Ice off fishing can be cold, but the action can be hot

Most serious fishermen pursue multiple species of fish. The only problem with that, is figuring out what fish you will target.

When the ice finally melts, nearly all types of fish feed up in preparation to spawn. This makes catching them much more easy. The amount of sun hitting the water, plays a major role in what species of fish I target. Understanding where each breed of fish will spawn, can help you locate them. Knowing what bait to present and what technique to use, is also a major factor in catching large numbers. The last and most important factor, is being able to tell the male from the female fish, if you intend on catching a meal.

I get so excited when the birds of spring are heard and seen. This means to me, that ice fishing is about to get hot. Most ice fishermen that trout fish, abandon the lakes and ponds and don't return to them until May. The fact that fish in lakes and ponds continue to feed heavily up until they spawn, seems to be misunderstood by most anglers. It may be that most are looking for a different kind of adventure to be had. I personally rarely fished lakes and ponds before May after ice off. My reason was that I enjoy trout fishing so much. I let that mind frame get in the way of some great lake fishing. A few years back, I was told by a seasoned fishermen on the ice, that some of the best lake fishing was immediately after the ice had melted. I asked some questions and decided to try it to see what all the hype was about. It was no surprise that the old pro knew exactly what he was talking about.

Female fish like any other creature, feed heavily in preparation for their offspring. Like humans they aren't as picky as to what they eat and may choose food sources that would be passed on any other time. This is natures way of creating the most healthy offspring possible. Male fish also seem to feed much more readily, but tend to be more picky as to what bait is presented. Fish in this state are pretty vulnerable to excessive harvest and need be released to protect the fishery.

The sun plays a major role as to how and where you will choose to fish. This time of the year seems to be the opposite of the rest. While fish like Bluegill, Bass and Crappie tend to go deep on sunny days, they will seek out more shallow areas in the early spring. They do this because the water will be warmer, which promotes egg growth and speeds digestion. Fish tend to be more spooky in shallow water, so casting greater distances is required. I choose to use a slip bob and light line, no more than six pound test. The extra weight added by the float and lack of resistance from the light line, will allow an experienced angler to cast 40 to 50 yards. This will keep you far enough from the fish to prevent spooking them. I favor four pound test and have found that if you set your drag light enough, you can pull in quite large fish. Last spring I landed a nearly six pound Small Mouth on four pound test. I was fishing with a micro rod and reel combo and using a one inch tube bait. I wasn't targeting large fish, but if they bite I enjoy the fight.

It may be surprising to some, that a fish so large will eat such a small baits. You must remember that their metabolism is still slow due to the cold water. Downsizing is the name of the game while ice off fishing. After bait comes location. Bluegill like to spawn in shallow areas with a mud or gravel bottom, as do Large Mouth Bass. While Perch and Small Mouths favor deeper water with gravel or a rocky bottom. Crappie seem to choose the real estate between the deep and shallow areas. This gives you an idea where to target individual species. A slip bob is easily adjusted to maintain a consistent depth, which allows you to keep your bait in the strike zone, once the target species is located.

I know that a meal can be quickly caught in the spring, but can't stress how important it is to release pregnant females. If you are going to keep a few for dinner, make sure they are male fish. If you cannot tell them apart, I recommend not keeping any. I also recommend only keeping enough for a meal and not filling a whole stringer. Although there may not be a closed season on certain fish, that doesn't mean they should be kept year round. Current conditions aren't really good for trout fishing, so I decided to write about ice off which is only a couple weeks away. I did go trout fishing on the April first but caught nothing. My buddies son, Dylan, was lucky enough to pull one from the muddy fast moving water. Good wishes and happy fishing.

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