to 1 PM and was limited to 20, 4 person teams. No one has any real knowledge of the lake but each team is provided a bathymetric map of the lake. The lake was divided into 20 distinct sections and the teams were allowed to fish from shore to shore. A possible 480 tip-ups where in the water. The public lake had 4 people fishing with a possible 24 baits in the water and those 4 fished from 11 AM to 5 PM. The four anglers on the public pond know the water, and had set up their gear on and around a proven good structural area of the lake. A hump of a few acres in size that tops off at 13 foot and is surrounded by 30+ feet of water.
When I arrived at the private derby around 9 AM, there was 3 fish weighed so far with the largest being a largemouth bass weighing under 2 pounds. I had some friends out there fishing and after visiting for a bit, took a walk around the entire lake talking to folks. The most distinct thing I observed was the entire lack of flag or jigging action. Nobody was getting any bites. 100 years ago, I had a wee bit of experience on this lake and there certainly was not any shortage of quality fish. Yet, when I left at 12 noon I was able to see the new big fish get weighed in, an 18 inch, 2.69 pound largemouth. At the same time, the first pickerel of the day was weighed, coming in at 2.02 lbs. With less than one hour of the derby remaining, approximately 15 fish were weighed in, 2 smallmouth bass, 1 pickerel and the remainder largemouth bass. Many folks were very surprised at the lack of action and also that there were not any giant fish coming up through the ice. Heck! It’s a private reservoir!
OK, off to the public pond. Those four anglers iced 5 pickerel with 2 of them being around 3 and 4 pounds respectfully, 5 largemouth bass with the best at 3.25 pounds, 4 trout with the best being a 20” brown trout, and 3, 12” yellow perch. A handful of big bluegills were also jigged up. Clearly a decent day on the public water.
What happened at the private lake? One would think the lake would have a balanced fish population with a handful of true trophy size fish. Heck! Most fishermen believe every private reservoir is filled with “dumb” fish, more than willing to investigate and readily eat anything put into the water, yet what occurred on this day was nothing like that at all. Why? This is one of those great fishing mysteries that keep me and many other fishermen coming back for more. More time on the water in an attempt to figure out how to fool a fish with a pea sized brain to eat your offering. More time to set aside to ponder the various reasons why. My current theory as to why the private water did not produce the numbers or the size that many were anticipating is due to noise on the ice. These fish were not accustomed to hearing 80 fishermen, plus spectators walking on their home. Nor are they accustomed to hear the ice being drilled above them or the 4 different quads that were running people around. On a public lake, I believe fish are somewhat conditioned to hearing boats, swimmers, fishermen and the like while on a private body of water the very seldom here anything like that.
I wrote this story of contrast in fishing due to knowing that avid anglers often think of these scenarios. For some, it’s almost the best part of fishing when you aren’t actually fishing. My buddy and I phrased this type of theoretical fish understanding as “Fishosophy”. The open ended ideas as to what this basic creature is thinking or reacting to, has often led to more fishing success by breaking out of some of the typical thinking and the willingness to explore new concepts. Perhaps the private lake did not turn out due to some other reason? Until the ice starts melting this year, I’m sure I will run this over in my mind several times. What about you? Any theories as to what happened would be more than welcome.
Another day on the water. March 11 and the water temp is down to 58F and very clear on Highland now. The cold, windy weather does not want to allow spring to come in, yet there are still a few bass willing to eat. Todays’ trip was a short one lasting just about 3 hours. My son Jonathan and I fished from about 1 till 4 pm. We would have loved to stay out longer, but it was just not in the cards. The air temp probably did not hit 40, and there was a stiff WNW wind but, the sunny skies helped ward off some of the cold. And besides, there are fish to be caught.
We started on the calmer side of the lake around the launch area where we did so well last week but with the cooler and more clear water, without much chop on it, we could not get a bite. It seemed like the wind was laying down a wee bit so we moved over to the windy side of the lake. It was another fine day to be able to use the “Spot Lock” on the trolling motor as we targeted an offshore boulder that sits right now (water level down 3 feet) in 7 foot on one side and 10 feet on the other. I had tied on a ¼ oz. football jig which I then attached a Lunker City Ozmo that had been downsized and morphed into the “Bug”. Having parked the boat about 25 feet upwind of the boulder, I was actually surprised when I felt a tap on the Bug but upon the hook set, I knew it was real. My kid then proceeded to pick off two more chubby bass on his favorite 4” green pumpkin grub from the same boulder. One of them even picked his bait off the boulder as he was snagged!
