It is just like clockwork. A surefire guarantee. Seasons change and along with this change we experience winter.
Winter: a time of hibernation and lackluster activity for some. Others, on the other hand, embrace the change and take advantage of the opportunities winter has to offer. One of those opportunities is ice fishing.
I am one of the growing numbers of outdoor enthusiasts that enjoy ice fishing. For me, ice fishing is all about chasing panfish. And just like the seasons changing, panfish bites change as winter marches on.
In order to experience continued panfish success in the frozen water period, it is imperative that anglers understand the fact that their honey hole may lose its appeal partway through the season. On the other hand, other locations that were void of fish early will improve as the winter wears on.
There are lots of factors that can contribute to this migrating fish bite. They include light penetration, dying or growing weeds, low oxygen levels and availability of food.
I have a number of locations that I fish early in the season that are good for just a few weeks. Once the bite starts to dwindle, it is time to move on.
Several of my early spots are weed oriented locations. When the weeds start to die off and the aggressive fish are caught, the activity will totally die as the panfish move to deeper haunts.
Too many times I see anglers continue to pound these unproductive spots. They will catch a fish or two, but the numbers are not going to be there. (It is important to note that panfish will sometimes move back into these early ice areas during the late ice period.)
Once the early bite is over, I like to concentrate my efforts on deep basin fishing. When I say deep, it is all relative to the lake. On some lakes deep may be 20 feet while for others it is over 40. I will admit I don’t like fishing in 40 feet of water, but if that is where the fish are, that is where I am going to be.
During a typical season, I will easily fish 15 to 20 different lakes. Keeping track of where to go on these lakes can be tricky.
I am a big fan of the Navionics map that I have on my phone. I always drop a pin on places where I catch fish as the same spots are often good year after year. Dropping a pin is critical as it is impossible to tell exactly where I was when I caught fish on a lake two years prior.
I also have a 12-volt connector in my truck so I can run my Lowrance unit from my boat in my truck. Again, I have icons placed where I have caught fish in the past. There are times when I save a location in the summer that I feel needs to be checked in the winter. This is especially true of cabbage weed beds.
Understanding the fact that it is rare to be able to fish the same location all winter is critical for continued panfish success. Fish move as conditions change. In some situations, the quality fish are simply caught and gone.
Following the panfish bite is not rocket science, but it does take effort and a willingness to search and learn the patterns. Once this is figured out and locations are logged, winter success will increase.