- November 2014
- October 2014
- September 2014
- August 2014
- July 2014
- June 2014
- May 2014
- April 2014
- March 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- January 2010
- December 2009
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009
- August 2009
- July 2009
- June 2009
- May 2009
- April 2009
- March 2009
- February 2009
- January 2009
- December 2008
- November 2008
- October 2008
- September 2008
- August 2008
- July 2008
- June 2008
- May 2008
- April 2008
- March 2008
- February 2008
- January 2008
- December 2007
- November 2007
- October 2007
- September 2007
- August 2007
- July 2007
- June 2007
- May 2007
- April 2007
- March 2007
As temperatures drop, ice fisherman across the country are gearing up to get on the ice. They know some of the best fishing takes place during the first part of the season. Here on the Southeast side of Michigan’s lower peninsula, first ice means targeting the backwaters of Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie. It is in these out of the way areas where some of the best perch fishing takes place as soon as the ice becomes safe enough to walk out on.
As the winds of November and December blow in the cold artic air, perch migrate in to feed on schools of baitfish. By the time the ice forms, the perch have moved into the back canals, creeks and marinas along the shorelines. It is during the first ice period these fish tend to be on the bigger side and are at their most aggressive when feeding. Later in the season they become less active or move out to deeper late season haunts.
On Lake St. Clair ice fisherman will lower their equipment onto the ice and traverse break walls to get out on the many canals found on the east side of the lake. They walk into marinas in search of perch, any shallow water area is fair game during first ice. What makes LSC perch fishing unique isn’t the quality of the fishing, although very good, but two very original methods used to put the fish on the ice.
Lots of anglers are familiar with spearing through the ice. Many go into dark fish houses and drop spears on northern pike. In Michigan and Wisconsin spearing sturgeon is also allowed. On Lake St. Clair though, spearing perch is allowed, and as far as I know, this is the only lake in the United States where it is allowed.
The second unique method employed to catch perch, like other areas across the country involves a rod, reel and a spoon. Now when I say spoon, your first thoughts might go to a small spoon presentation like Clam’s Blade or Speed Spoons, tipped with maggots. The spoons used on Lake St. Clair have been called many names over the years, but all have certain characteristics in common. They are wide at the top, they narrow towards the bottom, have a sharp bend before a barbless hook, dressed with a plastic bead is soldered onto the blank.
The uniquely shaped spoon will dart off and flair to the side of the hole on the drop, covering a wider circle below. When a perch hits the spoon, there isn’t any time to play with the drag. It is literally a race to get the fish out of the hole. Anglers on LSC use a stiffer rod, either a light or medium light rig, and the reels are spooled up with 6 lb test mono, remember the hook is barbless, so keeping tension on the perch is the key to success. Once out of the hole you don’t have to handle the fish to get it unhooked, simply drop the rod tip down, let the perch hit the ice, and it will wiggle off the hook by itself.
South of the Detroit River, the anglers chasing perch will find them in creeks, boat clubs and marinas. Anglers in Michigan are allowed to use three rods each, all year long. Because of this, I might take as many as six to 7 rods out with me on any given perch trip.
Whether sitting in my Fish Trap or kneeling on the ice in front of my Vexilar, I want to cover as much of the ice in front of me as I possibly can. One type of presentation will be the active one, which means jigging a bait. My other approach will be less active, either watching a bobber or using a dead stick.
One or two rods will be rigged with spoons, one will be more along the lines of a traditional spoon with a treble hook like Clam’s Blade Spoon. I can either be aggressive when jigging, or just give it a little jiggle now and then. On another rod, I will have a Speed Spoon with its short gold chain going to the hook. Either presentation can be tipped with plastics, maggots, whole minnow or just the head.
