Saturday, March 22, 2014

Late Ice Steelhead

The Automatic Fisherman is IDEAL for catching Trout through the ice!

It has been one of the coldest winters on record, which has blessed us with some of the thickest ice conditions we have ever seen on the tributaries to Lake Michigan.  For those who have ventured onto the ice in search of Trout, there have been some fish around but nothing spectacular.  As temperatures start to rise and melt off some of our snowpack expect fresh Steelhead to enter the tributaries to carry out their annual spring spawning run.

With there being so much ice on the tributaries this year, expect a good amount of Steelhead to come in under the ice, which will likely translate into some phenomenal late ice fishing!  However, with late ice on rivers there is always risk involved.  Ice conditions can deteriorate rapidly as runoff begins to increase the current which begins eating away at the ice from underneath.  Shorelines and high current areas are the first to deteriorate so be especially careful in these areas!  Safety is paramount at this time of the year, fishing alone is not recommended unless you are aware of the ice conditions.

There are lots of portions of the tributaries that will hold fish at this time of the year including; lower portions near the lake, barriers restricting fish movement, deep holes, deeper runs with good current, and especially areas where runoff is entering the tributary.   Being mobile and trying multiple spots in a day will increase your chances of finding the spots holding the most fish.

When fishing for Steelhead at this time of the year, spawn sacs and Shrimp are the preferred baits, and Automatic Fishermen are the preferred tip ups to use to catch these finicky fish.  Setting your tip ups so that your bait is within a foot of the bottom will catch the most fish, as these Steelhead tend to swim up and downstream near bottom in search of an easy meal.  
You always have a chance at a bonus late ice Brown Trout

Paying attention to how aggressive the fish are on a particular day can also yield more fish.  If you are missing fish on your Automatic Fishermen, try giving the fish more line before allowing the Automatic Fisherman to trip by pulling the bobber all the way down to the ice when setting it up.  This has worked for finicky fish in the past, as these fish will eventually take the bait and start to swim off.  As this happens, the hook gets firmly set into their mouths!

When using spawn sacs, water clarity is a big thing to pay attention to.  In clear water, smaller sacs tied in natural netting like peach and white will work well, while larger sacs tied in brighter netting like pink or chartreuse will work best in murky water.  Cured eggs will also work better than natural eggs when there is good current, as the cured eggs tend to milk scent downriver for longer than the natural eggs will.  Pautzke’s Borax O Fire has been my personal favorite, as it really seems to catch fish!

Take advantage of the great ice conditions Mother Nature has given us this year to capitalize on some late ice Steelhead!  Remember safety first, go with a friend, and always be prepared to fall through.  Stay mobile, experiment with different spawn sacs, and pay attention to how aggressive the fish are on a given day and you will ice more Steelhead!

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