This is the time of year when anglers realize, some with glee, some with gloom, that the long cold winter is just about over. Avid ice angers face this period with mixed emotions, hard to give up the hard water, but anxious for the change, those that can just barely live thru winter can hardly contain their joy when the ice starts to recede from the shoreline. No matter which side you are on, there is no denying, the first couple weeks of open water can be lights out fishing.
As the ice starts to pull away from shore, oxygen starts to flow into the water. Sunlight enters, warming the water, the land along the shore, and the lake bottom itself. Bugs begin to hatch, providing food for all. Streams start to flow with runoff, refilling the lake and providing nutrients and much needed oxygen. In short, the circle of life begins once more.
Many folks (wrongly) think that you can’t (or shouldn’t) fish a lake until all the ice is gone, I say as soon as you can cast from shore, canoe, kayak or float it’s time to fish! Fish will use the edge of the ice for cover, darting in and out from below the sheet to ambush prey, and return to the relative safety of the cover and darkness. Many time, they themselves become the prey…
Cast towards the edge of the ice. Toss a lure or baited hook onto the ice, and slowly bring it back and drop it into the water. Troll between the ice cap and the shore. Many options abound, and as more and more of the lake becomes exposed each day, you will find more and more opportunity. Try some different techniques, in fact, this is a great time for novice, or just plain rusty fly anglers to look like a hero, as hungry, slightly lethargic fish are not very finicky. Just maybe give them a bit more lead time before setting the hook, as their aim and efficiency may be just as off as your own.
Try for hungry giant Northern Pike by floating a large smelt under a bobber towards the edge of the ice. Cast some original floating Rapala type lures around where inflows are pouring into the lake. A small jig tipped with a small piece of Nightcrawler suspended under a slip-bobber around newly greening up weed edges will reward you with some tasty Perch or other panfish fillets. The sky is truly the limit right now, and the fish are out there, just waiting for you to wake those skills up, or learn new ones. (A word of safety, water is very cold right now.
Being in a kayak, canoe or small boat can be deadly if you capsize and are alone. Be smart, think safety, wear a PFD and be extra careful around swollen rivers and streams.)
If you want to learn more about what I have written here today, join me at Cabelas in Kalispell this Saturday at NOON, when I will present this info in a more formal, informative seminar. And while you are at it, why not make those fishing reservations NOW why you are thinking about it? We are booking Salmon, Walleye, Lake Trout and Northern Pike trips on Fort Peck, Lake Trout trips on Flathead Lake, and JUMBO Yellow Perch and Kokanee on Swan Lake, Lake Mary Ronan and the Thompson Chain of lakes, just to name a few. With the combined skills and resources of A Able Fishing and Mo Fisch Charters, we have a fishing trip just made for you! Give us a call today, and I’ll see you on the water!
Mike Howe 406.257.5214
www.aablefishing.com or www.mofisch.com