Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ice Fishing Green Bay

The great lakes offer many diverse fishing opportunities to anglers throughout the midwest.  Most fisherman, however, overlook the great lakes during the winter months.  Most of the great lakes never freeze completely over, which may be the reason they are overlooked during the winter months as a fishing opportunity.  This is really too bad because the great lakes offer great fishing all year round if you know where to look for it.

There are hundreds of protected bays, harbors, tributaries, and narrow areas where ice forms thick enough to safely fish through the ice.  Green Bay is just one example of these protected areas that allow for great ice fishing opportunities.

Green Bay offers a chance to catch several different species on any given day ranging from Perch and Smelt all the way up to trophy Northern Pike and Brown Trout.  The Whitefish population in Green Bay is booming which has created another unique great lakes fishing opportunity.  Whitefish are a popular dinner choice for many vacationers along Door County all year round.  Whitefish Boils, winery's, and beautiful scenery attract people to door county from all over the world! 

Catching Whitefish through the ice in 30+ feet of water is a blast, especially for the younger generations!  If Whitefish aren't for you, the bay also offers a solid Yellow Perch fishery.  Ice fishermen spread the bay in search of Perch, beginning with the thin ice in the bays and working their way out onto the many flats of the main bay once the ice conditions allow for vehicle traffic.  Perch over a foot long are fairly common, with a chance of landing one upwards of 16 inches!

The Walleyes that are caught in large numbers during the summer months can still be taken through the ice, just not in large numbers.  Due to the extremely clear water the Walleyes tend to only bite during the first few hours of light and again as the sun sinks below the horizon.

Green Bay also offers a trophy Northern Pike fishery with some of the best fishing occurring through the ice.  The toothy critters of the bay like to roam the many bays and shorelines in search of their next meal.  Tip ups are the primary weapon for big Pike, light line and small hooks with lively bait are keys to putting Pike on the ice.

Whether you are after a wall hanger or just a meal for the family, Green Bay offers great fishing year round, so don't be afraid to get on the ice!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Harbor Fishing Update

The hustle and bustle of the Holidays has limited my time on the ice recently, but I still did manage to get out a few times during the past two weeks.  Harbor fishing is off to a much slower start than last year, but there are still some fish around to be caught.
13 lb. Brown

Bait selection has been the most crucial part of being successful.  The fish seem to want a different bait just about every day.  I had a day where pink spawn sacs were the only thing the fish would touch, and another where Waxworms were the only fish producer.  This brings up the point that having a variety of bait with you and starting out with several different baits will catch you more fish.  Varying the depth of your baits can also put more fish on the ice, so its a good idea to start by spreading the water column until you get bit.

3 lb. Rainbow

Another thing with ice fishing Trout is time of day.  I have caught most of my Trout through the ice in the morning hours before 11 am.  Trout tend to feed in the morning more than the afternoons from my experiences.  Don't get me wrong there are days where the fish will bite steady from sunrise to sunset, but I have consistently done better during the morning hours.

Fishing pressure has also been negatively effecting the bite.  Trout in clear water are very spooking, especially when there are 100's of holes being drilled above them.  Using a hand auger or drilling your holes before light are both good ideas when ice fishing trout in clear water.

Here is a video from a recent outing.

Well thats all for now, get out on the ice and put some fish on top!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Early Ice Tactics for Lake Michigan Trout

Early ice can offer some of the best action of the entire year for several strains of Great Lakes Trout.  At this time of the year the Coho Salmon are finishing their spawning migration up the tributaries of Lake Michigan and being followed by Brown Trout.  Some Steelhead strains also head up the tribs to spawn around ice up.

This can also be a very hazardous time to be on thin ice, since the many harbors and rivers along the lake take longer to freeze than most inland lakes.  Caution should be taken, spudding ahead of yourself with a chisel is always a good idea as well as bringing a friend.

Harbors offer a safe environment for the Trout as well as an abundance of food, which in many cases causes the fish to hang around the harbors for much of the cold water season.  Harbor fishing techniques tend to vary from tributary fishing since the water in many harbors is very clear compared to the stained water of the many rivers along Lake Michigan.  Lighter line and finesse patterns outproduce the bulkier setups used in the rivers. 

