Fishing for Winter Bluegill
Inside the Outdoors, January 16
, 2015

Ever since I was introduced to ice fishing a number of years ago, I feel the itch anglers get when the chill of the air drops below freezing and the surfaces of area lakes freeze over. There’s always that question in one’s mind, “Is the ice at least four inches thick or is it still unsafe upon which to walk?”

Four inches doesn’t seem like much, but it is thick enough to hold one angler.

In the recent issue of the Pennsylvania Angler and Boater, January/February 2015, there is a section titled, Ice Safety Thickness, For ice anglers this winter, be safe on the ice and know the proper thickness. Published by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the chart illustrates what is safe under certain thicknesses.

One cross-country skier may traverse on ice three inches thick, but none less than that.

As stated before, one angler is safe upon four inches (200 pounds). One snowmobile is safe upon five inches (800 pounds), ice boating, six inches, group activities, seven (1,500 pounds), one car, eight, several snowmobiles (2,000 pounds), nine and a light truck, 11 inches.

Getting back to my first experience at ice fishing, I was set up in a chanty. I was put in there all by myself with nothing but a lantern to keep things lit. But, as I found out later, that piece of equipment prove more than its worth as it also provided heat for my surroundings, so much warmth that I could take my apparel off and fish in my indoor clothes. For any low blood-pressured person, this is the perfect way to ice fish. Otherwise, one picks up the chill from the air and the outing becomes an excursion of unpleasantness.

The fish I was pursuing then are bluegill bruisers.

It is still overwhelming to take note of the fact that I’m not the only one who is pursuing these fish. For the second year in a row, magazine after magazine authors are relating their stories as to how to catch big bluegills through the ice.

And like anything else, there are often tricks one can employ to make sure he has a more than better choice to catch something, if not the larger fish sought of the species.

I was always taught to attach to my line two types of bait, one of imitation and the other something live. Second, I had to locate the fish by dropping down my bait it certain depths and then seeing if I could get hits in certain locales. And third, which kept me active, I had to make sure the freshly drilled hole would not freeze up, but stay as open since the time it was drilled.

By the way, having a drill to make a hole is a whole lot faster than walking all over the lake looking for one that was previously drilled and then trying to open it. Don’t waste your time. If you intend to be a serious ice fisherman, buy an auger that will do the job quickly. It can be your best buddy on a cold day.

Vic Attardo, author of the article, Secrets of Sold Fishing for Bruiser Bluegills, in the Pennsylvania Angler and Boater, January/February 2015 edition, stated, “First, I read everything I can find about a body of water. I study maps and make phone calls, reaping additional information. I look for lakes harboring good year classes several years back and with maturing fish. I choose the day to go based on the weather, ice and snow conditions,” he said.

He added, “I’ll avoid days with drastic drops in temperature, windy days, times when there is a foot of snow on top of 15 inches or more of ice, extremely cold days and rare rainy or sleety days.”

He suggested one should look for weeds, for “weed edges will attract bruisers at times of high feed.” Again, Attardo recommends fishing 6 to 12 inches from the lake floor.

This avid angler will use “microplastics shaped like weird undersea creatures” tipped with live organisms as his bait preference.

There are many lures on the market to catch fish. The important thing to remember is to place maggots, spikes, butterworms or minnows on all the hooks. Remember, Pennsylvania allows multiple hooks on one line. My recommendation would be limit the poles, tie on three to five hooked devices making sure all hooks have something on it.

Last but not least, get an ice fishing rod tipped with a Schooley’s Spring Bobber. Procure a rod holder designed for ice placement. Place the handle in the gripping device if not jigging the line. Watch the action on the tip of the bobber. Set the hook when the spring is pulled down.

Check the manual for harvest limit on fish species.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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