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It’s time to inspect ice lures, old and new By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

If this cold weather keeps up, it won’t be long before we can venture out on the ice in pursuit of fish. With that in mind, now is the time you should get out your ice fishing lures and check them over.

First thing to look at is the hooks. Make sure they are sharp and haven’t been damaged. Look for things like bent out points or rolled in points. Either fix them or replace them.

Most of the lures made for ice fishing will fit into three categories. All are designed or can adapt to fishing vertically. They would be lead head jigs, jigging spoons and swimming lures.

First would be what I call the lead heads. This would include most panfish ice lures, such as tear drops, or any lure with lead in its makeup, including the regular lead head jigs. Using very soft plastics to tip these lures is very popular right now. And tungsten jigs are hot among ice fishermen. These new jigs, when tipped with very soft plastics, have produced a lot of fish.

Believe it or not, but there are now jigs for fly fishing. When tied they imitate insects that fish like to eat in the wintertime; they should be fantastic. I’ve used flies for ice fishing for a long time since fly tying is one of my hobbies. But these new jigs created for fly fishing are a big step up. They consist of a tungsten bead that fits onto a small jig hook with a 45-degree angle bend.

I’ve tied up a bunch of them for fly fishing, and I can’t wait to take them out on the ice.

While some of the soft plastics can be fished without bait, most lead head lures need to be fished with bait. Wax worms, spikes and minnows are most often used.

I like to fish wax worms on a gold tear drop for bluegills. I simply hook the waxie in the middle and squeeze out the juice. This adds some scent to the presentation and, since bluegills have such small mouths, makes it easier for them to get hooked. Those two flaps of skin flapping on each side of the hook also makes a tempting presentation. [Read more…]

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Summer walleye bite on Bitter going strong By Larry Myhre

WEBSTER, S.D. | Bitter Lake appeared to be a sleeping, gentle giant as I peered across the big lake from the east shore boat ramp. Its waters were flat calm, a very unusual thing in this year of constant wind.

Cory Ewing backed his big Lund into the water and Austin Creamer, Hartington, Neb., and I jumped in while Gary Howey, Hartington, parked the trailer.

Soon the three of us were motoring over the flat water and the slight chill in the air made me glad I had the pull over windbreaker on.

It wasn’t long before Cory cut the RPMs and we glided into a saddle between the shoreline and a sunken island. The water here ranged from 6 to 9 feet deep and the weeds on either side of us gave away the shallower structure.

“Walleyes were in here thick yesterday,” he said as we idled through with our eyes glued to the graph. Soon the familiar arches of fish showed up. “They’re still here.”

We dropped down one-eighth-ounce jigs tipped with minnows and began to jig vertically while Corey moved us slowly with the electric motor.

Austin, an intern with Gary’s Outdoorsman Adventures, had never caught a walleye, but the high school senior was a quick learner. He landed the first fish, a 15-inch walleye. That was a fine start and we worked the area for about an hour, landing several more walleyes from 14 to 17 inches.

And then we moved.

This time Corey selected a saddle between two sunken islands. Again weeds gave away the shallow water on either side of the 6- to 9-foot deep area we were fishing. I had retied with a 1/16-ounce, chartreuse lead head, a size I am much more comfortable with in this shallow water.

Again, the depth finder told us there were fish present and again we proved it right by catching them.

It was good, steady action and we caught what looked to me like three separate year classes. They are just good eating-size walleyes. And then the big fish hit. [Read more…]

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At ice-out, crappies are the first to bite By Larry Myhre

The tiny red and white bobber tipped over on its side. That was the signal to set the hook.

I lifted the rod tip and put tension on the line. I felt the fish struggling and I cranked it in, lifting it out of the water and catching it in my hand.
It was a black crappie, and the first open water fish of the year.

Once the spring melt begins, it’s time to get out that crappie rod and start chasing this tasty panfish. They are the first of all gamefish to be available to be caught in numbers at ice-out.

In fact, your best fishing will occur before the ice leaves the lake. Canals, boat basins, incoming creeks, boat ramps off the main lake, all will be ice free while die-hard ice fishermen are still punching holes on main lake.

And you can take this to the bank. The crappies will be there.

Crappies are a universal fish. There are found just about everywhere. Locally you can find them in Browns Lake, Storm Lake, West and East Okoboji, Upper and Lower Gar, and Minnewashta, as well as Big and Little Spirit Lake. Many of the County Conservation Board lakes contain crappies as well.

There are two types of crappies, black and white. Black crappies are most numerous in our area. They prefer clear water. The white crappie, for the most part, will be found in waters with a little more color, but that is not a hard and fast rule.

So how do you go about catching these early-season fish? [Read more…]

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Late Season Walleye By Gary Howey

Late season, just before freeze up is the time you should be on the water fishing for walleyes as they have started making their way upstream in preparation of next spring’s spawn. In the Missouri River System, this migration is halted by the Missouri River dam systems.

Because the fish are stacked up below the dams, you will find them in the same general area you found them in early fall, perhaps a little deeper as they are in that transition period where they will soon be moving into their wintering areas.

Since water temperatures have dropped, so has the fish’s metabolism, so a slow presentation is what is needed to catch them. Many of the fish will have worked into the deeper water, just off the drop offs, moving very little.

The preferred bait during the late season would be jigs worked vertically, just verily raising the jig off the bottom, holding it there for a second and then following it back to the bottom. Live-bait rigs such as Northland Roach rigs also produce well during cold weather and fished in the same manner as a jig.

Since water temperatures are cooling, you might have to play with the fish a bit. [Read more…]