Archive for the ‘Fish Locators’ Tag



Finding fish through the ice can be difficult but possible.  The most obvious way is to know the water and at what level the fish are holding.  Bluegills and perch are typically near the bottom.  All fish seek a comfort zone in the water column.

Discussions with other anglers and at bait shops often will provide the information needed.  Portable fish locators and submersible cameras will tell you if fish are present and at what depth.  Since fish tend to school up during the winter you can ignore one or two fish in favor of a school.  Find where the crowd is and fish that location.

Since fish look for food at eye level or a little above it, knowing where they are will help in placement of bait or a lure.

Drill a number of holes and fish them all until you get some action.  The fish will move but generally not very far away.  Drill a pilot hole and lower some kind of line to measure the depth.  A weight placed on a length of fishing line works well.

On colder, low light days, star by fishing deeper and tighter to the available cover.  With more light and warmer conditions, fish shallow and close to weeds, drop-offs, weed beds, and any other submerged structure that tends to attract fish.

Anglers on ice should be mobile.  Many ice fishermen use snowmobiles or a sled.  The snowmobile allows you to pull a small ice house.  Both tools permit hauling tackle and other gear.  A tackle box with a selection of jigs, hooks and plastic jigs and an auger are essential.  A skimmer aids in cleaning ice off the hole.  A portable heater or lantern aids in keeping your own body temperature up.  Together all this is called the “bass boat of the ice.”

Ice rods and small reels as well as tip-ups complete the ice angler’s repertoire.  Ice rods are short flexible graphite rods made for ice fishing.  They are usually 24 to 36-inches in length and the reels spooled with 2-pound test line.  Tip-ups hold the bait at a certain depth.  The reel turns from the tug of a fish and releases a red flag signal.  When the flag flies it is time to hand line the fish up through the ice hole.

Hooks are usually size 8 or 10.  Small tear-drop jigs in a variety of colors are good.  Bait for bluegills and perch is usually grubs, mousies, wigglers and waxworms.  Hook small minnows through the back to allow them to swim freely.  Use a small bobber to keep the minnow or other bait at a precise depth.

Jig the bait and then allow it to sit motionless.  The movement attracts the fish and they strike it when it sits still.  Do not overdo the action.  If fish are reluctant to hang on to the bait, try using a fish attractant.  Attractants are at their best in cold weather.

Finally the best time to ice fish a pond is any time you can.  Ice thickens in the severe cold weather so it is probably most desirable to key on the warming trends, abrupt weather changes and low light periods.


Water temperature, structure, and water level are the keys to fishing for fall crappie at Rend Lake.

The best action comes when the water temperature drops to 60 degrees or lower.  At that point, anglers concentrate on the “sets” to be found around the lake.  There are probably thousands of them.  In the fall most of the crappie are relating to structure and not suspended.

A set usually consists of brush piles composed of Christmas trees and weighed down with cement blocks or some other heavy object.  Some of the sets are placed in the lake by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, owners of the lake.  These sets are marked with a white buoy that identifies it.

Perhaps most of the sets have been placed in the lake by locals.  Some of them are the Christmas tree style and others are made of wooden stakes driven into the bottom of the lake about 6 inches apart in an area about 4 feet by 4 feet.  They can be located by use of electronic fish locators or by watching other anglers on the water.

Most sets will be found in the coves of the north end of the lake.  However, some are also to be found in deeper water along the old river channels.

Additionally, anglers will fish a lot of stumps in the fall.  The best ones are those right off the river channels.  Big Muddy River Channel, Atchecinson Creek, and Gun Creek as some of the better locations.  Gun Creek is a very good place to fish in the fall.  “It is loaded with stumps so caution is a good idea.  The entire north end of the lake, north of U.S. Route 154 has stump fields.

