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First time on the ice this season, a good time at that

Blog by: David Coulson 12/16/2013

The fact that I prefer open water doesn’t mean I don’t ice fish.  I have enjoyed the sport for decades.  My daughter’s first fishing trip was on the ice at Chatfield over 30 years ago.  During the time I’ve even done a few seminars and classes on ice fishing.

Open water, then a sinus infection nixed ice fishing before this Sunday. The group consisted of Tom, Matt, his son Jackson, and Bill. It turned out to be a great day on the ice, good company, good weather, and cooperative fish made for a delightful day’s fishing. I’d like to share a couple observations from the day.

First, you’ll never hear me say the ice is safe, no matter how thick it is.  There are always situations that can result in “bad” things happening.  Sunday was case in point.  While Douglas sported six inches of hard clear ice, the shoreline had thawed a bit resulting in spots of thin ice.  Matt managed to locate a “good” one and poked a foot through.  Plus, the ice was extremely slick, not good for an OG such as myself. 

Second, I believe where you drill your holes matters.  I rarely drill where a crowd has gathered.  There are lots of reasons for this, but mainly I prefer to fish areas that aren’t being hammered.  So if the gang’s all there, I won’t be. 

Our choice of where to drill was largly a matter of, “being too lazy to walk further and this looks good.”  Not a good choice as no one caught a fish until Jackson, Matt’s boy randomly selected his spot closer to shore, he caught the first fish.  Thinking a bit about where he was fishing and where everyone south was fishing (noise of catching drifted our way), it dawned on me everyone was fishing, that shallower and closer to the shore might be the ticket. 

When it comes to trout, I feel they are somewhat pelagic, but I also think they follow routes as they move about, primarily parallel to the shore or along some under water feature.  So locate the right traffic lane, and you’ll have fish coming through all day.  That proved to be the case Sunday.

Not all anglers are equally productive.  There are those that would argue it’s the lure/bait.  Some days maybe!  Sunday, I fished eight different lure/jigs.  All worked, while others had mixed results using similar jigs.  Why the difference?

Two reasons I believe.  One, I favor very sensitive rods when ice fishing for trout and pan fish. How sensitive?  The slightest breeze is enough to impart movement. Consequently, if a fish swims by I’m likely to know it.  And yes, my line is also light; four pound test (5X tippet) is the norm.

Second, trout and most other game fish are predators. They pursue and feed on other animals.  Animals by nature move.  Yet, many ice fishers, including folks who’d never set and watch a line in open water, are content to sit and watch a “dead stick” all day long.  Not me.

I fish two rods. Each with three jigs typically tipped. One is dead sticked while I work the other.  I’m constantly changing the depth, jiggling, pausing, lift and drop, fast, slow, anything I can think of.  Electronics may guide me, but I work that rod.  After a while, I switch rods working the one that was dead sticked and resting the other.

Last point. Bill commented to me (he was dead sticking mostly), “I’m getting bit, but they just won’t commit. I’m sure not catching fish like you.”  I asked him, “Are you talking to the fish?” 

“What do you mean?”

“When they bump the jig, bump back.  Make them think it’s alive.  Many times they’ll slam it if you jiggle it a bit after a nibble, whereas if you don’t they’ll just move on.”   Bill started working his rods and his catch rate climbed.  I suspect a new rod is in his future also.

Point is, at the end of the day, the one who catches the most fish is often the one who’s thinking about what he/she is doing and actively fishing.  Just like with open water fishing, it’s not so much what you use, as success is often more about how and where you use it.

My set upBill reriggingMatt and Jackson
State Editor TomTom landing a fishEven State Editors catch fish
Blog content © David Coulson
Blog Comments
Wattzz, CO   12/16/2013 7:11:09 PM
Nice to see you finally got on the ice,but may I suggest to step up just a few more pound test for next month,.....YGs...
David Coulson (Flyrodn), CO   12/16/2013 7:27:20 PM
I do have a laker rig. May have to think about pike, as I don't typically chase them through the ice. I will admit that the youngest, Matt boy Jackson caught the best fish of the day.
Wattzz, CO   12/16/2013 8:01:31 PM
Oh,so the"YG" took the honor on the trip you went on,sure hope that Matt and his sons tries to make it,maybe he will help out us out?
Tbubb, CO   12/16/2013 8:21:32 PM
I think some jigs work for some fishermen that don't work for others not becuase of total presentation, but presentation within what THAT jig should be presented like. I have days on water I know where I work my jigs my way and get slammed and another guy works his jigs his way and gets it too... but itf we switch, we both get nothing. Funny thing happened at Dillon 2 weeks ago. I fished my jigs, Javier fished his. We both caught lots of fish. He got all male salmon except one. I got 70% female and bows. Then we went to Officers, where I proceeded to bring in the brookies on my favorite "scud" 3/8-ince pink tube. He got some of my scuds and couldn't get the bite on them I was getting, 5' away.. But he got bites on his own stuff...
wickedfisha, CO   12/16/2013 10:23:09 PM
Each of your poles has three jigs on the line? What sizes and color? Do you link them all together with the 5X? How far apart?
David Coulson (Flyrodn), CO   12/17/2013 7:04:34 AM
Usually the largest jig is a crappie sized (1 inch) tube. The jigs are always different from each other, maybe a crappie jig, tear drop, rat finkee for example. Each will be a different color, chartreuse, orange, white, for example. I pull two to three feet from the reel and tie on a jig two to three feet up using a cinch knot (leaves a long tag (approx. 2-3 feet) then half way to the end tie on the second jig, same way, then one on the bottom. I typically put the heaviest on the bottom. Note I sometimes use flies for the upper "jigs"