Archive for November 2014


Gary Roach with Lake Winne walleye.

Gary Roach with Lake Winne walleye.

Watching a 6-pound northern pike move up on a jig/minnow and then flare his gills to inhale it, has got to be one of the big attractions to ice fishing from a spearing shack.  The darkness of the windowless spearing shake makes the water beneath the ice light and clear.

Here on Lake Winnibigoshish in northern Minnesota the long fish moves along the bottom and then lays still.  We look down into the water but have trouble seeing it.  It is there because the electronics say he is there.

Suddenly we can see him as he flares those gills and the minnow disappears into his monstrous mouth.  A quick yank of the line and he is hooked.

The fish thrashes back and forth under us flaring his gills in a vain attempt to spit out the hook that came with the minnow.  No use as he is well hooked and will grace the dinner table this evening.

Ice fishing is a relaxing and social experience.  There is no pressure to catch a lot of fish or to catch that big one.  Both do happen, but no one gets excited if it does not.  This solitude of a northern lake is a welcome respite from the pressures of daily life.  The weather can be frigid and forbidding but if one wears modern winter clothing it is no problem.

There is a saying among ice fishermen that 90 percent of the fish are in 10 percent of the water.  The anglers who find fish know the seasonal movement of their quarry and know how to use electronics to locate them.

Fish move to areas with food sources.  Northern pike prefer bays full of perch.  The real big ones tend to stay near deeper breaks.

Another consideration in finding fish is when they are not eating; they go to the warmest water available.  That is generally right on the bottom of the water column.  If you have a map of the lake and know where the deeper holes and drop-offs are located, you can make the knowledge work in your favor.

Rigging the minnow can also improve one’s chance of luring in a fish.  Once dropped into the water the minnow is competing with all other baitfish.  Once hooked a little differently it may attract a predator fish.  Because of rough conditions, small subtle changes in the rig may make a difference.  Other anglers often do not go the extra mile and this puts you ahead of the game.

Once you have the depth of the fish with the use of electronics or video cameras it is a simple matter of dropping a minnow on a jig to the bottom.  Then raise it up about 2 to 4-inches and jig it.  Let it sit motionless for a few seconds and repeat the jigging activity.  It helps to vary the speed and rhythm movements.  Fish are attracted to the motion but usually bite when the minnow stops moving.

Shiner minnows are universal perch bait.  Northern pike and walleye also love them.  However artificial grubs can result in action.

Ice fishing up here is usually out of a resort.  It is not expensive as fishing trips go.  There is no stress to go out and cut holes.  The guides do it for you in advance.  Most resorts also provide ice houses that are large, warm and comfortable.

Posted 11/29/2014 by Donald Gasaway in Misc.


Eric releases a nice Taneycomo Brown Trout into the icy waters.

Eric releases a nice Taneycomo Brown Trout into the icy waters.

Unusually cold temperatures hit the Ozarks in mid-November as Eric Olliverson and I met at the Branson landing on the shore of Lake Taneycomo.  Early on there was no wind and it was bearable.  Once the wind picked up about 11:00 o’clock our fingers became numb and continuing was not in the picture.

Fishing for Midwestern trout is usually a little different than in western or eastern waters.  This is due to the fact that most Midwestern trout are hatchery raised and often found in ponds as opposed to rivers and streams.  Such is the case with most of the trout in this lake.  However there is some natural reproduction.  The brown trout spawn in early fall and the rainbows are just beginning the spawn now.

Spin tackle in the main Midwestern choice for trout fishing.  Out west and east there is more fly fishing.  Both methods are popular on this lake.

You want a relatively light rod to match the style of fishing you are doing.  Light to medium-light action is best because it is very soft and limber allowing the casting of very small lures.  The reason for the preference of the open spinning reel for trout is the use lighter line.   It works well with 4 to 6 pound test line.  Typically drag is better too.

The closed face spinning reel tends to allow light line to bunch up on the reel.  It does not cast as well if you get a snag or after you catch a fish.  Closed face reels are for use with heavier line and for more basic fishing.

Most trout respond to lures of 1 1/2 inch or less.  In stained water you might want to use something a little larger.

Some anglers like a camo-green line because it does not put off the fish.  You can also get away with a little heaver line.  You might up-grade to 6 to 8 pound line.  You might use the heaver line with a 2 foot leader of the lighter line.  Fluorocarbon line in the 2-lb and 3-lb size tends to be brittle.  Four pound monofilament line works.

For lures you can use anything from micro jigs up.  Pink and rainbow trout seem to go together.  Red, brown and orange are good colors for brown trout.  You can dress a jig by putting a bobber six or eight feet above it.  It is not as a strike indicator.  But, rather it gives the line additional weight for casting.  In clear water a clear bobber is best.  If you need to cast a long way you can put some water in the bobber or add split shot.  You adjust the bobber according to the water depth you are wanting to fish.

Today we are using a pink Trout Magnet lure.  It suspends about 6-feet beneath a fixed bobber.  The bobber is very small.

