After an agonizing wait between the close of deer season and the start of the ice fishing season, our local waters finally had enough ice to fish safely early in the new year. I put fresh line on all reels, organized and reorganized my lures and I was ready to go.
My first several excursions were limited to small, protected bays while better ice formed in our larger body of water. The quality of my catch more than compensated for the low quantity of fish. Large crappies and perch succumbed to a Size 8 Lemon-Lime Ratso Jig tipped with a Berkley Gulp! Alive! Maggot. Try as I might with other colors and lures, this is what the fish insisted on.
As the days moved along and near-zero nighttime temperatures persisted, safe ice formed throughout the larger body of water allowing more choices on places to fish.
With work obligations completed, I had an afternoon free to fish. Normally, I don’t fish early afternoons, but you go fishing when you can. I was rewarded with 20 nice perch in just a couple hours of fishing. Most of those fish were caught using a Silver Fluorescent Chartreuse W3 Jigging Rap. Fueled by this success, I could hardly wait for the next morning.
The next morning was phenomenal! I was on the ice at sunrise and used my GPS to find my exact spot from the day before. I caught about 75 perch in just under three hours, able to keep the longest and fattest perch until I reached my limit of 30. Again, most were caught on the same Jigging Rap, but the few occasions when I had a lull, I used a Lindy Chartreuse Glow Ice Worm Jig tipped with a Glow Clam Spiiki Plastic bait tipped with a Berkley Maggot. I was able to sight-fish in clear shallow water and the action on this combination looks good enough for me to eat! The extra thickness and weight on the tail has an incredible whiplash jigging effect with the slightest action I gave it. I like to use my finger on my off hand to “strum” the string like a guitar. This enables me to give the slightest action to the Spiiki and it’s fascinating to watch the fish charge in and swallow the bait.
Here are some things I learned in the early season:
Stealth is important, especially in shallow water (10-feet or less). I am convinced gasoline powered augers spook fish, as well as loud talk and crowded ice. The ION Electric Ice Auger or a Nils Hand Auger allow for quiet, quick and reliable hole cutting. Don’t be afraid to venture from the pack.
Spare Treble Hooks
The worst thing that can happen when using a Jigging Rap is when the fish takes all three points of the treble hook. You have to play fish dentist with hemostats or pliers to unhook them. Sometimes a point on the hook breaks or the whole hook comes off the clip that holds it to the underbelly of the lure. During one stretch of fishing, I was missing a lot of hits and it wasn’t until I got home that I noticed the entire treble hook had come off when unhooking one of the fish. Even if I had noticed the missing hook while fishing I didn’t have spares with me. I since acquired a pack of Owner Stinger Treble Hooks. Size 16 is the perfect replacement for the W3 Jigging Rap. It’s easy to put on the underbelly clip with a pair of hemostats or pliers.
When done fishing, don’t throw out your Berkley Gulp! Alive! Maggots. When I’m done fishing or changing up lures, back in the jar they go. They are reusable and one jar will likely last you an entire season.
Two of the more practical safety items are also relatively inexpensive – at least when compared to the alternative. You shouldn’t go out on the ice without a pair of Ice Creepers and a set of ice picks around your neck.