The early ice season has come and gone and with that, the typical locations that held those early season fish are starting to become void of those said fish. You can keep pounding those areas and hope some new fish move into them, but, it is time to start finding where these fish have moved off to.
Where did they go?
As we start looking around the lake, shoreline fishing is what we have been doing in the early ice season for finding early season fish. As we look out towards the big expanse of the main lake, that basin can be overwhelming and intimidating at first look, as questions start coming to mind. Where am I going to start?
As the ice season gets later into the winter, and if there are good amounts of snow on the ice, the shallow vegetation will start dying off, which can create some lack of oxygen being made and this may have the fish moving out into the basins of the lake looking for better living conditions.
So where do we start when the basins are wide and vast? Think about a given body of water that you may fish in the warmer months. Were you able to locate these deeper fish in those basins then? If you did, those are always great places to start.
If the waters are new to you, looking at the contour maps or the Navionics application is always a good choice for getting a starting point. These fish are schooled up and roaming these vast basin areas and finding locations that you can intercept them at is an advantage for a productive day.
Some locations that need to be checked are long underwater points and if there is a point off that point, these are great areas to start probing. Start out setting up on the end of that furthest point and fishing the topside to see if anything is cruising the shallower area.
You can fish these areas quickly with a variety of baits from jigs to spoons, tipping them with a variety of livebaits to plastics. One main thing to keep in mind, is that you need to keep drilling and moving from hole to hole until you find those locations that are holding these fish.
If you are fortunate and find fish there, are they the quality of fish that you were hoping to catch? If they are, then keep on searching and catching them there and enjoy your time fishing. If they aren’t, then it means that it is time to pick up and continue that search out into the deeper waters of the basin.
The fish that inhabit the basins in the winter, crappies to being more specific, will travel around in a variety of school sizes. These schools, each of them, tends to be of a consistent size of fish, meaning, if you catch an 8-inch fish, many times, many of them in that particular school will be around that 8 inch mark.
So, when you do start catching these basin crappies, and they aren’t the size that you were looking for, keep moving around and get yourself onto another one of these schools. Many times, you won’t have to move very far, as schools of fish can and will be using the same general areas as another school does, just maybe a small little difference of an area, than what the smaller schooled fish are using.
When fishing away from anything structure wise, open basin area, any little variation in the bottom content, soft to hard or vice versa, these areas hold these fish as well. There are a variety of nymphs hatching in these transition areas and this becomes a feeding area. Finding these areas can be done by watching your flasher screen and as the signal comes back, it will be of a finer colored bottom line for hard and for a soft bottom, the bottom color line will be much wider.
Most fish that are cruising these basin areas will also be suspending in a variety of levels in the water column. There are times that you can catch them directly underneath the ice, this is when sight fishing becomes a lot of fun if you are in clearer water. You won’t need the electronics for catching these as you can watch how they are reacting and biting your bait while looking down the hole.
Other depths can be seen while watching your flasher screen and by having the flasher gain set to seeing your bait on the screen, this allows you to put that bait right at the level that the fish are using. Stopping your bait, a couple of feet above them and seeing how they react, will give you a good indication as to their feeding mood.
If they come up quickly to inspect and hit the bait, then you have an aggressive bite happening and many times you can’t get the bait down to them without one rising to hit it on the fall. If they come up and inspect the bait and drop back down, they are in more of a negative mood and will need some enticing for them to commit to the bite.
How deep the active feeding fish are can give you an idea as to which type of bait will work at that time. For the shallower holding fish, you can use a variety of jigs/bait combinations and by not having to go to deep into the water column, these will get back to them quickly.
If these fish are feeding deeper down, for example 10-25 FOW, use a heavier jig. Now may be the time to send a spoon bait down, tipped with a plastic trailer or live bait option. These spoons are heavier in weight and allow you to get to them much quicker, plus each spoon type, has a different action and it won’t take long to see which one they are preferring. Always keep several different options tied on.
The main point about fishing basins is to try known structure and try a variety of contour changes with tight turns or any other little difference than the surrounding area. Sometimes, just going out into the middle of the basin and trying will reap rewards as well, especially away from crowds.
These fish can and will be anywhere at a given time, it takes some leg work in finding them. It takes some time in moving around and drilling more holes. You can drill easily over 100 holes in each outing or location. Stay mobile, think outside of the box, try a variety of baits. By doing some of these things, you should be able to get yourself onto some great basin fishing.