Early Season Ice for Trout
by: Shane DuBois 12/19/2012
Lately I've seen quite a few posts regarding tips or hints for what tactics to use for trout at various lakes that have ice over around the state. I will share a few things I have picked up fishing here in Colorado for trout that have been highly successful for myself, and people I have taken with me. I have also learned quite a bit from people I have gone with and those that have come with me, so it is very important to keep an open mind no matter the level of ice fishing experience you have.
First off I want to say that reading others' posts on how they did fishing, what they did, used etc is a great tool for getting a head start on what YOU should do, try, or mimic if you are unfamiliar with a body of water, or just a certain species of fish. Going through Conditions Reports along with that is also beneficial. This is what I did on top of fishing with other FXR members when I moved to Colorado in 2009. You will get better responses on the forum if you are actively asking questions and reading others posts instead of just posting your own post: GIVE ME THE ANSWERS! haha. Asking for help is fine, but try and do some work of your own too! It makes it that much more rewarding when you have success. Now onto the fun stuff!
The first thing I do when fishing a lake, especially a new lake, is to look at Google Maps, at minimum, and preferably I look at a Fish'n Map or a contour map to see drop offs, ridges, points, etc. So basically look for some kind of structure, start there, and depending on how good the fishing is, move around the structure. A great feature with the Fish'n Maps is looking at where the weed beds start and end. Fishing on the edges of weed beds can produce many fish and nice fish. The edges act like a natural barrier for a "road" that the fish can swim along, shoot into, an come out of to ambush prey. I will usually jig in more open water, and place my Jaw Jacker in hole that has weeds halfway or so up in the water column. Having a flasher makes determining water depth, amount of weeds etc that each hole has. In the past before I used a flasher I had a cheap Fish TV underwater camera that I would put down the hole, and see what it looked like down there. This is a good alternative if you do not have a flasher.
Ok, so now you have a spot on the lake you feel confident will produce some fish. What should you chuck down the hole? How deep should you jig? How should you jig? It seems after you solve one problem, you get another! My experience here in Colorado is a smaller tube jig in the 1 1/2-2 inch range in white, pink, orange, and brown will work in almost every lake here for trout. You can tip that tube with a meal worm, wax worm, spikes, etc etc. I do not usually tip my tubes when actively jigging for trout. (Exception Lake Trout fishing) I usually have good enough success I don't have to tip my jig. Sometimes I will put some Krill jelly/scent on my tube if I notice 3 or more fish come and look at my jig, chase it, but no commit. My rule of thumb for switching baits, adding scents etc, is if you have 3 or more fish come in and not bite, switch up your presentation, bait, add or take away scents. When jigging in the water column it is important to know if you are on a flat, edge of a drop off, or on structure. This will help you decide where in the water column you should jig at. Typically overall I start by letting my jig go straight down to the bottom as a slower pace. I've had plenty of fish shoot up from the bottom and nail my jig on its way down. Once at the bottom i usually jig there for a bit and bring up my jig in a foot and a half increments to about 2 feet from the ice, then reverse the process. You can always go down, or up to a fish if one shows up. Most of the time you are OK being a few feet off the bottom. Active fish will be looking for food, and will come up to your jig if you get their attention.
One last thing is when fighting fish...keep your drag a bit loose, you can always tighten it up while fighting! Also keep your rod down low to the hole or even in the hole when fighting fish. From my personal experience I have had better luck keeping fish on by doing that, and when you get that big boy on, it keeps your line off the ice! There is so much information here on FXR from its members, and Bloggers, USE IT!
Good luck out there! I hope this helps some people get some fish through the ice!
Blog content © Shane DuBois
mwolfii, OH 12/19/2012 11:35:22 AM
Good post dude, Nice FIsh!
FXA0, CO 12/19/2012 12:19:19 PM
Right on. I also drill a lot of holes and move back and forth between them I am ice fishing. It's amazing how 10' to 15' can sometime make a difference.
Shane DuBois (reconfisher), CO 12/19/2012 12:24:07 PM
Thanks MW! FX, yea it certainly is weird how just that bit of a movement makes all the difference. Leaving a hole for 20-30 min and coming back also works...I call it the one fish wonder hole lol. You catch 1 fish right off the bat, then don't see another one. Move to a few other holes..then come back...BAM! right off the bat then nothing lol. Weird fish!
ccr, CO 12/19/2012 3:02:07 PM
Nice blog...maybe I will use some of your hints some day.