My other jigging rods will be rigged with either horizontal or vertical jigs. In most cases I prefer using a tungsten jig, and last year, had the most success with Clam’s Dingle drop jig. That short chain with a colored bead presentation helped to get the near sighted perch to bite when other jigs failed. Sometimes perch can be fussy when feeding, so some rods will be rigged with a #14 jig. Go as small as you can, when conditions allow. Many backwater spots don’t allow you to go too small though due to currents flowing through them. If the water is moving at a good pace, drop a #12 or #10 jig down the hole. Keeping your line vertical is critical when telegraphing your jigging action on the rod down to the bait.
My second tactic is more passive, utilizing either the dead stick or bobber rigged approach. They both have a sinker and hook on the line, but I let the conditions tell me which one to use. When dead sticking, I can either use a very soft glass rod, or a rod equipped with a spring bobber, both types will let you see what the rod is telling you about the perch’s activity below. I prefer to use a dead stick outdoors, bobbers freeze and lines stick to the ice shards…etc.
When conditions dictate that I need to be inside my shack, then I prefer to use a slip bobber rig on my other rods. Once I set the thread to the right depth, it goes back to the same place in the water column. This is key because of fishable space in the shanty and I don’t have move my Vexilar to a different hole every time I put the bait back down the hole. Do it once, and forget about it.
The perch fishing in SE Michigan can be incredible, and although the approaches are a little different, both Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie have much to offer. The perch are bigger, more aggressive, and you can use any of the techniques to get the job done. Just remember to target these sometimes overlooked backwater areas at first ice for the best perch fishing of the ice season.
Vexilar has so many great products to choose from, and there is some exciting new news this year when it comes to the camera systems, but for today it is all about the flashers. Since my first days of fishing tourneys on the old Ice Team Trap Attack series, I have fished every single tournament with a Vexilar flasher, the models have progressed over the years, but the Vex label was on every single unit I fished with. I can honestly say this, there is not another product on the market I would go to war with, other than a Vexilar.
The market has become more competitive with a lot of companies to choose from out there, but when there is money or a title on the line, Vexilar is the one unit I would never be nervous about depending on. Without going into too many details, I have seen other brands fail at critical times on the ice during crunch time. Not so with Vexilar, the units take the pounding and just keep finding the fish.
Way back in the day, circa 2001 roughly, I fished my first tournament with an FL-8 SLT. Notice the original Dave Genz USL Blue Box that the unit is mounted to. On the old boxes there were two places where you could mount your transducer arm, either in the front, or on the side. I preferred the side so that the unit was more in arm’s reach, and if I had a big gill or crappie, I could get the transducer out of the hole that much quicker. The newer boxes only have the hole for front mounting. I don’t think Vexilar will be too upset if I mention that I drill a hole in order to still be able to mount the arm on the side. Actually, the concept works even better now, because the boxes are more compact and the ducer can be jerked out of the hole that much faster.
The transducers available for the models vary, you can get a 9, 12, 19 degree Ice Ducer, or the Pro View ducer. Starting with the 9′ option, you would use it if you are fishing in really deep water for maybe lake trout, 80 feet or deeper. Remember some models will handle fishing over 300 ft of water. 12 degree ducers are your mid-range option, say 35 to 80 feet of water. For 35 feet or less, then the 19′ Ice Ducer is the option you want, specially if there is current pushing your baits away from the center of your hole. There is some overlap as far as to which transducer you can use, this is because you can increase or decrease the flasher’s signal strength by adjusting the gain, a knob on your unit.
Now the Pro View Ice-Ducer is a different animal altogether. It takes the place of the old reliable Tri-Ducer. Where the Tri-Ducer would allow you to switch between 9, 12 and 20 degrees, the Pro View extends your viewing window down below by having a 30 to 9 degree range. At the 30′ setting, you increase your view by roughly a third. With the Pro View there isn’t a selector switch, you actually control your view by adjusting the gain knob. This makes sense, since you increase your strength by turning the gain up, which takes you towards the 9′ limit.
To get a better concept of the transducers available, click on the link below that will take you to Vexilar’s website.
