Ice Fishing – Fish it Through

February 9, 2009 by  

By Noel Vick with Brian “Bro” Brosdahl

When fishing slows down, move, but not too far.

When fishing slows down, move, but not too far.

Believe it or not, mobility on the ice has its pitfalls. For more than a decade you’ve heard and read about the criticalness of mobility. To competently and effectively catch fish on the hardwater, an angler must be mercurial as a gypsy and stealthy as a fox.

These axioms are true, no doubt, but Clam Corp. Pro Brian “Bro” Brosdahl has witnessed a side of mobility he’d like to quash, and for the good of the game. “Winter anglers, too often, fish only isolated spots on a huge piece of structure,” says Bro. “In the summer they’ll work the entire bar or flat or whatever sort of structure is in question. But you take that same structure and species and attack it from the ice, and they leapfrog from one spot to another and miss all sorts of possibilities in between.”

Supporting his premise, Bro cites a repeated scenario from Lake of the Woods’ Big Traverse Bay, the immense and mildly-structured south shore. “It happens every winter. A cluster of permanent and portable shacks sets-up on the first deep break. It’s a good spot, plenty of walleyes and sauger, but at some point, exploration is necessary.

“Pods of anglers start fanning out, staking new claims. They’ll pack up the Fish Traps and snowmobile out another half mile, mile, or further. Pretty soon, there are clusters of blue portables scattered everywhere in the distance.

“Now I’m not saying they’re wrong, especially the guys who land on a bug’s nest, but I’m also convinced that a lot of closer, easier fish were skipped getting there,” says Bro.

Bro is an advocate of “fishing from the masses, not driving away.” He’d rather hand-tow the Trap 20, 30, or 40 yards away and punch a new string of holes. Now the exception, of course, occurs when contending with small water and finite, isolated structure. Sometimes, hotspots are smaller than a tennis court and productive zones separated by nothingness.  

His “fish it through” philosophy caters more to big places and wide open spaces. It does, however, pertain to everything that swims.

“Sameness isn’t always sameness,” says Bro. “Slight variations matter. A change in bottom composition might be the deciding factor, and those changes aren’t mapped but are easily missed if you just shotgun around.

Always look for subtle structure off the main structure

Always look for subtle structure off the main structure

“By fishing it through, I’ve pinpointed crappies on deep flats when there was nothing else around. Now I can’t name the lake for fear of exploitation, but I was jigging a 24 foot deep mud flat and picking up a fish here, fish there, but nothing to get excited about.

“I kept up with the reconnaissance, popping holes every 10 yards or so and checking every single one with the Vexilar and jig and maggots. Finally, I struck the mother lode. The bottom six feet was filthy with crappies, and they we’re hotter than a habanero.

After weathering the storm, I lowered the Aqua-Vu and down-viewed for an explanation. The bottom was slightly different than the surrounding area. It was firmer, more of a marl, and after rechecking depth with the Vexilar, was almost two feet shallower. I had stumbled onto a minor and unmarked hump.”

Bro engages in a similar behavior on reefs and bars, too. In pursuit of walleyes, he, logically, plasters the crown, break, and nearby basin – the fishy zone. Bro’s quest, however, doesn’t end with the “known.”

“Fish will relate to structure, but not always hold on it, even near it,” explains Bro, one of ice fishing’s deepest thinkers. “People dwell too much on structure, thinking fish always use it. I prefer using structure as a starting gate to finding fish.”

It’s nothing for Bro to discover fish 100 yards or more away from tangible structure. He, as professed, fishes way the hay out there. “I’m always looking for subtleties away from primary structure, and it’s necessary to pop a lot of windows to find ‘em.

Make sure you fish all the holes, too.” That’s a mantra he and frequent partner Dave Genz pontificate.

Searches sometimes uncover what Bro describes as “riffles” along the lake floor. “Imagine waves along the bottom,” he describes. On a Vexilar, they’ll materialize as one to three foot rises over an otherwise drab flat. The more and tighter the riffles the better, too, says Bro.

He also digs for “scoop outs” or troughs. While graphing and marking, they appear as faint one, two, and three foot dips that lay low for a few yards or several yards before rising. Scoop-outs, like riffles, are repeatedly unmapped and only discovered through research. Bro’s favorite scoop-outs turn up in depths of 10 to 20, especially where weeds are involved. Organic debris settles in said scoop-outs, creating a unique bottom composition, transition area, and likely diverse weed growth, or none at all – all the ingredients for forage and fish.

Fishing it through pays dividends in heavy vegetation, too. Bro is a proponent of massive weed beds, acreages. “The tendency when fishing a huge weedbed is to only work the edge. That’s the easiest method, and it can payoff, too, but the path of least resistance isn’t always the best.”

Bro is dogged about cutting well into the vegetation, particularly if the inside veg is green and overall depth holds somewhat consistent. Those extra interior holes habitually expose clearings, lanes, weed-type changes, uncharted rock, clam beds, and other beneficial anomalies. And the thicker the salad the nearer together he’ll blast holes. He has, when pocket-picking bluegills in the foliage, spaced holes no greater than five feet apart, and fished every single one.

Generally speaking, though, when structure is tight or depths change rapidly, he drills every 10 to 15 feet. That range spans to 25 feet or so when scouring looser areas, such as a deep flat or basin. And, to make take the labor out of laboring, he operates with a lightweight and surefire StrikeMaster Lazer.

So it’s Bro – a known advocate of mobility – who’s imploring us to slow down, smell the roses, the maggots. Don’t misconstrue his intentions, however. Far be it from him to relax in a hard-sided shack with a buzzer on his line. No, rather, he suggests that sometimes anglers bite off too much real estate, cover too much water too quickly, and wander past golden opportunities.

Article provided by the Ice Team.


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