Monday, January 07, 2008

Teasing Bluegills Through An Ice Hole


Bluegills have an endearing habit that winter anglers love. Once hooked, they swim at right angles to the pull of the line and it makes them feel much larger than they actually are.

The other day before all the rain was a case in point. A small lake not far from Traverse City had six inches of ice. I eased onto the lake, checking the ice as I went, and reached an area pock-mocked with frozen holes left behind by other anglers.

A few things have been learned about catching winter bluegills, and one is to auger a bunch of holes and then let the noise settle down. Start fishing in the first hole drilled, and the reason is it’s had the most time to settle down from the commotion of drilling other holes.

I prefer a short soft-action spinning rod with a wee spinning reel and one- or two-pound test clear or green mono. I like tiny ice jigs in a variety of colors. I also like a thin wire rod bobber rather than a float (bobber) because of the sensitivity of some bluegill bites.

I also use thick coiled rod holders that sit on the ice. There’s a big reason why this technique works.

A tiny ice jig of silver, silver-blue, silver-green, silver-orange, orange, yellow, red and white and almost any other color combination will work, but if one color isn’t producing fish, tie on a different color.

My rod is inserted into the coiled rod holder, the jig is baited with a mousie or wax worm, and slowly lowered to bottom. The rod holder is set on the ice and jigged an inch or two and allowed to dangle in the water column for several seconds before being jigged again.

I drill my ice holes three feet apart, and use two rod holders with a line down each hole. Watch the tiny wire bobber on the ice rod, and if it moves a fraction of an inch, set the hook.

Some anglers go to one-pound mono because bluegills can be so finicky during winter months. Too much jigging can spook fish, and learning to spot that delicate bite when a ‘gill sucks on the bait requires some experience.

Often the hooking and landing of one fish will lead to a strike on the other line. As one fish is reeled to the surface, keep an eye on the other line. if the spring bobber moves, up or down, set the hook.

One thing some anglers don’t know is that a bluegill will push the bait upward slightly, and the trick then is to lift the rod and rod holder up until the fish is felt, and then give it a soft hook set.

Bluegills will hit in one spot and then move on in search of food. Try a different hole, and if it doesn’t produce a bite or a fish within 10 minutes, try another spot. Sitting in one spot and fishing just one or two holes doesn’t produce as good catches as moving around.

The thing I like about these ice-rod holders is an angler can walk away from them for a minute to try a nearby hole, and if a fish hits while you are prospecting, the fish will often still be hooked when you return.

Of course, sitting on a bucket with a rod in hand will work. Anglers can still use the wire rod bobber or use a tiny bobber that floats on the water. Remember to keep jigging strokes very short (an inch or two is plenty), and don’t jig too often. Too much jigging action can spook fish.

The whole jigging thing is nothing but a tease. Bait the tiny ice jig or ice fly, and move the baited lure up and down slightly, and it doesn’t hurt to try to move it sideways on occasion. Shivering the lure in place can be deadly at times.

Bluegill fishing is a great way to spend a winter day. Fish near the edges of green weed beds, and try to avoid exaggerated movements. Keep everything low key, use light line, and prospect a bit for fish, and catching a mess of bluegills can be fun and provide some mighty fine eating.

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/07 at 06:28 PM
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