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Fishing Articles by Colin D. Crawford
Trolling for Hard Water ‘Eyes
by Colin D. Crawford
Trolling has always been a way to find fish that are neutral or lethargic in the summer time. Trouble is when the water gets hard and ice forms it is really hard to go out and start trolling. Most ice augers even today do not cut a groove in the ice, but instead allow the anglers to drill a series of holes quickly and easily. This series of holes can be used by the angler to start his trolling run.
Using a depthfinder through the ice allows a degree of precision you can only dream about in the summer. While trolling, for example, you get a vague idea from your depth finder of the structural elements, like points and indentations in a drop off, and if the wind isn’t to stiff, you can more or less repeat a pass or hold your boat directly above a piece of fish holding structure. In the winter, however, you can literally mark an X above the tip of a point and walk a trail along a break line. You can map every detail of a reef and know for the rest of the winter where to dig your holes.
Such precise scanning of the bottom is possible because the depth finder reads right through the ice. Just squirt some liquid on the ice, place the transducer face down in the puddle, and note the reading. You can then move another 2 feet and take another reading. It’s possible to hone in on fish or on the most likely place to catch them before drilling a single hole.
Let’s say I’m working a sunken island that tops out at eight feet and is covered with vegetation that ends at 14 feet. I’ll drill holes all over the top of the structure that I’m going to jig in, and I’ll drill some more holes along the edge of the weeds where I’m going to place a tip-up.
I'll put the tip-up with a shiner minnow right on the edge of the weeds then go jig a lure in the shallower holes. You give the tip-up a half hour to produce something and if the flag doesn't pop, then move it to another hole.
If I don't get a bite on the mid-lake structure I know the fish are relating to the shoreline. Here you're fishing weeds, weed lines and drop offs. Drill a series of holes along the weedline first to give you an idea where the points, inside turns, and edges are. Then drill some holes here-and-there over the top of the weeds. Set the tip-up and shiner right on the edge and go jig in the weeds.
I like the spoon, which is a heavy metal vibrating blade bait, to search in the weeds for a couple of reasons. First, this lure is heavy enough to poke through any mats of vegetation and get right down underneath where the weeds thin out and the fish wait to ambush unsuspecting prey. Second, the lure vibrates and makes a sound that draws these aggressive feeding fish into the lures range.
I work a hole for about 15 to 20 minutes. I don't have a depthfinder transducer in the hole when I'm fishing like this because the lure is often under or in the weeds and it's impossible to see the lure or any fish.
In lakes where the weeds are sparse a depth finder can help you see the lure and show a fish if it moves up to the bait, but typically you're fishing in water less than 12 feet deep, so you can't really see fish on the sonar unless they are right on top of the bait.
Sometimes the tip-up gets a lot of action and the shallower jigging is not producing. When that happens I'll use the jigging rod in the deeper holes. On the weedlines I like to use a quarter ounce Northland Fire Eye Minnow and tip the treble hook with the head of a minnow.
Of course at this time of year it is hard to troll to find active fish, but in a sense you can apply the methods that you use in the summertime. Drill holes from the shallowest portion of the structure you are fishing and then continue to drill holes at various depths as the structure drops off into deeper water. Then instead of "trolling" along the structure you can use tip-ups to cover from the deepest to the shallowest point. Tip-ups enable you to cover more water than you could with a minnow and float. A flag can be seen from several hundred feet away. Most states allow you to use two lines and if you have a number of fishing buddies with you, you can cover the structure at various depths and in effect troll the edge of the structure.
For more information on fishing those hard water ‘eyes or any other
species that swims, stop by Guides Choice in Eagle River, Wisconsin and
ask to see the latest gear in for ice fishing or the upcoming fishing
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Since August 1, 1998