The tributaries may also offer food, but the primary reason most of these fish are in the tribs is to complete their spawning rituals.  Unlike Salmon, Trout can spawn more than once, running up the river to spawn, then returning back to the lake.  Spawning fish will move up into the river when triggered by water temps or increases in flow.   The fish will hold in deep pools waiting for the perfect spawning conditions before swimming onto the redd and spawning.  Knowing where these fish hold prior to and after spawning is the key to success.

New advances in tip up technology like the Automatic Fisherman and Hook Set Tip up have increased the catch percentages of these critters.  Trout are very sensitive to line pressure and will drop a bait immediately if they feel the slightest tension.  In many cases this results in a flag but no fish on conventional tip ups.  The Automatic Fisherman uses an actual ice fishing pole with a bobber between the first two eyes of the rod that lifts when a fish grabs the bait.  Once the line tightens, the jig rod is released from its loaded position and the hook is set.  It is then up to the drag to hold the fish until you get to the setup.  Once there you get to grab the rod and fight the fish on a pole rather than by hand.  This is really important with Trout, since they like to take long sudden runs.  I had several instances with conventional tip ups where a fish would run on me and the line would break when the excess line would catch on the ice.  The Hook Set Tip up also sets the hook for you, except it sets the hook on impact.  As soon as the fish applies tension to the bait, a spring unloads setting the hook.  This proves to be very effective, however you still have to land the fish by hand.

Trout seem to want a certain bait one day, and a completely different one the next.  For this reason it is good to have a good variety of baits with you on every trip.  Any type of spawn or skein that is fresh is a top choice, especially Brown or Steelhead skein or eggs.  Trout just love to gobble up eggs, which makes it a very effective bait.  Minnows are also effective at times and tend to catch larger Trout.  I have seen several 20+ pound Browns take small Golden Shiners.  Wax worms or Spikes can also catch fish on certain days.  There are many other techniques that can put Trout on the ice, including jigging spawn, jigging tubes, shrimp, jigging Gulp, and even Walleye techniques like Swedish Pimples or Jigging Rapalas.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Automatic Fisherman Time

Well, the ice here in northeast Wisconsin is finally safe to venture out on in many of the harbors and rivers along Lake Michigan.  On Thursday I took the day off from work to try out the Automatic Fisherman I had just purchased for Trout Fishing through the ice.

I headed to Manitowoc Harbor only to find 1/2" of ice covering the harbor with a few pockets of open water.  An hour drive in the early morning with high hopes of catching some Trout through the ice had me searching for ways to fish.  I was not going home just yet.  Looking at the situation I soon realized that I could break through some of the thin ice and wade out 15' to the end of the docks and fish from there.  After a few minutes of pondering the situation, I was on the docks with all of my equipment and setting up my Automatic Fisherman from the docks!

I began with the first one set about 4' down in 8 ft of water and used a spawn sac.  On the next Auto I set the spawn a foot off the bottom in 9 ft of water.  With my last available line I decided to jig with wax worms since that can be very productive at times.  Within 20 minutes I heard the loud thud of the Auto tripping and could see my rod pumping.  I ran over and landed a beautiful hen Rainbow around 6lbs.  Fighting the fish through 1/2" of ice and clear water was really neat, since I could see every move it made.

As soon as I landed her I reset the Auto and checked to see if the hen had any eggs.  I was pleasantly surprised when I found that she was full of skein!  This is in my opinion the best trout bait around!  I quickly changed my old spawn with the fresh skein on the Autos.  As I was dropping the fresh skein down the hole I watched a Trout inhale the skein on the drop!  This fish was quite a bit larger than the one I had just landed!  By the time a set the hook the fish was off, but I knew at this point that the new skein was gonna work!

Another hour passed before another trip on the Auto set 4' below the ice.  This time the fish was larger and took some long runs, including two different runs around dock pilings.  I still can't believe I was able to land this one with 8lb test!  At one point the Rainbow was joined by another Rainbow which followed it as it thrashed below the thin ice.  The buck then attempted to jump out of the water, making a loud thud on the bottom of the ice!  If I only could have gotten video of this fish!  The fish finally tired around 10 minutes later and I was able to pull him through the hole.  What a battle that was, can't wait to do it all over again.  This however, was the last of the action for me that day.  I look forward to my next trip on the ice for some more Great Lakes Trout!  The Automatic Fisherman did not disappoint on their first test for Trout!