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First Ice Tactics

Early season ice offers great fishing
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I love that ole familiar “thump” of a fish, it has been quite a few months since I felt that on my ice rod. First ice is one of my favorite times of the year.

The lake levels are different this year from last year.  The fish will have moved, but they always do. Out west we face fluctuating reservoir levels every day.  When first walking onto the ice I have learned to look at the lake edges and use that information to guide me where to fish. 

One of my favorite early season fishing methods is very basic. We find points with large rocks on them, preferably near, but not in, an inlet.  Somewhere within a few hundred feet will work.  After walking to the area, I will drill 3 or 4 holes with my Strikemaster auger, and I then check the depths with my Vexilar depth finder.  I’m looking for the correct depth of 2 to 4 feet at first light; we then move out to 6 to 8 feet until the sun hits the ice.  If I have a large rock near my “spot” I will always drill on each side of it and keep returning to it. Trout have a way of gravitating to these spots and sticking around for a little while.  Fishing these spots is very simple.  First off, having a depth finder such as a Vexilar is very important.  If you don’t see fish in the area, how do you know if you should change tactics or spots? 

This type of fishing does not require large amounts of equipment. An auger, sonar, rod, wax worms, a few jigs and spoons. As shallow water fish can be very spooky, it helps to have everything you need in your pockets so you can change up quickly without moving around alot.

  I always start with a Lindy Rattling Flier spoon; these spoons have great flash and cover a lot of horizontal area. Tip one with a wax worm, drop it to the bottom then start a lift, drop, pause routine. They will generally show themselves on your Vexilar If the fish are there. When they won’t eat the spoon or if I am fishing with two rods I will drop a Techni-Glo Genz worm about 6 inches off the bottom. I move this setup very slowly, if at all.

This last statement brings to mind a great two pole set up. Use your auger to drill two holes 30” apart. Drop your Genz worm down to about half way to the bottom. Then drop your spoon and fish it a little deeper. Trout will come in and see the spoon, the aggressive one’s will hit it and the not so aggressive ones will hit the neutral jig. As the sun gets higher don’t be afraid to move out to 10 to 12 feet of water. As the bite comes and goes throughout the day I start reeling in and letting the spoon drop as I jig. This covers a lot of water and doesn’t let any fish swim by without checking out your offerings.

When using two rods I like to sit inside of my ice shelter (Fish Trap) where I set my Vexilar in one hole and keep an eye on my neutral jig in the other hole. In the lower light of Fish Trap’s interior I can see as deep as nine feet in the lakes in my neck of the woods, which gives me the advantage of seeing twice as much.

Try some early season trout fishing this year, the bite can last all day.


© 2024 Bernie Keefe
About the author, Bernie Keefe:
Bernie Keefe guides for lake trout, kokanee, rainbow trout and brown trout in the Lake Granby Area and is an expert in both fishing and teaching techniques for catching big lake trout in regional waters. Bernie is sponsored by Colorado Boat Center, Crestliner Boats, Mercury Motors, The Ice Team, Eagle Claw, Berkley Fishing,Minn Kota Motors, Lowrance Electronics, Habervision eyewear, Strikemaster, Lindy fishing tackle, Rapala, A&A Toppers.