Spring has sprung, as we finally saw some melting snow and ice this week, but that doesn't mean the ice fishing season is over. If you haven't tried ice fishing or haven't gotten out as much as you would have liked, you still have some time to make those ice fishing dreams come true.
Yes, the ice will slowly be melting, but without a huge heat wave, most lakes will be fishable for the next couple weeks. This of course depends on Mother Nature and how she thinks the spring should go. I am not quite ready to give ice fishing up yet, and hope to get out a few more times before the gear is packed away for another season.
My enthusiasm is still high because the late ice fishing opportunities can be the best of the year. No doubt that first couple of weeks tends to be the best overall, the last couple weeks are normally very good too. This occurs for a variety of reasons, and perhaps after reading these you may want to keep venturing out, until Mother Nature "pulls the plug" on the ice fishing season.
T-R PHOTO BY TODD REED
It is not too late to enjoy some area ice fishing action. Bluegills and crappies are the most common fish in the area to catch through the ice. Be cautious of current ice conditions and enjoy the short season that we have left.
The biggest reason why ice fishing can be improved the last few weeks of the season is the melting snow and ice. Just like any warm weather spell in winter, the melting affects the entire lake. It flushes new water, and new nutrients into the ecosystem. This is like giving a 5-year-old kid an energy drink, things speed up very quickly! The new nutrients are the first thing in a long line of reactions that get the fish going. With the new nutrients flowing into the water system, the microorganisms have a buffet of food to eat. The tiniest of organisms go on a feeding frenzy. This in turn gets the other organisms in the system going too. When looking at water from any freshwater lake/river you can visually see small bug-like creatures in the water. These bugs are what bluegills and crappies live off of in the winter time, including some bigger species too, like the largemouth bass, walleye, and catfish. The more active these small water bugs are the more active the fish become in feeding for them. That seems like a lot of action for a little snow melt, but it happens each and every time at the end of an ice season. Fresh water in the ecosystem is a huge key.
Another main reason why all creatures in area lakes kick feeding into high gear is the higher oxygen levels. With the melting snow, the fresh water brings in fresh oxygenated water. High oxygen levels mean a boost of energy for living organisms, including the fish. This fresh oxygenated water is like a vitamin shot to the fish. They have more energy, and in turn have to feed more to supply their body.
These reasons alone make the late ice a tempting thing to try. When thinking about your next trip, remember these things. Also, take another look at your lake that you plan on fishing. Where do the creeks dump into the lake? Where would the most melted rain come into a lake system? These places would key areas for those extra active fish. A great resource for getting real pictures is Google Maps. Simply search for your lake online to get aerial photos of lakes. If you haven't tried this, you will be amazed on the details they can provide. You will see satellite images of the lake, and more importantly the surrounding areas, including those feeder creeks entering the lake and bringing that fresh spring water. Fish will gather towards these filtering systems and set up on nearby drop-offs and brush piles in the area. If the flow of new water is there, there will be plenty of fish to make you a very happy ice angler.
On a side of safety, most ice anglers have not thought about safety lately with the nice thick ice that we have had. It is that time again to remember the safety rules of ice fishing. Start wearing your safety picks around your neck, check areas of the lake that look abnormal to surrounding ice, carry a rope and flotation device, and use the buddy system! Stay safe out there, and have fun with the last few weeks of the ice fishing season.