Last Ice Fishing Trip For Now

March 17, 2015 by  

By Bob Jensen


I just returned from what will probably be my last ice-fishing trip until ice returns later this year.  We were on Lake Winnibigoshish in north central Minnesota.  I was fishing with my friend Craig Brown who, along with his wife Paige, own McArdle’s Resort on Winnie.  Craig spends a lot of time on Winnie on the ice and in a boat.  Winnie is an outstanding fishery for walleyes, northern pike, and perch.  Perch were our quarry on this trip.  This was another trip where I re-learned a very valuable lesson that will almost always pay dividends and help any angler catch more fish through the ice or in open water.

winnie ice 2015 and botm 011

When the fish quit biting, a bait change will often get them to bite again. This Winnie perch ignored one bait but ate a different one.

Craig and his brothers had been on the ice the day before my arrival and had done well, so we returned to the area that had been productive.  We drilled some holes, maybe ten.  It was apparent right away that the perch were still calling this area home.  On the first hole I fished, on my first drop, I kept a close eye on my depth-finder as my spoon headed toward the bottom.  As my spoon was going down, I noticed a mark come off the bottom and head up toward my spoon.  I stopped the spoon, but the mark coming off the bottom didn’t stop.  It ran mouth-first right into the spoon and was soon flopping on the ice: A nine inch perch.  Not a jumbo, but certainly an eater.  Winnie has lots of eater perch.

Things were looking good.  Several more drops, several more perch.  They were hungry and wanted to get caught.  My spoon wasn’t even getting to the bottom.

Then things changed.  I put the spoon down again, and the fish would come in and look, but they wouldn’t eat it.

I moved to another hole using the same spoon and caught a bunch more perch.  Then they stopped hitting also.

I moved to another hole and caught several on the same spoon.  Eventually they quit eating also.

I moved back to the hole I started on and dropped the spoon they had been eating.  They looked at the spoon but wouldn’t take it.  I knew what had to be done.  I went to a different bait in a different color and dropped it down my ice hole.  The perch approached the bait cautiously, then ate it.  I caught a couple more, then they quit.  They were getting lure shy.  Initially they were very aggressive, but after seeing a bunch of their schoolmates jerked to the surface, they got finicky.  This is a common thing.  Craig and I fished around that spot a little longer, then left for a completely different area.  When we got to the new area, the scenario repeated itself:  Fast action, a change in presentation, some moderately fast action, then a slow-down in the catching.  This is so, so common.

We can learn so much by watching our depth-finder when ice-fishing.  We know when fish are looking but not eating, and this tells us we need to change our presentation.  I use a Vexilar FL-12.  This is a basic unit, but it does an outstanding job.

The hottest bait on this trip was a Forage Minnow Spoon tipped with half of a white Impulse three inch Angle Worm.  The perch took the plastic as eagerly as they did minnows, and the plastic lasted a lot longer.

We got lucky on weather on this last trip.  It was fifty degrees in the afternoon, the sun was shining, just a wonderful way to wrap up the ice-fishing season.  The ice is shot in some areas of the Midwest for now, shaky in others, still safe in other places.  If you can get out, do so, but be very careful.  We’ll have more ice to enjoy in eight months.

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