TAKASAKI’S SECRETS FOR LOCATING BIG ICE PANFISH BY NATHANIEL MYSON   Leave a comment

Photo and story courtsey PRADCO fishing and Lawrence Taylor

Once Midwestern lakes freeze Ted Takasaki turns his focus to panfish, and he uses a high level of skill and experience to achieve consistent success on the ice.

Whether talking about perch, crappie or bluegills, the key to catching panfish through the ice is finding the fish.  If you locate schools of panfish and discern what you are seeing on your electronics, you can experiment with jigs or spoons and different types of bait to figure out how to make the fish bite. If you can’t find them you can’t catch them.

For Takasaki, the search process begins during late fall, just before the ice begins forming. If possible he always scouts the lakes where he intends to ice fish. Being mobile in his boat allows him to cover more water.

Ted begins by exploring major bays known to hold bluegills, perch or crappie.  If they have aquatic grass growing, he looks along break lines both with his eyes and with his graph. Ted is not necessarily looking for fish.  Although making mental notes about where the fish are most concentrated is never a bad thing. Instead, he looks at the weeds themselves because weeds typically produce the best panfish action during the first part of the ice season.

“What I’m looking for are weed edges,” says Takasaki, “and for weeds that are still green late in the year. Along those edges I look for places where the weedline shifts – maybe a little point or a pocket – and I create waypoints for those places, which I put into a handheld GPS that I bring out on the ice with me.”

Lacking the opportunity to visit a lake before the formation of the ice, Takasaki gets the Lakemaster chip for his GPS or finds the best available map and studies the contour lines. He looks for break lines within bays if early in the season because the weed growth tends to taper along depth breaks. Depending on the lake and the type of vegetation, the weed edge can be quite shallow – only a few feet – or it might be 10 feet deep. On the ice he follows those breaks drilling a lot of holes, and looks for weeds and the same green edges.

In either case Takasaki always begins by drilling a number of holes.  Usually he does a fair amount of looking with his Humminbird Ice 55 before he ever starts fishing. He wants to find holes that are just outside of the weed edge.  He is not actually fishing in the weeds but he is close enough that fish using the weeds can ambush his baits. He noted that sometimes you see fish right in the weeds, and give those fish a shot.

Once he’s located a weed edge, Takasaki drills holes along that edge and begins to focus on finding fish. Early in the day he does a lot of hole hopping, sometimes just looking with his electronics and fishing other holes briefly to see how many fish are down there.

My favorite jig for panfish is a Lindy Frostee,” Takasaki says. “It’s a jig that I can use to really pound the bottom and stir up some sediment to get the fish’s attention. I’ll usually pound it pretty aggressively and then bring it up off the bottom and shake it a little, or maybe just let it sit.”

Takasaki likes the smallest size for panfish and normally tips his hooks with one or two waxworms or spikes. If specifically targeting crappie or perch, he begins with a minnow head or entire small minnow hooked through the tail so it fights against the jig.

Takasaki’s favorite time to ice fish is early in the season. For the first few weeks of good ice, he normally finds plenty of panfish along shallow weed lines and rarely strays out of the bays. As winter progresses, he moves his search onto tapering points at the edges of the same bays, and eventually to deeper flats.

Later in the winter, he moves from the weeds to the deeper mud flats.  The mud has more aquatic insect larvae provides panfish with food later in the winter.

While the location changes with the season, the basic strategy does not. Anytime on the ice fishing for panfish, be drilling a bunch of holes, move frequently.

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