Sunday, April 14th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Sunday, April 14th, 2024

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Steve Carney: Sometimes, being shallow (when ice fishing) is a good thing

Of the many benefits of sight-fishing while ice fishing in shallow water, being able to locate the most productive weedbeds is one of the greatest. Find green cabbage, find panfish. (Photo by Steve Carney)

I’ve made it my mission this winter to do most of my crappie and bluegill fishing in shallow water – anywhere from 5 to 7 feet. I’ve had some slow days and some excellent days and have found that shallow-water fishing requires effort to locate the perfect spot.

Sight-fishing is the term I use for peering down a hole in the ice to see healthy, green cabbage. Watching game fish below your hole is fun, and when I mark fish on my electronics, I quietly peer down the hole – and there they are!

If I move my feet or shift my weight in a chair, the fish are gone in a flash.

Here are some tips for sight-fishing.

Drill long before you fish

Drilling holes long before you fish is important even if you’re using the modern, electric augers, which are quiet.

If I’m fishing a weed-choked flat, I drill a series of holes anywhere from 5 to 7 feet apart along a 100 yard stretch.

Drilling holes will send any resident fish out of an area, and you need to allow those fish to return. You just can’t drill a hole in 6 feet of water and expect to catch fish right away.

Give the area a few minutes and then you can hole-hop and find active panfish.


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Find the fresh cabbage

What do some of the best fishing spots in most Minnesota lakes contain? Green cabbage. After I drill a hole, I look down and survey the weeds below me. If they’re brown and lying on the bottom, I move on.

You should be looking for leafy, green cabbage. Healthy cabbage produces oxygen, and baitfish will be drawn to that healthy habitat. It’s amazing how many crappies and blluegills I have caught this winter on the tops of these weeds – not on the edges, like we’re accustomed to.

Pike territory

Unfortunately, the 5- to 7-foot areas in lakes that are above healthy and green cabbage means it’s pike territory. I sometimes catch at least six pike during an outing, and see scores of them go by without biting.

I know when a pike is coming into my area; the panfish scatter and then I get a pike strike.

Once this happens, you need about 15 minutes for the area to cool off after the pike disruption.

Fish TV

I call this style of fishing “Fish TV.” Peering down a hole is great fun because you can watch crappies and bluegills react to your baits. It’s amazing how they can hover and be inches from your bait and then lose interest.

It’s common to have shiner minnows and fathead minnows move over the weed tops.

Low-light periods

Because you’re fishing in depths of 5 to 7 feet, low-light periods are obviously the best. My best action has been during mild snow events, during overcast days, and at dusk.

This winter’s lack of snow has made fish spooky on sunny days.

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