I love to ice fish. A year ago I even suggested in my blog that I consider my first day on the ice each winter to be the beginning of the new year, http://outdoornebraska.ne.gov/blogs/2010/12/happy-year/ . Well, whether you have celebrated the new year or not, yet, I have! The kids and I got on the ice for a few hours last Friday afternoon. We drilled some holes, dropped some baits, blow the horns, throw the confetti, Happy New Year! Time to dance the bluegill dance!
I hesitated a bit to make this post, because as I am writing this I am not sure how our ice is going to hold up. We fished a small pond and found 3.5 inches of ice–just enough to be safe. With the warmer temperatures, melting, and now even rain, I am not sure we could even get back on the ice we fished last Friday. You will notice the life jackets, when I am on new ice and am not sure of ice conditions I wear a life jacket and use a spud bar to check the ice. I checked the ice every step of the way last week.
That reminds me of something else I wanted to say about ice safety–3-4 inches of new ice, good clear, hard ice, is enough to walk on and be safe. I would prefer 4 inches because with only 3 there is not much room for error. Ice thickness can vary across a body of water and if a person goes from 3 inches to only 2 inches they could have a problem. The thickness of the ice can be estimated by looking at cracks in the ice, but the best way is to punch or drill a hole and measure it! I measure ice thickness with an ice-skimmer that has a ruler on the handle. That way I know exactly how thick it ice–no guessing, no eye-balling, no estimating.
We caught a number of bluegills up to 8.5 inches, and a handful of small largemouth bass. We caught most of our fish in 11-13 feet of water. At first ice a person can often find fish in or near shallow water, especially if there is some live aquatic vegetation or other type of cover (e.g. brushpiles), but in ponds I often find the fish in or near the main basin of the pond even at first ice. The fish we caught were roaming out in deeper water. The bite was not real hot and heavy, but when we sat down and got to jigging we were catching fish. Often, at first ice, a person can be aggressive and cover a lot of water looking for active fish, and we did that, but we caught most of our fish then by slowing down and using smaller jigs. Horizontal jigs seemed to work best (e.g. Bro Bugs); tipped with either some plastics or wax worms. The fish were near the bottom, but would rise a foot of two to take baits.
Oh, I caught one nice crappie too!
That is a 14-inch crappie caught on 2-pound test line! Wish we could have caught a bunch more of those!
Oh, and you know I have to point this out–everything we caught was released. We may keep some panfish caught through the ice for some meals of fresh fish later on, but even then big crappies and bluegills will be going back down an ice hole.
Hopefully I will have a bunch more pictures and ice fishing reports for you in the next couple of weeks. I hope to get on the ice a bunch over the holidays, but that is going to depend on ice conditions. If you are planning to get on the ice, anytime, make sure it is safe!