Last post we discussed a reader’s questions regarding the search for bluegills in early spring. Specifically, we talked about “the elevator,” that last sharp drop between winter and spring habitat that acts as a pivot point, where bluegills progress back-and-forth after cold fronts and again as weather stabilizes.
This year we’re finding them farther from the bank than ever before during this period between ice-out and spawning. We think it’s because the mild winter left so many healthy, bright-green cabbage stands on the shallow flats in depths of 4 to 6 feet. The tricky part is hauling them out of there. One reader asked how we go about that. We’ve been using 7- to 8-foot fast ultralight sticks and 4-pound braided line with tough, abrasion-resistant, 6- to 8-pound fluorocarbon leaders. A 4-pound braid like Berkley FireLine has the breaking strength of an 8-pound mono, but it cuts through weeds better. Added length on the rod, combined with almost zero stretch in the FireLine, allows us to reel down to the fish, lift the rod high overhead, and pull them right through the tops of the plants after they bury themselves.
The ultralight sticks have the right amount of give. In combination with low-stretch lines, they give you all the leverage you need plus the forgiveness required to keep hooks from ripping free and to keep leaders from breaking.
Another reader asked me to explain my comments about “grooves created by wind-driven ice.” Up in the North country, we take it for granted that people understand how much force can be generated by big sheets of ice on big lakes in spring. When the ice starts to break up, open water forms. Those remaining sheets of ice now have room to move behind wind-driven currents. The ice might only be moving at a couple miles per hour, but it has tons of mass and weight behind it. Meaning nothing is going to stop it anytime soon.
When these sheets of ice hit the shoreline, it’s a classic “irresistible force meets immovable object” scenario. Something’s gotta give. Sheets of ice can slide up on shore and slowly, inexorably, sheer telephone poles and push houses off foundations. That’s an extreme case, but “sublimation” is pretty common, wherein a moving sheet of ice slides underneath a stationary one near shore. The moving ice hits bottom and eventually stops, but usually not before creating a new groove or trench in the bottom of the lake. Because these troughs tend to occur near shore they can be very important to panfish seeking a little extra security when they move back-and-forth from shallow areas where they’re visible to birds, raccoons, humans, and other predators. In summer these trenches continue to provide shaded cover after the weeds come up where fewer bass, pike, muskies, and catfish can find them—so it pays to note the position of these spots in spring when it’s easier to see them. Some of the biggest bluegills move deep into the slop in summer, and chase the smaller fish out to the fringes where bigger predators lurk. Troughs cut into the bottom by ice create key hiding places for those ever-challenging slop bulls.
Keep those cards and letters rolling in. Meanwhile, Master Shoggie and I have been on some impressive crappie bites we’ll bring to the table next time around. Or not. I have a comment or two on one of Ned Kehde’s recent blog posts we all need to chew on, but we’ll get around to those slabs soon enough.