If you are getting short strikes because the fish is attacking the feather portion of the jig presentation, trim the tail making the whole presentation shorter and closer to the hook.

Using the floating micro-crankbaits you can make them go lower than two or three feet by adding a split shot.  Maybe you will want to put a large enough split shot on that the bait to make it actually sink.  Let them sink longer to really fish deeper and not as long to go shallower.

For larger brown trout try a minnow crankbait.  In deeper water you can throw a crankbait that has a larger bill on it.  The longer the bill on a hard bodied bait, the deeper it will go.  If it is one that suspends, you crank the bait down and then twitch it back.  It works in really deep water.

The technique is simply to cast and retrieve it.  You can vary the speed of the retrieve or you can cast it and allow the spoon to sink.  Simple is good when trout fishing.  It is what you are going to do most of the time if you are to be successful.

If you are fishing highly pressured areas use smaller line, smaller presentations, and be a little quieter.  In an area with a lot of trout get out your favorite lure and make it work.

The best way to handle a trout if you plan to release it is to grab the lure without touching the fish and with the fish still in the water.  If you use a net, get one that is very fine mesh.  Large mess will damage the fish.  Dunk the net before using it to hold the fish.  Leave the net in the water as you remove the lure.  Forceps or needlenose pliers are best for removing the lure.

ICE FISHING WOLF LAKE   Leave a comment


There are two Wolf Lakes in Illinois.  This one is near Chicago just off of Lake Michigan on the Illinois/Indiana state line.  The other one is downstate.

Wolf Lake is a 419-acre lake in the William W. Powers Conservation Area located at 131st Street and the IL/IN state line.  Dredged and separated into different sections by dikes.  There are 5 different sections.  The maximum depth is 15-feet with an average depth of 5.91 feet.

Numerous drop-offs and weed lines provide excellent ice fishing opportunities.  There is a variety of species available including smallmouth bass, walleye, northern pike, bluegill, redear sunfish, crappie, bullhead, carp and yellow perch.

Entrance is from Avenue O at about 123rd street.  It is accessible from Interstate 94 and 90.  Ample parking is available in the winter a short distance from the shoreline.

Most of the better fishing areas are on the Illinois side.  Be sure you know what side your fishing as you need a license for the state in which you are fishing.  The state line is well marked.

A popular area for ice fishing is the cove at the south end of the lake just off 133rd street near the Ranger’s office.  The weed beds in the cove attract perch.  Other areas attracting fish include those with current.  The current flows through the dikes but it may make the ice pretty thin as it wears away the underside.

Basically the current flows into the Illinois side of the lake at the state line and the dead end of State Line Road.  It then flows northeast to the railroad bridge.  As it flows under the tracks there is a deep drop-off of from 5-feet to 14-feet.  It then flows southwest to the culvert dike, coming back up to 5-feet.  From there it flows west over the dam and into Indian Creek near the parking lot.

As the waterfowl season ends the ice fishing begins as the ice begins to thicken enough to be safe.  It continues as long as the ice is safe.  The park is open sunrise to sunset and there is no ice fishing at night.

OUTDOOR SAFETY   Leave a comment


OUTDOOR SAFETY   1 comment


Dr. Bobby Dale, emergency room physician and medical adviser for SEOPA participated in a seminar on outdoor safety.  Glenn Wheeler is an EMT with experience in Search and Rescue who also participated.

Doctor Dale finds problems with hypothermia to be a significant risk to the outdoor public.  It results in over 700 deaths per year.  It develops slowly in a deer stand but a fall into cold water can cause rapid hypothermia.  Hypothermia can happen any time of the year when there is a sudden change in temperatures of the surroundings.

Hypothermia occurs when the core body temperature falls below 95-degrees F.  The first level of hypothermia has the patient shivering or sleepy.  Treatment is by adding clothing and getting them to a warm place.  You can also do isometrics to generate heat.

The second level involves a slowness of reflexes and impaired judgment.  It also includes shivering and sleepiness.  The subject may feel warm and want to shed clothing.

Severe hypothermia results in a loss of consciousness and ridged muscles.  Cardiac arrest can occur.  It is important to pile blankets on the patient and immediately get help.

In all cases of hypothermia make use of blankets, sleeping bags, warm liquids, build a fire and get into shelter as fast as possible.  Group hugs are helpful.

Preventative measures recommended by Dr. Dale include know your physical limits, avoid wearing cotton clothing, (cotton kills) be prepared for a night out if required, get out of the wind and off the ground, carry fire starting kit, have a bivy bag or plastic trash bag at least 3 ml thick and carry a SPOT locater.

SPOT GPS messenger provides the ability to notify Search and Rescue or your family if you are in trouble.  It provides your exact location which saves time in getting help to you.  They are available from outdoor stores like Bass Pro Shops.

The life you save may be your own.




