Mid-Winter is often called the “The Dog Days of Winter” like we call late July and August in the summer. It’s a time when fishing can be tough at times, but it doesn’t have to be if you know what you’re looking for during these winter months.
Early ice is very exciting, because fish are still feeding heavily for the colder months ahead and are easy to target. But, the months of January and February are and can be very good fishing as well.
Here are a few things that I’ve done homework on during these months to be successful:
Location, types of lakes, and presentations are the things that have been keyed on to having success on the ice.
As an angler, I do a lot of photography and I want to be able to get good photos of not only the fish I catch, but the tackle and equipment that is used. So, let’s talk about one of the keys that I use during the mid-winter months.
Sure, there’s a ton of lakes in the upper Midwest, but the lakes that I fish are small to mid-sized lakes. On these lakes, there are a few locations that I’ll target.
An area is where weeds are abundant – it holds cover, food and most of all…oxygen.
These locations are often overlooked because of several reasons. One is that most anglers will be attracted to the community holes or where they see other anglers fishing. That’s fine too, but too often the fish are spooked and are a little harder to catch.
I choose to fish off the beaten path, where fish aren’t spooked. Fishing in areas where the weeds can be in 4-9 FOW and I’ve had some of the best luck in those shallow areas. The water clarity is something to keep in mind as well.
If it’s clear, most of the areas that I fish are for sight fishing and is the best way to watch and catch incoming panfish. The one thing that I get asked is, “where do you get those big crappies”? Well, most of the time, I catch them right under the ice. Yes, just put your presentation about 12” below the bottom of the ice.
Just work your presentation slowly and wait for the ambush that comes from a crappie. Two things will happen, one is that you won’t know when they’ll hit your presentation and other times you can see them come in slowly and just look at your presentation until they decide to bite.
The other location that I like to fish is where the weed lines meet up with deeper water.
The weed lines normally start to drop off in 12-15 FOW and then drops off into deeper water. I’ll punch several holes along that weed line and search for fish.
If you’re marking weeds with your Vexilar, you’re in the right area. The crappies and bluegills will filter through and it is a favorite area of mine to target panfish. I don’t normally like to fish in deep water, for the risk of not being able to release the fish. The goal is to catch the fish, take the photography that I need for reports, product shots and video work. Remember, fish will hold to these areas because of food and oxygen.
Types of Lakes
The number one rule for me, and has been for a long time, is not to fish any deeper than 20-25 FOW
Most of the lakes that I fish are that deep or shallower. Smaller to mid-sized lakes are my favorite and if they are stained or somewhat dirty, these are my preferred to fish.
I guess I like fishing when there’s good light and the colors of gills and crappies are much more vibrant to photograph. The other reason is that I want to release these fish for another day. Don’t get me wrong, I keep fish for a meal at times, but when fishing, I want to get the information I need to create reports and the photography to educate others with.
So, fishing during the “dog days of winter” can be very successful if you are willing to put in the work and to be patient when your fishing in the weeds and on the outside weed lines. Crappies and gills will be there and the bigger ones will be also and of course, you’ll catch bass, walleyes and northern pike.
Remember to practice selective harvest and as always, bring a youngster with you on your next outdoor adventure. Until next time, be safe and we’ll see you in the outdoors.
I’ve used just about everything when it comes to tackle, so I’m going to share my favorite jigs that are my go to for catching crappies and bluegills.
First the Clam Outdoors Pro Tackle Duckbill Drop Jig tipped with plastic or euro larva. This jig has a nice forward motion when you are jigging it. This is one of my favorites for fall fishing as well, so I just carry it through into the ice season. When fishing shallow or sight fishing, you will see how the fish react and they just can resist it.
Second, the Clam Snow Drop XL Jig
I’ll mainly use them when fishing late afternoon and in to the evening hours because they are a little smaller in profile and they glow. They also have a snow like texture to the jig that gives it a nice reflective appearance during the day and a deep glow during these evening bites.
Third, the Northland Fishing Tackle Mitee Mouse Jig The unique shape of this jig gives it that life like bug appearance when fishing in the weeds. Using a plastic or live bait on the Mitee Mouse jig and getting down in the weeds without getting caught up.
The one thing that these jigs have in common is that they’re tungsten. Whether you’re fishing in weeds, to get through the weeds to where the fish are, or in deeper water, to get down faster on the moving schools of panfish.
Tungsten has put ice fishing anglers in a better position to catch more fish in one hole rather than moving from one hole to another. Running and gunning will always be part of ice fishing, but at times, staying in the key areas like weeds and the outside of the weeds without moving, has proven far more success on big fish. Noise from the ice above will spook the fish, so it’s important to move as little as possible.