Thursday, January 15, 2009

Which Ice-Fishing Lure To Use?

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It’s becoming ever more difficult to pick ice-fishing lures. There are almost as many for the winter months as during open-water times.

There are three basic fish groups that I love to catch—bluegills, perch and walleyes. All are mighty fine eating on my dinner plate, but I’ve almost given up on lake trout, pike and splake.

Tip-up fishing is fun for the first hour or two, and then I get bored. If flags are going up, using tip-ups can be a lot of fun. However, it seems as if there are dozens of days where “wind bites” provide the only action rather then when the fish really bite well. As a general rule, tip-up fishing is a bit like watching paint dry. Yawn!

Besides, I like having a rod in my hand. I’ve used the old custom-made jigging sticks, home-made jigging sticks, and rod and reel. I much prefer a light-action spinning rig spooled with two- or four-pound line, depending on what I fish for. I usually have one spinning rod set up with six-pound FireLine when jigging for walleyes.

My favorite baits and lures for these game fish are:

*Bluegills—My favorite rig is two-pound clear or green monofilament line and a tiny teardrop jig or ice fly jig. I choose sizes like 1/16 or 1/32-ounce, and buy them in a variety of colors. Yellow is always a good choice, as is yellow with red spots.

My preference is to pick a teardrop jig and bait it with a mousie or wax worm. Fish off the edges of green weed beds, and it doesn’t take much effort to catch bluegills and sunfish. Start fishing near bottom, and slowly work your way up at least halfway to the surface.

My bluegill rods have a tiny fine wire spring bobber at the tip. I use coiled wire rod holders, stick the rod butt in them, lower the jig and bait to bottom. and raise it an inch or two off bottom. Jig it softly a few times, and let the rod and rod holder sit on the ice. Reach down, jig it again, and keep trying different depths or different holes until the fish are located.

A late-winter bluegill will barely suck in the jig and bait, and if the fine wire bobber bends a bit, set the hook. Occasionally they will hit quite hard, but it’s better to count on a soft take. Don’t set the hook hard or you’ll spend most of the day tying on teardrop jigs.

*Perch are even more fun, and i use a similar rig for perch as for bluegills but use four-pound clear or green monofilament line. Two basic methods work: using a Russian spoon baited with a perch eye, emerald shiner or a wiggler.

Of these methods I favor a line with a egg sinker on the bottom and two dropper lines spaced six inches or so above the sinker and another a foot above that. It’s not uncommon to catch two yellow perch at a time with this rig.

Again, I like the wire rod-tip bobber, but perch often hit hard enough to make the need for a bobber useless. Bait both hooks, making certain the the minnow is hooked in the fleshy part of its back behind the dorsal fin and above the spine. Hook the minnow too deep, and it will puncture the spinal column and kill the minnow. Ease them slowly to bottom, and reel up slack line so there is a bend in the rod sitting in the rod holder. Lower the minnows too fast, and the rapid descent will tear the minnows off.

The Russian spoon rig is meant to be jigged up and down, and white, white-red, yellow, yellow with red spots—all work well. Bait the spoon’s single hook and lower it to bottom, raise it up a few inches off bottom, and then use short jigging strokes of two or three inches with frequent pauses.

*Walleyes love jigging lures baited with emerald shiners. My favorites are the Hali, jigging Rapala, and the Do-Jigger. I add an emerald shiner to each hook, and jig it softly with short two-inch strokes. Hard and forceful jigging strokes will litter the bottom with dead minnows.

This is a sport where it’s important to keep moving until a school of fish is found. I use either a spinning or bait-casting rig with six-pound FireLine, and make certain the hooks are sharp. Use short jigging strokes, and most fish hit on the up-stroke although some will hit as the baited lure flutters down.

The lure, the bait and the jigging method is what turns all three of these winter game fish on, and fishing through a hole in the ice is a great way to spend a winter day, providing it’s not as cold as it was today. Whew..

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/15 at 07:18 PM
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