Posted 11/22/2014 by Donald Gasaway in Freshwater Fishing



Posted 11/22/2014 by Donald Gasaway in Freshwater Fishing



Posted 11/22/2014 by Donald Gasaway in Freshwater Fishing


Photo by Mike McNett

Photo by Mike McNett

Chicagoans speak of “The Hawk” with a kind of reverence and dread in the same breath.  The hawk is the wind that blows off Lake Michigan during the winter months.  It brings a chill to the northeastern part of Illinois.  But, it also brings temperatures low enough to provide safe ice to the area Forest Preserves.  It brings great ice fishing.

Most of the area preserves post signs when it is not safe to walk on the ice.  They also post alerts on their websites.  But, is is still a good idea to exercise great care as conditions are constantly changing.

There are a number of publications and websites available from various forest preserve districts to help you in deciding where to fish.  For instance, the Cook County Forest Preserve District has one that is very good.  It is the annual Fishing Guide that is available on the website ( contains maps of the various bodies of water including topographical features.  It lists site specific fishing regulations applicable to the areas.  A printed version of the guide is available from the district’s office at 536 N. Harlem Ave, River Forest, IL 60305 or from any of the district’s Nature Centers.

A tip for anglers venturing forth on hard water is to record the same trips made in summer.  Would you fish these same locations in winter?  No?  Be willing to move when conditions dictate.  Fish will move around.  It is a good idea to drill several holes and move around the structure.

The basic equipment for ice fishing the forest preserves is the same as most ponds and slews.  What you need is a fish locator, ice auger, rods and reels, some ice fishing jigs and bait.  Placed on a child’s sleigh you can tow them around with ease.  Sometimes 5-gallon buckets hold tackle.  They also double as seats when the action slows or to bring home the fish you catch.

Another tip is to ask those you know who do this kind of fishing for help.  Even out on the ice other anglers others will help with advice.  When the action slows they are only too anxious to share knowledge.

Ask other anglers about good locations on the lake you plan to fish.  It helps to ask at local bait shops.    They usually are in the know as to where the fish are biting this week.

Good locations often stand out because of the number of people located there.  Remember your manners and do not set-up to close to someone else.  Ask permission to fish close to someone or find your own place.  This in public water but courtesy goes a long way toward a pleasant fishing experience.

Finally when looking for fish look where you would normally find them in summer.  Structure, be it brush piles, ledges or rock piles are good prospects.  Pay attention to current flow.  Once on the ice, cut holes and look around.   In an area with a number of holes previously drilled, it may turn out to be a popular place for fish.  Being popular with ice fishermen may be because it is a good place to fish.



Cruising on Rend Lake last weekend we got into a school of Yellow Bass. Since we were running spider rigs as well as one guy single pole jigging, it was really exciting for a few minutes.  There were fish on as many as three lines at a time.  As quickly as it began the action was over.

This small member of the bass family is a pan fisherman’s dream. It grows to a good size for a pan fish.  It is large enough to fillet, is good eating and a hard fighter.  The yellow bass reproduces readily and you can catch them by the dozens with no danger to the species.

Yellow bass are members of the Percichthyidae family that includes white perch, white bass and striped bass. Other names for yellow bass are barfish, stripe, streak, streaker and brassy bass.  It resembles the white bass with a forked tail and compressed body.

The longitudinal stripes (6) of which there are three above the lateral line and three below it. The lower three are not solid as with white bass.  Other differences from white bass are the lack of teeth on the tongue and the lower jaw does not protrude beyond the upper jaw.  Yellow bass have an olive green back, white belly and sides that are brassy to gold or silver.  When sides are silver they are often mistaken for white bass.

Generally 8 to 11-inches in length, yellow bass are not big in the weight classes. The world record is probably just over 2-pounds.  Anything in the 2-pound class is a giant.  Most weigh less than 12-ounces.  All of ours were less than a pound.

The life span of this fish is 3 to 5-years. Those that are 2.5 to 5 inches in length are yearlings.  By the third year of their life they have reached a length of 9-inches and change their feeding habits.

Prior to this point they feed on insects and small crustaceans. Later they change to feeding on small fish.  This accounts for their delight in taking our jig and minnow combinations.  Slip bobbers, jigs, twister tails and small spinners are effective in catching yellow bass.  The best live bait seems to be 2-inch minnows.  Other live baits include such things as wigglers, waxworms, spikes and pieces of nightcrawlers.  The jig/minnow combo is the most popular rig.  Small jigs are best.  The most popular are 1/32nd to 1/16th ounce jigs.

Ultralight tackle or long poles seem to be the ticket for getting in tight places popular with yellow bass. Two to 4-pound test line is best.

Yellow bass are usually rather dormant during winter months. In early spring they become more active on through until fall.  As the water temperature reaches 60-degrees the bass begin to spawn and are in the shallows over gravel beds, stony structures or other structure.

They are always hungry and put up a great fight. The best time to fish for yellow bass is early morning and late afternoon.  Adult fish cruise deep during the day and then head for the shallows to feed.  Yellow bass are a meaty fish even if they do not have length.

Do not hesitate to keep and eat these fish. They are prolific and are better eating than white bass.  In fact they taste something like a bluegill.


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