Jensen: Late season ice fishing

Jensen: Late season ice fishing

Bob Jensen is a guest columnist

It seems like winter has just begun, and it’s already time to plan a late-season ice fishing trip. Late season ice, February or March depending on where you live, is my favorite ice fishing season. The days are getting longer, the weather isn’t as cold, and the fish are hungry. Here’s how you can catch them.

First, be safe. Ice conditions can change quickly as the season ends. Ice that was safe Friday afternoon may not be safe Sunday morning. It is not uncommon for the ice to deteriorate during the day. Keep tabs close on icy conditions.

Be aware of the fishing rules. Some states close the walleye season in February, and some states allow you to catch walleye year-round. Regulations vary within some states. Some areas of the state will allow walleye fishing year-round while other areas of the state will close the season for a period of time. Know the rules you hunt by.

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The beginning and end of the day are often the best times to eat fish. There can be flurries throughout the day, and weather conditions may lead to good fishing in the middle of the day, but most of the time the first two hours and last two hours of daylight will be the best. I was fishing with some friends in South Dakota a few years ago in March, and they predicted very accurately when the bite was going to get intense. The pattern for the past several days has been when the sun rises above the horizon at the end of the day, and the perch is turned on. It happened like clockwork. Take advantage of an end-of-day bite if you can.

Some fishing patterns are not very strong this time of year, just as they are most times of the year. One of my very successful ice fishing friends says that late in the season there are a lot of insects and worms hatching on the bottom of the lake, and we should use baits that mimic those food sources. We do and fish.

Another very successful ice fishing friend of mine confirms that insect life and the like hatch at the bottom of the lake, and that the fish see so much of that insect life that they prefer to eat something that looks different. When I fish with that friend, we use bait that looks nothing at all like what the fish eat, and we catch fish. It is important to remember that we need to show the fish what they want to eat, not what we want them to eat. To have success fishing, whether it’s under the ice or in open water, we need to keep trying different presentations until we find what the fish want to eat that day. Their preference will change by the day and hour.

Most of the time we’ll be after perch or crappie in the late ice season, and we’ll likely have a Drop Jig rigged with a Maki Mino or Jamei plastic. The tungsten jig allows us to use smaller baits in deeper water, and the Mackie plastic is durable and has a precise, lifelike action.

February and March mark the end of another ice fishing season. It also marks the start of some of the best ice events of the year. If the ice is safe, see for yourself how good the ice fishing will be in the next few weeks.

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