Troutart inc., CO 12/19/2012 4:54:24 PM
...tube jigs tipped with an offering may be great, but from years of experience at observing trout when they approach and attack a jig, I've concluded that a hard, lead jighead is a red flag for trout that are hard wired by their basic instincts to avoid stimuli that are, and have been, absent in their environment. Try a rubber covered jig head...
Troutart inc., CO 12/19/2012 4:56:21 PM
..cont. the ones on the bottom are the key...
Shane DuBois (reconfisher), CO 12/19/2012 5:23:37 PM
yea when i speak about tube jigs, i'm referring to the ones on the bottom that I do not tip. Have had more success w/o bait than with..but that's just me
dadch, CO 12/19/2012 7:05:03 PM
Great blog and nice fish, thanks for the tips...
billk, CO 12/19/2012 7:46:44 PM
As usual Shane, your blog was excellent. I always enjoy reading up on what you have to say and then trying those techniques. I'm going tomorrow to the mile and will be sure to continue to use your advice. And you are right, I need to blog more.. Thanks for all the advice and the things you do for this site, especially the updates.
Shane DuBois (reconfisher), CO 12/19/2012 7:49:29 PM
thanks for the kind words! Reading material, trying it out, and figuring stuff out on my own is how anyone can improve their fishing skills. I enjoy reading posts and blogs on here and other websites. . There is always something new to learn! It's Amazing!
sportfisher, CO 12/19/2012 8:21:33 PM
So after reading this blog and taking in what you say I believe I have soaked in some knowledge about ice fishing, and this site. But what I am confused about is what I do to get to know a BODY OF BODY? LOL Just pointing it out that I try to learn about a certain BODY OF WATER..
Shane DuBois (reconfisher), CO 12/19/2012 8:37:17 PM
People in general get caught up on one or two bodies of water. I am no different in this. To grow as a fisherman, fish many bodies of water for different species of fish to become a well rounded fisherman. I have been doing this over the past year and it has helped me think outside the box on lakes I fish quite regular. If you want to get to know one certain body of water...fish different locations with different baits. Keep a log of what worked where, weather conditions etc. This should give you some idea on where the fish go when specific weather patterns come and go, and what works to catch them.
JKaboom, CO 12/19/2012 10:27:16 PM
When I first joined this site almost a year ago it was my first ice season since coming here from MI. In 1990. Your article on the site gave me a start back into the sport and I enjoyed this blog as well. Thank you :)
FISHRANGLER, CO 12/19/2012 11:44:16 PM
Good read Shane. this info could also be use to target many different species in the same way using info on this site.
The Fish Collector, CO 12/20/2012 5:26:02 AM
Hey Shane I did a lecture with you at Barr Lake this last year. I had your card from Dynamic lures but misplaced it. I'm the guy from Dicks Sports that they send out to lecture there all the time. I'm huge into ice fishing. I did Dowdy just Monday and had a very successful day with a trout count well past 100 with about 30 of them being nice browns. Used a Northland Jig head with waxie and it was all we needed. Mid day I switched it up between tubes and jigs with synthetics just to provoke some other fish that seemed bored with the traditional waxie display. Using tubes from the bottom I bounced 1-2feet off the bottoms with the occasional jig up to the ice I was able to produce fish in the 15" size consistently, which seems to be slightly larger than the average fish going after waxies. Your spot on with a flasher though. Makes it easier to find where the trout are at. A flasher combined with a good map and it was all day action. Ice was very good in most spots with the average being 4.5-6inches with many spots being about 7". Anyways, good to see people posting about ice fishing. Maybe I will see ya out there.
Busterdpr, CO 12/20/2012 5:52:32 AM
Nice Blog Shane,
I see your originally a Wisconsinite, like myself. I grew up on Washington Island, Door County..
Shane DuBois (reconfisher), CO 12/20/2012 8:22:51 AM
TFC i remember you! congrats on the recent outing. shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Buster...good ole Washington Island! I grew up not far from you at all! Just outside of Sturgeon Bay! Went to Southern Door High..small world! And thanks again guys!