I had a high number of clicks this morning on this article and thought it would be good to bring it back up for reading. Lots of new readers, lots of fresh perspectives out there. The interest probably resulted in posting yesterday’s walleye lure/ice fishing article, so it is worth a new look.
The piece is two years old, but I had reorganized my baits to make things more compact when hitting the ice. Ice fishing can boil down to storage and weight, and even though hitting the big water means employing transportation, it does mean you can fit more “stuff” in your Fish Trap! And if anyone knows me at all, I am all about the stuff, and being ready for adapting to what the walleye want.
One of the keys to ice fishing is to protect your investment, and yes, your equipment is an investment. Augers, shanties, rods, reels and of course, your jigs. I started a Facebook page, or I should say “launched”, Fishing Michigan on FB. One of the ideas was to cruise through some older articles, and one or twice a week, break one out for revisiting and ice jig storage is just one of them I found today. Click on the link below….
This brand or that brand, this color or no color, that can be just two of the many questions an angler might ask themselves when staring at a wall full of line options at a retail store. Perfectly good questions all, but most of all, the line should reflect the type of fishing you are going to be doing with particular rods in your own personal arsenal. Each type of rod can have its own purpose; sight fishing, hole hopping, deep approaches, bobber rods and tightlining.
Like I said, fit the rod and line to the type of fishing, or better yet, to the approach you will be taking under certain circumstances. When approaching a tournament, pretty much the full arsenal goes with me. It isn’t until you spend a day dissecting a lake will you really know which ones will serve you best. But, fortunately over the years I have been able to narrow my line choices down to one brand, one color and believe it or not, one size pound test. This makes purchasing the line a whole lot easier!
The line of choice has become Sufix Ice Magic in 3 lb test, and the color is orange!
I have played with thread, braids, various colors and sizes, but after some trials and tribulations, have settled on the 3 lb, orange ice line from Sufix. So now the question is why, and one answer is that with roughly 85-90% of my rod and reel combinations, this line works with them all. With hardly any memory, it works on my spinning perch and deep water approaches. Because it is 3 lb, I don’t worry about the line getting cut at the bottom of a hole while sight fishing. There is a bit less stretch versus 2 lb test lines, so I know my hook sets are going to be there. Most importantly, the 3 lb Ice Magic works with a wide variety of lure sizes.
If you have a line too heavy for your lure presentation, your line will coil, and you lose a bit of your ability to tell when a fish first hits your jig. Think about all those coils that have to straighten out before you can tell there is a fish on! That said, I can run a 2mm jig all the way to a 6 mm presentation, and not have a problem with this line.
And it is orange; no matter your philosophy, tightlining, spring bobber or noodle rod, a brightly colored line will enhance your fishing experience. Is any one approach the perfect one, well let me say this, if that was true, I would have a lot less rods, and they would all be the same make, model and rating. The answer is a resounding no, but each philosophy has a time and place to be sure, the one thing in common is that a colored line makes them all better techniques. You can line watch, take that back, you should be watching your line no matter what is your method of choice, because no one of them is perfect, and the line is the one common thread between all of them. Sometimes your spring doesn’t budge, but you may notice your line drifting to a side of your hole indicating a fish is on. If you tightline, it’s all about watching the line, and if you drop your rod tip, having a bright orange line will make it easier for you to see the line bunch up telling you there is a reason your jig isn’t falling with the rod tip action.
And as always, when it comes to ice fishing, there is an economic consideration. One, with each 100 yard spool, I can fill up 3 to 4 reels. You really do not need more than 25 or 30 yards of line on each reel. Most of the time you are fishing in less than 20 foot, but even if you are fishing in 30 ft, that is at most 10 yards, and no bluegill, crappie or perch is going to strip out the last 15 yds on the reel. Also, 3 lb test lasts longer. When I used mostly 2 lb line, I was changing line every year. For most applications it worked fine, but it was fragile, and after a year of heavy use it broke down. With 3 pound, I can skip a year or two before I re-spool on most of the reels. I still go back and inspect each setup, it’s a must when you think it could cost you a big fish, or even a check if you are hitting the tourney trail this winter.
