Archive for November 2015

IN DEPTH ICE FISHING   Leave a comment


In ice fishing if the fish are in the 12 to 20 foot depths on the main part of a lake, a combination of structure and current makes a good location for the angler.  Fish are just out of the current and around structure.  Forage fish seek small plankton flowing in the current.

Largemouth bass and other predator fish hang around such areas close to stumps, beneath undercuts, rocks or just on a sharp break line.

Any disruption such as a sudden noise on the ice and the fish shut down.  Light also seems to have a detrimental effect on feeding fish.  The brighter the day, the more fish seem to hug the bottom.

Weedy areas or those with dark bottom warm sooner and are more likely to attract fish.  The weeds and the dark muddy bottom absorb what warmth is available on a sunny day and hold fish longer.

Cold water fishing means sluggish fish biting lightly.

If electronic fish locator is available you can establish the level at which the fish are suspended.  Drop your lure until it is slightly above them.  Fish feed up.  Just look at the way their eyes sit in their head.  They are built to feed upward.

It is important to fish slowly during ice fishing activity in response to the apparent sluggishness of the quarry.  The lure needs to get down to the bottom or at least near it.  It is important to remember the lure is going to have to be right in front of the larger fish for him to react to it.

Play close attention to a tic of the bite and set the hook immediately.  Fish will not hold the lure for long in these conditions.  Any variation in the action of the line calls for a quick hook set.  Ice fishing is a game of total concentration on the task at hand.


As I ponder the day ahead icicles are forming on the eves of the cabin.  I am to learn about winter crappie fishing in southern Illinois.  This is winter fish camp on Kinkaid Lake, a media event sponsored by BnM Poles, TTI Blakemore Fishing Group and some other related companies.  The host is Kyle Schoenherr of All Seasons Guide Service.

Camp is at Kinkaid Lake a few miles west of Murphysboro in Jackson County IL.  The 2,335-acre has 83-miles of shoreline that is almost exclusively undeveloped.  Only a power plant and a marina are present.  The deep clear lake has a maximum depth of 61-feet.

The day dawns cold but soon warms a little.  Air temperatures are soon in the 40’s and the water temperatures holds around 40-degrees all day.  Despite my trepidation about the advisability of going fishing, the day turns out to be one of my better fishing experiences.

Leaving the boat ramp we cruise out on to the main lake and into some windy conditions.  A quick trip down the lake to a cove is colder than usual.  The lake is quiet and we only see one other boat all day.  An advantage of winter fishing.

The tackle for the day consists of 16-foot crappie poles rigged with 6-pound monofilament line and terminal tackle of the type normally associated with spring time crappie fishing.  The line is spooled on a small spinning reel.  At the other end is a half ounce sinker.  About 18-inches up from the sinker a three-way swivel is attached to the main line.  The third eyelet of the swivel has an 8-inch piece of line and a small jig attached.  A minnow is skewered on the hook in a fashion that allows it to swim naturally.

Once rigged up, we move out of the cove along a bluff that shelters us from the wind.  The imposing bluff falls away into the water and from the fish locater we can see it extends down about 20-feet before forming a ledge that falls away another 6-8 feet.  On the ledge can be seen large boulders and brush piles.  Around them are schools of shad and some individual crappie.

Kyle explains that we need to allow the sinker to fall to the bottom of the lake and then raise it up about a foot.  Then as we very slowly troll along the ledge we jig the minnow to give it a natural action.  Because of the 41-degree water, we move the line only a little and very slowly.   The bite will be very light, almost lighter than the bite of a walleye.

According to Schoenherr he is finding big fish but only at depths up to 40-feet.  He had been fishing for several days and found the big ones were always very deep.

Kyle catches a couple of 8-inch crappies but I am not getting a bite.  When the action does not pick up, Kyle recommends moving across the lake to another bluff.  As I begin to wind in my line, I do not feel anything but notice the line moving from my left to right rather definitively.

The flexible crappie pole bends dramatically.  Up from a depth of 33-feet comes a nice white crappie.  As it nears the surface the fight ends and I am pulling in a slothful fish.

Kyle nets the fish and immediately places it in Slabmaster.  He takes a surgical needle without the hypodermic connection and places it into the fish through a slot in the Slabmaster.  Because these fish are coming from so far down the needle is needed to deflate their air bladder.  This keeps them alive for pictures, to be placed in the live well or returned to the water.  The fish recovers immediately, is photographed and placed in the live well for more photos later.


Slabmaster is a plastic holder for crappie that also measures the length and estimates the weight of any fish placed in it.  It is available at fishing retail and catalog locations.

We do not take the time to weigh the fish as we are losing light.  If the Slabmaster says it is over two pounds it is OK.  It is my first crappie of that class.


Winter Crappie copy

How To Fish Thin Ice   1 comment

Thin Ice

The variety of temperatures and degree of ice available throughout the some 400 miles of Illinois from top to bottom presents a need for caution in winter angling situations. While early ice conditions present danger in some of the northern counties, the fact of little or no ice may be available in the southern counties.

The lowlight conditions of early morning are usually the best ice fishing conditions on most waters. They are especially desirable on Lake Michigan.

The bays and harbors are the safest locations for ice anglers. The main lake generally does not freeze sufficiently to make for safe ice fishing conditions.  The shelf ice formed along the shoreline is very dangerous.

The ice conditions in Illinois portions of the lake can be very dangerous until the thickness of the ice reaches 3 to 4 inches. On sunny days, the piers and docks warm making the ice near them less stable.  Early on in the season, many anglers in the harbors will drill holes adjacent to these manmade structures and fish them by sitting or standing on the structure as opposed to walking on the ice.

In southern Illinois anglers seldom get ice thick enough to walk on. They have adapted the pattern of drilling holes next to piers and docks and standing on the mores stable structure to fish through holes in the ice.  On Power plant lakes and others without ice, the ice fishing jigging techniques produce fish from boats.

Throughout the state early season prospects for trout and panfish are better as the fish seem to like a thin coat of ice over their heads. They tend to suspend in weeds or near wood where the water is slightly warmer.  They usually are about 4 to 6-feet down.

In the Lake Michigan harbors anglers can expect to find rainbow, lake, brown and steelhead trout in harbors such as Burnham, Belmont, and Montrose. Recommended lures include jigging spoons tipped with minnow heads and spawn sacks.  The panfish species available are yellow perch, crappies and bluegill.   Anglers use double rigs with minnows and plastics fished slowly.

In the southern counties the ice anglers is more likely to finds crappie and largemouth bass with an occasional channel catfish.

Anglers from the northern counties often travel into southern Wisconsin harbors at Racine and Kenosha to fish Lake Michigan perch. Access to the harbors is easily available from the Interstate Highways.


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