The normal pool level of the lake is 405 feet.  It is the point at which water flows through the notch in the dam.  If the lake is above 408 or 409, then it is possible to go pretty much where you please.  The water level at the top of the dam is 410.  Below that water level, it is a good idea to check maps and with local anglers to find out where the stumps might be encountered.  Electronics are a must as it can be pretty treacherous.

Rend Lake crappie are a half to three-quarters of a pound in weight.  A lot of the fish will go up to a pound to a pound and one-quarter.  In recent years fish over 2 pounds up to 3 pounds have been caught.  The normal crappie is about 10 to 11 inches in length.  Although an occasional black crappie is caught, the majority are white crappie.

In the Fall, most fish are caught by jigging leadhead jigs in 1/16th to 1/32nd ounce size.  Light colors are preferred and chartreuse is a favorite.  Chartreuse combined with other colors are also effective combinations.  Most are rigged as a single hook set, but some anglers get into fish out on the main lake and turn to double hook rigs at that time.

Long jigging poles are the preferred rod for crappie anglers.  They are particularly effect during a two week period each fall when the water level floods the buck brush shoreline.  The poles are effective in getting a jig into an area where the boat won’t go.  Ten, 11, or 12 foot rods are preferred.

Ten to 12 pound line with extra light wire hooks and 1/8th ounce sinker makes for a good rig on these waters.  The sinker is allowed to slide up and down the line to the hook.  The set-up is suspended below a slip float.  This combination is effective in brush.

If fishing with minnows, the above rig slows down the minnows action.  If the hook becomes snagged, it can be popped a little and the movement of the sinker will make the hook come lose.  Additionally, the extra light wire hooks will straighten out if all else fails.

Rend Lake is a 18,900-acre lake in south-central Illinois.  Located in Franklin and Jefferson counties, the lake is less than three hours from both Springfield and St. Louis on Interstate 57.  At normal pool of 405 feet, RendLake has a shoreline length of 162 miles.  It is 13 miles long and three miles wide.  Except for two marinas, the shoreline is undeveloped.

Portions of the lake north of Route 183 are relatively shallow with depths running less than 10 feet.  South of Highway 154, the lake is much deeper, but there are some very shallow areas.  Boaters should exercise caution.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has a free booklet available entitled Rend Lake Fishing Guide that is helpful to the angler seeking information about the lake.  It contains maps and information about services and recreational facilities.  It is available upon request from the IDNR Public Information Office, 524 S. Second Street, Springfield, IL62701-1787.

Fall may be a time when many of us look to upland game hunting, and it is available in the area, but don’t pass up some fine crappie fishing on Rend Lake.  Make plans today to fish the wood of Rend Lake this fall.


Considering the multitude of changes in fishing tackle during the past 10 years, it is difficult to single out the top one.  Think about all the changes in rods, reels, spider-rigs, fish locators, hooks, artificial lures, plastic baits, jigs that have come into the sport.  We have come a long way since the advent of the “crappie rig” and the “jigging pole.” 

Last week while fishing with the Phil and Eve Rambo at the Alabama State Championship on theAlabama River, I posed the question to them.  Without hesitation, Phil came back with “the Hummingbird Fish Finder.” 

“You can see the bottom structure and the fish just like a photo,” he exclaimed.  The unit has the side scan ability giving on a picture of not only the bottom but also an almost 3-Dimensional view beneath the boat. 

Phil explained this ability to view the bottom helps to eliminate many promising locations that do not have fish on them.  He also is able to find fish and make sure he is concentrating his efforts in the strike zone. 

The image is not an actual photo but the down and side-scan sonar interprets the direction and speed at which sound goes out and returns.  The unit to give a similar image picture processes it.  Fish appear as dots or small circles as opposed to the arches displayed on traditional sonar units.  

The unit processes the sound waves like a MRI and then analyzes the data to produce a 3-D image.  The image gives a view up to 480 feet out from the boat.  It allows one to cover more water in less time by not wasting time on unproductive locations.

The Hummingbird Fish Locator is Phil’s choice.  What is yours?

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