I had a question last night about modifying the classic Schooley ice fishing reel, so went back into the archives and pulled this article out. Its easy, pretty inexpensive and it will make fishing with this classic reel even more effective while hitting the ice this winter. Click on the link below with your mouse to go back in time and get started gearing up for this winter’s fishing!
The ol’ tried and true snap weight, sometimes overlooked, but always effective under the right conditions.
From 1/2 ounce all the way up to 3 oz, my snap weight box filled with Church Tackle snaps, gets used all season long when fishing for Lake Erie Walleye. Cannot help it, when something works, it works, why ignore it? Although Church no longer makes the snap weights, I can’t just bury a good tactic, and with the advent of their new TX-007 Stern Planer, the concept has new life in my approach to catching walleye.
The method in which you use to get the baits down can be up for debate, you have the standard 50/50 method as found in the Precision Trolling guides, or you can play with what works best for you. Either way, its effective with either crawler spinner rigs or running cranks, as well. Sometimes 50 feet behind the snap can be a little much, but remember this, no matter how much line you run behind the snap take into account how far your lure is going to dive behind the weight. Just for example’s sake, take a Storm Deep Thunderstick (not the Jr. size, the big one) and you let out 20 feet, your bait will dive 10 foot behind your snap. So if you are running, or targeting fish on the bottom in 24 foot of water, let enough line out to get to a depth of 14 ft, and let the lure do the rest.
In the picture above, are two good examples of the baits I like to use behind a snap/flex weight. To the left, the classic shallow Rapala Husky Jerk in size #14, and to the right, a #12 jointed Deep Husky Jerk. On their own, neither bait will get down enough in some depths holding fish, so with a little assistance of a snap weight, they get down deep quick. Side note, you have to love a jointed bait on Erie this time of the year! If you have ever braved the cold and wind on the break at Luna Pier, you know what I am talking about.
Like my artwork? Well, truth be told, it has something to be desired, but you get the point. Here we have my rendition of a six rod spread utilizing both Church’s Stern Planer and their TX-22 planer boards. On the outside the strategy is let the cranks dive down on their own, but off the back will use the snap weights with the -007’s and let them out anywhere from 100 to 200 feet, after attaching the planer. What this does is allow any walleye that might have affected by the passing of the boat, whether drove down deeper or spread out to the side, to come back in line and get a good look at your presentation. This has been a good approach on the boat the last couple of years and cannot imagine fishing without the Stern Planers now. If I was long lining on an inland lake or river, they would be a must.
OK, so artwork aside, that is my new twist on using an old trick (the snap weight) and the TX-007’s, for a highly effective approach to catching walleye on Lake Erie’s late season.
…just in time for the fall bite! We busted out the gear Saturday and went walleye fishing out of Brest Bay here in Monroe. Both fish came on custom painted baits from Big Eye Custom Lures out of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Not really a surprise though, was talking with Don Dumas this weekend and we both realized that I have been running his harness spinner blades and custom painted cranks for just about four years now.
As I said earlier, just in time for the fall walleye bite, there are new baits ready to ship on the website. Actually there are five new paint schemes for the Rapala Deep Husky Jerks (DHJ-12), one is a take off from a spinner blade and the other four are brand new baits!
Looks like I am going to need some new Plano Stowaway 3700 sized trays for these. “Paula” is already one of my fave spinner blades, so that crank is going to be a must. Like the purple/pink combination, so definitely Boo Berry. Vegetarian will be a nice contrast, something different to cover the color palate for walleye to choose from….oh hell, not going to fool myself, I will probably get all of them!!!
If you haven’t tried Big Eye customs yet, they are well worth the price of investment, you can find them online at bigeyecustomlures.com, and since I will taking another road trip this Friday, will check out some more of Don’s baits at the Fisherman’s Wharf in Port Clinton, Ohio! Its that kid in candy store mentality, can’t help it!