Moving up a bit shallower to target scattered rock and cabbage weed in 5 to 6 foot of water I picked up another two chunky largemouth on the Lucky Craft Pointer 78 jerkbait. I had tried the jerkbait hard on the calm side of the lake with no results but perhaps it was the slick water and sunny skies while on the windy side of the lake, the surface was broken with a good chop. Both fish hit on the pause while the first one grabbed the bait without me knowing it until I went to twitch it again and the second one, I saw the line jump and move off. A short trip but 5 decent 2 to 2.5 pound bass into the boat was enough to scratch the itch. And, yet again, we have to ready ourselves for another snowfall this week. Kind of neat though catching them from the boat while thee is snow on the ground.
July 18, 2017
Summertime! My most productive time of the year. Generally, from late July through August there is a good population of bass that have moved off of the bank and onto and into some deeper water. During the daylight, give me two rods. One rigged with some kind of jig type bait, and the other being a dropshot rod.
Once the fish get out to 13 feet or grater in our area waters, they become easy targets for the drop shot technique. The overall set up is relatively simple. You have a weight attached to the end of your line with a small, thin wire hook attached about a foot above the weight. Attach a numerous array of soft plastic worms, minnow imitators, or crawfish and, you are going to get bit. If not by bass, nearly all other fish see your bait as a feeding opportunity. If you like fishing a Senko weightless, wacky style, the drop shot may be right up your ally. As there are many methods to fishing (i.e.) retrieving a drop shot, the majority of your bites will come as the bait is sitting still. Just as the Senko works best allowed to fall on a free line, the drop shot can often be at its prime while sitting still.
For me, a good drop shot bait has to float. Or at least not sink fast. A bait such as a 4” Roboworm will generally float the light wire hook off the bottom weed or muck. The 4” Lunker City Ribster, and Gary Yamamoto, Shad Shape Worm are also good choices as well as the Z-Man Finesse Shad. All of these baits have a tendency to float and imitate a small baitfish almost perfectly. Enough of the baits. I’ll leave that to the marketers who. By the way do a great job offering us very style and color imaginable. I’m nor sponsored by any of them.
What is the perfect rod and reel for dropshotting? Everyone has their own preferences but, I want a high speed spinning reel (6:1 or greater) in the 200 class paired with a lighter rod in a Medium action with a moderate power, around 7 feet long. I first started dropshotting using 6# P-Line Flouroclear line (which is outstanding light line for ANY application) but moved to 10# Power Pro braided line. This year, I moved to the same line but in yellow. Due to eye sight and many missed fish on the drop I made this adjustment and so far so good. With the braid, especially the yellow, I am tying on the 6# P-Line Fluoroclear as a leader, about 8 feet long, using a simple and fast Uni to Uni knot. I use a Gamakutsu #2 Split shot/drop shot hook. The next size up moves to a heavier wire and changes the presentation. It is absolutely amazing on how well this tiny hook sticks the fish. And lastly, the weight. I prefer the ¼ oz. Linker City Bakudan SKINNY” OR “PENCIL” WEIGHT. The thin cylindrical weight MAY come through the cover better. After the uni to uni knot, and about 8 feet of leader, I tie the small Gamakatsu hook about 1 foot of the end of the line using a Palomar knot. The tag end of that knot will be re-inserted through the eye of the hook dropping downwards and the weight simply pinches to the bottom of that line.
The retrieve, can vary from a slow pull to sitting absolutely motionless. Sometimes they want that bait quivering which you can do by shaking the rod tip on a slack line, while at other times they may want you to cover some ground and pull it slowly across the bottom. The retrieve largely depends on the mood of the fish so let them tell you how they want it. All fish seem to want this bait, it takes a bit of time to figure out what type of bite is a bass bite and which are nuisance fish. Either way, in the summer time this rig will get enough bites to keep your interest level up.
The hook set. Due to the nature of that small hook, and if you are using braided line, your hook set does not need to be violent. Contrary to the typical rubber worm hookset, most times with the drop shot it is no more than a “Lift and reel” situation. That tiny light wire hook often stabs them itself as soon as you put pressure on the line. From then on through the battle is usually up to your drag, and the rod. Crank when the fish is not pulling, and let the rod absorb the shock when they are pulling. Even using a light monofilament line, you usually do not need to give the hook a monster hook set.
The great thing about the drop shot is that it can be used not only in the summertime but the spring in shallow water can be pretty productive as well as the fall and winter when the fish get grouped up on points and sharp drops. All the modern electric sonar units on the market now may give you an opportunity to “video fish”. In the late fall/early winter time, you can mark individual fish on your sonar and drop you rig on top them and most likely catch that same fish. Myself and others have also used the drop shot while ice fishing. It works! Not all the time, but enough to keep me coming back to it but, in the summertime when the bass are setting up on their deep stuff, it is definitely one of my preferred techniques.