A multi-species approach to mid- and late-ice fishing season locations
Any day now I expect to hear from fellow hard-water anglers about the “mid-winter doldrums.” We’ll learn that the bite has slowed, and mid-ice simply won’t produce the fishing action we saw early this winter.
Don’t you believe it.
Fish certainly strike during mid-ice, though a lot of these fish – from panfish to walleyes – are in deeper water because of food sources and steady noise from fishing pressure driving them from shallow water. Cold fronts also will push fish deeper because they prefer the more stable environment away from the surface.
In a natural system, there’s typically less oxygen in the shallows, so fish will move to find more comfortable levels. In a winter with ample snow cover, vegetation dies back from lack of light, so oxygen problems grow in some areas. Again, think deeper fish.
Water temperatures can vary too from top to bottom in a water body. We’ll usually see 33 degrees under the ice and 39 degrees on the bottom. Even small temperature changes can alter the forage regime dramatically under the ice.
Yes, the metabolism of fish decreases in the winter, but they’re usually still eating. For crappies, it might be a night bite. Bluegills in evening or morning. Walleyes during the twilight hours depending on the lake and weather conditions.
Provided that there’s food available, I assume fish are headed deep and start my mid-ice search there. Of course, remember that fish can change food sources. A weekend bite may begin with walleyes targeting perch-colored lures and end with them hit shiner rigs. Large predator fish can deplete a food source, in one area, and they’ll move to find a new one.
Just don’t give up because the fish have moved from their early ice locations. And don’t rule out other shallow water spots. Some of the best fishing of the hard water season is still to come!