Busted out the Church Tackle TX-22 boards and walleye cranks Saturday morning and headed down to Lake Erie. Grabbed some supplies at Jeff’s Bait and Tackle, Eric has a good supply of the needed crankbaits to get the job done, picked up some extra Rapala Deep Husky Jerks (DHJ-12’s) and went to the Sterling State Park boat launch. There were quite a few boats, but really could not get a handle on just how many were perching, or chasing walleye.
At the launch one guy was coming back in after fishing solo inside the bay. Actually, he did say he got out of the bay a bit to get away from the white perch. He threw the kitchen sink at them, cranks, crawler rigs and spoons without a bite. The approach made sense, as we noted the water temperature was roughly 54 degrees in and out of the bay.
We set the lines and the boards out when we hit 20 foot of water just inside the point, straight out from the Sterling ditch and made our way at a 1.5 mph clip, swinging Northeast across the point towards the state line and the Fermi buoys. Basically going with the flow, or the direction the waves were taking us. Without a trolling motor it is a whole lot easier to control the boat when or if you get a fish on.
Like the gent at the launch, we through the kitchen sink at the fish and a various depths. This time though it was all about the different types of cranks. Rapala Deep Husky Jerks, DDT-11 Taildancers, Scatter Rap Minnows on 3-way rigs, Storm Deep Thundersticks and a couple of Reef Runner 800’s.
We only caught two fish, and they were the only two hook-ups for the day. Both were males, but as you can tell in the picture, they have started to pack on the weight. One was 18 inches (bottom) and the other on top of the pic was 22 inches. The 18 incher came on a specially painted RR 800 from Big Eye Custom Lures, 44 ft behind the board. The larger fish came on a DHJ-12, also painted by Don from Big Eye, but this time we ran it 80 foot back. You wont find them on the website, but if you order six or more of a bait, you can get them painted up. With the Reef Runners, you will need to mail six clear Bare Naked RR’s up to Green Bay to get them custom painted.
Of course, no fishing trip can go unpunished and we had a tangled mess as a result of the 2nd fish. It not only came in heavy, but it was dragging three other lines back with it. Obviously we caught the fish, but had to do some major cutting to get the lines rigged back up and in the water. We never got another fish on our second pass, but the wind was starting to kick up and the whitecaps were rolling so we called it a day. Managed to get back to the shop and catch the 2nd half of Michigan State’s (Go Green) beat down on Michigan, so it was a good day all in all.
When it comes down to finding an auger that suits your personal fishing needs, size really does matter. Every company out there offers a selection of sizes that will fill the needs of individual anglers, the question is, what size works for you. Full disclosure, as most readers out there already know, I work to promote Jiffy ice augers. I run strictly propane due to the harm ethanol inflicts on engines, specially small engines like those mounted on augers.
Hand augers are nice at first ice, but when you drill 30 to 150 holes a day, they get old really quick. So for the sake of this article, going to talk strictly about what power augers have to offer. While the drill operated augers are cute, I haven’t seen one where the batteries last longer than a season or two of steady ice fishing, so again, for the sake of this piece, going to stick with the traditional style power auger.
Six, 8 or 10 inch? Since most companies offer these three sizes, I am going to make the discussion centered on these options. They are good ones, and will suit the needs of just about every angler that loves to ice fish. Each one has a niche, or a purpose when considering the type of fishing and fish you are going to be pursuing.
First size for discussion is the 6 inch. For panfish, there is not a better size when it comes to cutting holes. Bluegill, crappie and perch will fit through the hole with ease. In those rare cases where the fish is bigger than the hole, they can be worked up to the surface with a little effort. If you want to get involved in tournaments that are dedicated to panfish, no other size readily available for the consumer, will go through the ice as fast as a 6 inch cutting system. With my Pro4 propane auger, equipped with the STX blades, there isn’t a standard auger on the market that will drill as fast as me while keeping on top of the panfish during a tourney.
