January 23, 2012
By Matt Straw
The beauty of living in paradise isn't just having access to bluegills like this. But it helps. We punched holes in another small, local lake and worked hard all day to touch a few wild animals like this humpback. Brilliant. Thrill of the hunt. And all that implies.
Yeah, that's Shoggie, again. Dave Shogren to most of you.
"What are you using, Shoggie?"
I walked over and looked. Orange vertical jig with a black eye. "This?"
So, of course, I tried every other color in my box but orange. Shoggie's got another one. And another one. By mid day I was looking for anything orange. I found a horizontal jig. Nope. Digging in the box again, I found an orange teardrop. Who knows who made it. Just an orange teardrop with a chrome back. Bam. Crappie.
Pretty soon I was working this guppy off the bottom in 15 feet of water. Ok, ok. Orange. Sigh. When is it ever all orange? Maybe in 1968, all orange was in vogue with the local bluegill set.
But it might have been as simple as switching to a vertical jig, Back in the 1970s, teardrops were the only jigs we ever dropped through holes in the ice for panfish. For the past couple decades, I've become attached to horizontal jigs — tiny ball heads in particular — for ice fishing. Even today, hardly anybody uses them. Marmooska-style tungsten jigs are currently all the rage. Never cared for fashions much. Edges. Give me edges.
Back on point: Two-handed bluegills can be extremely color conscious. Turns out most fish are. I went through the entire Felix-style bag of tricks. Marabou tails. (Hot.) Rubber legs on 1/80-ounce jigs. (Smokin'.) Nail polish. Glow. Tiny. Big. Ball heads struck out leaving runners on base all over the lake.
But, then again...I didn't have an orange ball head. So, while I worked on a reluctant bottom hugger with my orange teardrop, Ricky Hammer caught the biggest bull of the day (over 10 1/2 inches). On a chartreuse jig. That I gave him. Sigh.
The beauty of living in paradise is being ready. If it's a color, it should be in the panfish box. Who knows? Maybe panfish appreciate sunset colors under the ice. They haven't seen one in a while. When the sun slants through the trees, it's time to go on this lake. Summer or winter. Heavily stained water. Not the best for evening bites. Leaves time for a cocktail after cleaning a mess of crappies. The bulls stay home, to prosper and grow.
Light dusting of snow on the steps to the porch. Citrus fish with chiles? Simple. That's what paradise is about. Pleasant to be home before dark, a fire burning, surrounded by the pungent aroma of chiles, tarragon, onions, citrus, and cumin. Everything in place. Batteries charging. Message on the phone from Tony Roach. Walleyes are on fire, too. Sweet.