Skip to main content

Last Ice Already?

Last Ice Already?

Sandhill cranes seemed to be everywhere. Swans, geese, and ducks were winging north as I made my way east, toward Wisconsin. Two eagles locked talons and fell spriraling toward a field north of the road.

Everything is happening earlier than anyone can remember, including last ice. The fish don't seem to know how to behave.

Chris Beeksma, John Paulson, and I caught some nice crappies this week in north-central Wisconsin, but the big bluegills that generally inhabit the flats we were fishing were nowhere to be found with my little Aqua-Vu Micro. Generally, the 'gills are there through ice-out. Obviously, we couldn't drive around hunting for them, so we tried some other lakes where we could walk out to good spots.

Back on foot patrol. Seems like last week we were fishing first ice, walking out for panfish. At least the warm weather — should say extremely warm — pushed those bands of 38°F water higher in the column. Crappies were biting within 7 feet of the ice in 16 feet of water.

Last week I wrote about using nail polish with TC Tackle jigs (406/683-5485) for steelhead. I do the same thing with panfish jigs. This is a selection of 1/64-ouncers with size #10-hooks, arranged in the same style of fly box from Plano. I use these jigs year 'round. I have boxes of 1/80-ounce heads with size #12 and #14 hooks for maggots and small plastics — like the one pinned to the blank of my Thorne Brothers Quiverstick.  One box sports 1/32-ounce heads with size #6 and size #4 hooks for minnows. The box at right, however, is the one I use most for bluegills spring through winter.

Several years ago at ice-out, the bluegills we were catching all had bright, metallic-green mush in their throats. Hmm. Looking around, I saw water beetles with backs the same color. Back home, I hunted through my selection of nail polish until I found a bottle in the same metallic green hue as those beetles. Jigs polished in that shade have been the most effective I've used in that fishery ever since.

Bluegills and crappies can't compare with steelhead when it comes to being selective about things. They often accept any shade of the right color. But, find the precise color and the difference can be amazing, and generally worth a lot more bites than those around you are getting. Even when they're biting every color in the box, there always seems to be one color that excites fish more than any other.

That was the case this week, too. Color and jig style were interesting subjects. More on that tomorrow.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Berkley's Manager of Fish Science and Bait Testing Mark Sexton and Project Engineer and Bait Designer Kyle Peterson talk about the finer points to Berkley's award-winning vibrating jig, the Slobberknocker.

The Birth of the Berkley Slobberknocker

Captain Ross Robertson explains how he uses Dipsy Divers to get deep to summertime walleyes. He covers the nuances anglers should understand with multi-directional Dipsy Divers, when using various baits such as spoons or crankbaits.

Using Dipsy Divers to Target Deep Walleyes

When retrieved lures start to veer to the left or right, there's an easy fix. Captain Ross Robertson show us how to tune our crankbaits with basic household tools to keep them retrieving the way we want.

How to Tune your Crankbaits

Captain Ross Robertson shows us how he prepares for cold-weather boat launching. As boat ramps potentially get slick and sketchy, certain gear comes in handy to stay safe, protect your investments, and keep you fishing longer.

Cold-Weather Boat Ramp Tips

Bailey Eigbrett demonstrates how the Humminbird Helix 10 CHIRP Mega SI+ GPS G4N CHO can help you find fish off shore and down deep, even if there is no pre-existing contour map for your lake.

Using Humminbird Helix 10 CHIRP Mega SI+ with a Kayak

Mike Carney of Kayak Fishing Fun takes you inside Quest Watersports with Paddle Manager Chris Kujawa to discuss the items to consider when deciding on a certain Hobie model of Kayak.

Top Considerations When Buying A Fishing Kayak

Thomas Allen of In-Fisherman gives us a lesson on cat fishing. Showing you where to find them, the equipment to use, and just how fun it can be to hook one.


A new partnership with SPRO means more availablity of KGB Chad Shad swimbaits. Learn more in this video from ICAST 2022 in Orlando.

KGB Chad Shad 180 Now in 5 Colors

New-for-2022 products from Lithium Battery Power can power everything needed for kayak fishing. With In-Fisherman's Thomas Allen at ICAST 2022 in Orlando.

Power Options for Kayak Anglers from Lithium Battery Power

In-Fisherman Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the In-Fisherman App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top In-Fisherman stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All In-Fisherman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now