The 8 inch auger is the catch-all size, a hole size for all applications….sort of. For the “Average Joe”, the 8″ will do everything you want it too for just about all applications. Lets say you are the weekend warrior type, you drill a few holes for panfish, maybe chase a few inland lake walleye, or set some tip-ups for 35 inch or smaller pike. As good as the “8” sounds, it does have its limitations and also a bonus for a specialized tourney tactic.
The 8 inch hole will allow you to bring walleye up to the surface on any body of water, but depending on the tactic, it can be undersized. On big bodies of water, the fish can be much bigger, and getting a 30+ inch walleye turned around can be difficult. Difficulties often lead to losing fish right at the bottom of your hole. You can see the size, you get teased, then it is off the hook and swimming away. Also, if you are using an oversized bait, or heavy one because you are fishing in deep water, you have to be extremely careful not to get the lure caught on the edge of the hole. Nothing is worse than seeing your fish pinned against the ice and you have little chance of getting it free without losing it.
The 8 inch does have a place in my panfish approach under a specialized approach to catching them. Sight fishing is the one time I want an 8″, doesn’t matter if I am fishing for fun, or tourney fishing, it makes the right sized hole for this method of fishing clean water lakes. If you haven’t been sight fishing, there is nothing like it unless you are using a camera. Inside a dark shanty, the water below the hole lights up like a TV screen, allowing you to watch your jig, the fish and even lets you adjust your approach to fit the mood of the fish. The eight inch hole just gives me a bigger television screen to look through. Often you pull your shanty from spot to spot, this is where my Pro4 Lite shines. Because the auger is lighter in weight, the combination of auger and dragging my coop around, doesn’t lead to any type of fatigue during a tourney, and I can keep on top of the fish during the allotted time slot. Would a bigger auger work even better, you bet, BUT the panfish purists/diehards will raise a fuss and you do have the extra weight to consider.
The BIG TEN INCH, ok as a kid…loved this Aerosmith song, and the reference could not be helped. When chasing the pigs; walleye, northerns, lakers or salmon, the 10 inch auger is a must. Just based on the size of the fish alone, begs that you use an auger that drills a hole big enough to get it on the ice with least amount of complications possible. Any such instance could lead to a fish coming unhooked, which means you either lost that wall mount or picture of a lifetime. Talking a little to home, when hitting Lake Erie, or taking that 2.5 hour trip to Saginaw Bay, the possibility of getting a bigger walleye is not out of the question. If you are using a #5 or #7 Jigging Rap, and a lot of fish were caught on them last year, they can get caught on the ice at the bottom of the hole. The 10 inch allows you some wiggle room to get that hog turned and heading up the hole.
Now that the discussion is coming to a close, don’t feel like you have to go out and buy three different augers. Like I mentioned, the 8 inch auger will get the job done for most of the ice fishing populations, but you still have some options if you want to specialize your approach a little bit. For an example, you go out and get a Pro4, 8 inch auger this year. Most companies will allow you to purchase the lower units/different sized augers after the initial purchase, I am not telling you which brand to buy, but I do love my propane augers So staying with the example, you have some buddies who want to plan a couple of big water trips for walleye. You can order the 10 inch lower drill assembly direct from them, and now you have two augers in one. And because of Jiffy’s unique E-Z Connect Collar, switching the assemblies is a snap.
The second possible scenario could start with the 8″ again, or possibly the 10 inch. So you start with one of the bigger holes sizes, but you love your panfishing. Chasing or staying on top of panish is often the key to catching a limit and speed cutting through the holes is a must, you can order the 6 inch assembly with STX blades for this approach.
Point is you can have more than one auger if you wish, but you can have one auger to accomplish three different types of fishing, and cover all your bases and save yourself some coin in the process. It doesn’t hurt to have two augers at some point, but if you want one to do everything imaginable, there is your solution. Most importantly, have the equipment to fit your needs, and have fun catching some fish this winter through the ice. It really is a great sport and it offers some great chances for anglers to catch their fish of a lifetime.