Late ice can offer rewards, but use caution
As winter slowly starts to fade away, so does some of the winter fishing opportunities – like ice fishing. Don’t abandon your winter gear just yet, though. Some of the best hard-water fishing is yet to come. Just make sure to take the necessary precautions.
Dave Lefebre, of Erie, Pa., is a professional bass fisherman. This year he is part of the Major League Fishing circuit. However, when he’s home, his passion is ice fishing for crappies. Lefebre, host to “Erie Extreme” (a show that now appears in the Buffalo market every Saturday morning at 9 a.m. local time on FOX), hits several New York waters in the southwest corner of the state. Chautauqua and Findley lakes are his two favorites.
“Late season can be dangerous, but it’s a banner time of year from the fishing end of things,” he said. “I make sure I’m wearing the right gear, and for me, it’s a Striker Ice Suit. Should I encounter a problem, it can keep me warm and afloat for hours.”
As far as the ice fishing, he’s looking for crappies. He’ll focus on some of the deeper basins in the natural lakes.
“I like using super-light line like 1- or 2-pound test, and my go-to is Sufix Ice Magic line, a high-performance monofilament. It really makes a difference. I go with the 1-pound test 90 percent of the time. It’s half the diameter of 2-pound line and it sinks faster. The fish can’t see the line either.
“I also go with the smaller, heavier baits, too. I’m looking for something that will sink fast.”
Lefebre doesn’t use a lot of different baits. When fish are on the feed due to some pre-frontal weather action, he likes to use smaller Slab Raps; dark colors for dark days, bright colors for bright days. If the water is clear, he likes shad-type colors; orange, chartreuse and bright white work well when the water is stained.
For post-frontal type baits, he likes using the Tungsten Tubby Jig in 1/16th or 1/32nd – he wants to get his baits down to the fish as quickly as possible. He likes to tip them with plastics, too, like the Trigger X Wax Tails or the Nymph Grubs – his two favorites.
His most important tool is his Marcum Flasher. The fish will be out there in schools getting ready to move up, stage and spawn. He will look for suspended fish; how deep depends on the body of water. Usually it’s around 30-40 feet. He is looking for the deepest water adjacent to the spawning flats. These fish don’t get hit as often.
Fish are on the move for late ice. They usually aren’t in the channels or on the points. They can be in the grass, though. He seeks out a school of fish, drilling many, many holes and moving around until he finds fish.
There isn’t much time left for hard-water fishing. Get out there and find those fish before your natural platform is gone. Be safe out there.