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.

Recommended for You

Steve Quinn talks new softbaits for bass from Berkley. Bass

Sensational New Softbaits for Bass

Steve Quinn - April 22, 2019

Steve Quinn talks new softbaits for bass from Berkley.

The range of walleye hardbaits encompasses multiple categories and a dizzying number of lures. Walleye

The Lowdown on Walleye Hardbaits

Steve Ryan - May 28, 2019

The range of walleye hardbaits encompasses multiple categories and a dizzying number of lures.

Blackened fish ready to serve with a side of okra and cucumber-red onion salad. This recipe is a treat! Fish Recipes

Blackened Fish Recipe

Tommy Thompson

Blackened fish ready to serve with a side of okra and cucumber-red onion salad. This recipe is...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Selective Harvest Yellow Bass

Selective Harvest Yellow Bass

In order to sustain good fishing, it's important to understand which to release and fish you should for a fine meal.

As KVD tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead, innovative Humminbird products and cutting-edge technology like that found in the new Mega 360 Imaging sonar are major reasons contributing to his unparalleled success.

X-Factor Smallmouths

X-Factor Smallmouths

The In-Fisherman staff keeps it on the cutting edge, as they use the X-Factor plus topwater lures for smallmouths.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

It was an August evening and I was wading the flats in Brewster, MA with my cousin. Here you can Other Fish

Must-Have Striped Bass Tackle

Rick Bach - May 04, 2017

It was an August evening and I was wading the flats in Brewster, MA with my cousin. Here you...

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a powerplant that best fits your personal needs and preferences. Boats & Motors

2- Vs. 4-Cycle Outboard Motors

Dan Johnson - April 16, 2018

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a...

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is simply a matter of putting a good bait in the right in front of them. Catfish

The Best Catfish Rigs

In-Fisherman - January 11, 2018

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is...

See More Stories

More Trout & Salmon


Notice how red the tag alder is? Mornings have been cold, but the afternoon sun is activating Trout & Salmon

Walking A Tight Llne For Steelhead

Matt Straw - June 09, 2013

Notice how red the tag alder is? Mornings have been cold, but the afternoon sun is activating

We can spend a lot of money on a fine fly rod and reel, but in the end it's the fly that catches Trout & Salmon

Matching The Hatch For Selective Trout

Cathy Beck - May 05, 2015

We can spend a lot of money on a fine fly rod and reel, but in the end it's the fly that...

Trout & Salmon

Trophy Saskatchewan Pike

Jeff Simpson - February 07, 2017

See More Trout & Salmon

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

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

×