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Ice fishing… from a boat.

January 9th, 2012 by MUCC Staff.

Fishing the Saginaw River in late December


Where’s the ice (said like the old woman from the Wendy’s commercials)!? College football wraps up tonight and my boat is still sitting in the backyard, plugged in and ready for the next fishing trip! Sure, the lakes are out of the question now but the rivers are cleaner than they were between Christmas and new years. A few more days of warmth and we might be fishing the lakes too! Right now the Saginaw River is clean and there are very few ice flows at all coming down. That can change very quickly but it affords a great opportunity for ice fishermen. The Detroit river launches are also pretty clean and if they are open, your options are almost endless.

On a typical year, we’d be sitting over a hole in the ice, waiting for fish to come to us. I love to fish walleye and when you can’t move a whole lot and cover water, it can get frustrating at times. And although my rabbit and coyote hunting buddies don’t like me saying it, I’m enjoying this warm weather and lack of snow. I’ve been fishing on the boat 3 times since mid-December and we’ve boated close to 75 walleye. Sure there’s been a lack of big fish but who cares? On each trip, we’ve been able to search many different holes looking for keepers. That’s an impossibility on the ice. From a boat, it’s very easy to cover water and find the fish and it also teaches me a lot about where to ice fish.

For instance, on the last trip we fished the evening on the lower Saginaw River. We started out marking fish and getting bites mainly in the dredged channel but fish were pretty spread out along the bottom. As the sun fell, the fish moved closer to the edges of the channel and by nightfall, they were starting to move up onto the flats on each side. I motored down the center of the channel between drifts just to see what the graph would show and it was apparent, there wasn’t near as many fish scattered toward the middle of the channel like earlier. Had we continued our normal drift, we would’ve assumed the evening bite was over. The fact was, the fish had moved and were still biting. We watched a guy fishing the same drift over and over again. He didn’t catch fish until they moved up the side of the channel and to him. Meanwhile we stayed on the fish and continued to catch fish each drift.

The moral of the story? When there’s ice on the river, be ready to move as the evening progresses. Often I’ll drill several holes out into the channel. Periodically, if there’s a lack of fish on my graph, I’ll move in or out to check and see if they’ve moved. It’s nowhere as easy on the ice but it’ll help me stay on fish. Unfortunately on the ice when you decide to make a move to a different run or hole, it usually requires a fair amount of ordeal to get the shanty moved and everything repositioned. I like to use a flip-over style shanty like the Shappell FX series. I can quickly throw all my gear in the tub, throw it in my truck and be to a new spot fairly quickly. As the morning or evening progresses, be ready to move to the fish. If you aren’t seeing any on your sonar, get moving to somewhere that you are. If you have drilled holes prior to setting up, it’s much easier to hole hop and get back on the fish. Plus, it doesn’t spook the fish as much if you’re holes are drilled already.

So, if you are into fishing walleye, use this warm weather as an opportunity to learn how to be a better ice fisherman. Mark spots on your GPS, try different areas and move to find the fish. Once the ice comes and stays, you’ll be glad you did.

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