Conditions were ripe for me to take a day off to hit the ice for the first time this fall. I hadn't fished in a few weeks. My elder son Ari hadn't fished in a couple months, and had the day off between final exams at school. A cold front had frozen some early ice areas, and with a snow storm moving in the following day, so I decided to head to an early season spot that typically produces a decent amount of perch and crappies at first ice.
Ari and I got to our spot shortly before 8:30 AM, as I only had half a day to fish. The ice was very clear, no snow had fallen on it yet. I carefully stepped onto it, and drilled into 5 inches of solid ice. A few steps further, same thing. Over and over until reaching my target depth, the ice remained the same.
We set up our jigging rods with mini Rapala jigging raps, tipped with live mealworms. Using 1 rod each, we jigged a variety of depths ranging from 9 to 13 feet. Instead of the immediate non stop action I had hoped for, fishing turned out to be extremely slow. I finally switched my lure for a small Marmooska ice fly, and landed a small perch after lot's of effort.
The Humminbird ice flasher I was using didn't help too much, the fish seemed to be more finicky than I had ever seen them at that spot. I joked with Ari about there being some big bass in the area, and the panfish being to scared to attack our lines. Eventually, I switched to a Peewee Wabbler spoon tipped with a mealworm, and hooked a few smaller pumpkinseed sunfish, and a couple perch. Ari tied on a mini kastmaster spoon, and tipped it with a mealworm as well.
Sure enough, around 11:00 AM, Ari hooked into a nice fish. As he brought it up, he realized it was a decent size largemouth bass. With the ice being so thin and clear, we were able to see the bass darting around under our feet as he was fighting it. The ice and water also gave a magnifying effect, making it look bigger than it actually was. The light tackle and line we were using, along with the tiny lure, made the fight even more exciting. Ari finally eased it;s head up the ice hole, and I lipped the nice bass for him. Turned out to be a bit over 2 lbs, his first bass on ice.
I continued fishing the same lures, moving from hole to hole every 10-15 minutes, as the panfish weren't hitting much. About 20 minutes later, I hooked into a big fish, Ari rushed over to give me a hand. Again, another big bass, significantly bigger than Ari's, and barely hooked. I took lot's of finesse to land it, and somehow, I managed not to lose the lunker. Weight in just a hair under 4 lbs, my biggest bass on ice ever!
15 minutes a 2 holes later, I hooked into another one, not too long, but extremely fat, with deeper/darker color pattern, just over 3 lbs.
Ari and I both landed some more, including the smallest bass I've caught on ice.
The bass Frenzy ended at about 12:30 PM, we landed a total of 7 largemouth bass, by far, the best success we've ever had with bass on ice.
As for the panfish we were targeting, most were small, and not too many. Ari caught the only 2 decent perch of the day, biggest about 10 inches.
He also caught his first ice crappie:
My perch and sunfish were all quite small, only decent panfish I landed all day a a big bluegill:
Despite it's hefty girth, looks like something tried to make a snack of it, and it got away by the skin of it's tail:
We called it quits shortly after 1:30 PM. All fish caught were released, and very cool to see them swimming away under ice, as the visibility was quite good.
All in all, it felt amazing to get out on the ice again. Couldn't have asked for better weather, ice conditions were just about perfect, and the fishing was spectacular, far beyond what we had imagined. Though the flasher we had came in handy, for the most part, we caught almost all our bass without it, again confirming my theory that one can easily get stuck on stubborn panfish with a flasher, when you ought to be out drilling for more productive spots.
Hope to get out for trout with the kids in a couple weeks.