W A L L E Y E   H U N T E R
Fishing Articles by Ted Takasaki
"Lights Out" Ice Fishing
Ted Takasaki and Scott Richardson
Summer anglers are accustomed to dashing home from work, hooking up the boat and rushing to their home lakes for a few hours of fishing before dark. That is just not possible in the winter. Fishing during the cold months after a day at the office or the factory means huddling in an ice shanty under the stars.
Popular targets are walleyes and crappies with a bonus catfish or two. Perch and bluegill tend to lack the night vision to feed after the sun goes down. Night methods must be modified from daylight tactics to insure success. Here's how. Location is key
Known as "Mr. Ice Fishing," Lindy Little Joe Fishing Team member Dave Genz recalls many nights on the ice with his dad. They used candles rather than lanterns to reduce light penetration down into the hole. His father worried a bright glare below might spook finicky walleyes. Today, Genz is America's foremost ice fishing expert. He's responsible for developing much of the best hard-water equipment and tackle on the market.
Genz, a member of the Ice Team's "Power Sticks" fishing team, is Mr. Mobile when the sun is up. He uses a small one-man Fish Trap he designed to move quickly from spot to spot to find fish. But, he slows down at night when it's the fish that are on the move. He can afford the luxury of staking out a likely location and waiting in the comfort of a roomy 6 by 8 foot Clam 6800. Fire up a portable heater, and he's set.
Bottom structure that holds baitfish is best for walleyes. Focus on drop-offs near points, on humps or channel edges. Crappies often suspend over the deepest water in small lakes. In larger lakes, they can be found suspended over the deepest areas of bays. They may also be found in places with current that carries the microscope plankton that minnows love. Search funnel areas created where the tips of two points come close to each other or where a sunken island is located just off a point. Fish on the edges of old weedlines, not in the weeds where panfish seek shelter during the day.
Shunning crowds is a good idea during the day. Fishing pressure tends to push fish off structure. This is often not the case at night. Setting up near others may be the ticket. But, spend some time in the shanty with a lake map looking for other spots with similar features that might not be so busy. Try them the next time you go out.
Good electronics are critical. Use the Bottom Line Buddy graph or a flasher like the Vexilar FL-8 that Genz prefers or the Zercom LCF-40 preferred by walleye pro Tommy Skarlis. Tommy's associated with On Ice Tours, a group working to increase excitement in the sport of ice fishing, similar to the Ice Team. Look for marks that could be forage, then adjust your location in the school until you see what could be gamefish. Here's where one of the newest innovations in ice fishing shines. The Aqua-Vu MC2x, which has red and green lights affixed to the camera that is designed to penetrate the dark water. This unique device reveals whether the marks you see on the flasher or graph are really the type of fish you seek. The MC2x also lets you see how fish react to baits and jigging action. Rigging for jigging
Genz designed a series of ice-fishing rods in Berkley's Lightning Rod Series because too often ice fishermen resort to whimpy "sticks." Made with plenty of backbone and fast tips, his rods vary in length from 24 to 30 inches. Choose the one that "balances" with the size of jig and the weight of line you plan to use, from 2 pound monofilament to 10. The jig should be heavy enough to keep kinks from the line, and you should feel the jig bounce through the rod when everything is right.
You'll hand-hold one rod, so use no float on it. But, choose the right-sized Thill float for other rods. Lindy Little Joe makes the process simple by offering Mini-Shy Bites or Mini-Stealth floats paired with Genz-designed jigs, the Pounder, the Fat Boy and the Genz Worm. The jigs come in glow colors. Genz activates them using an inexpensive camera flash unit. Skarlis sometimes uses a Coleman lantern to impart a softer glow. Bright or dim? Let the fish tell you want they want.
Use jigs with #10-sized hooks for eurolarvae, also known as "spikes." The Fat Boy XL and the Genz Worm XL are designed for minnows. The XL stands for extra large, short shanked hooks. Keep your bait fresh. Set the depth of the floats so the jig rides just above the marks on the screen or the flasher.
If multiple rods are allowed, set one high in the water column just below the ice. Skarlis has seen times that walleyes have been been holding 3 feet beneath the hole in 12 feet of water and more. Fish that shallow won't show up on the screen of your electronics very often.
In addition, there are several hot, glow colors of jigs on the market today. They glow in different colors, which are quite a bit more brilliant than the "old" glow. Lindy's new Techni-Glo line up of jigs that "glow in living color" come in blue, green, yellow and red. Try a small, compact "Tazer" flashlight by Lindy to ignite the jigs.
With your hand-held rod, lower the bait into hole just below the water. Jig it and notice how it behaves. If it spins, adjust it until it stops by adjusting your knot. When ready, lower the bait into the water and start fishing it slowly down to the "fish zone." That makes it appear more alive than merely lowering it down fast. The jigging motion Genz uses is to "pound" it, almost shaking it violently. If the jig stops moving, set the hook. If you don't get a bite, try slowing down your jigging motion to a slight quiver.
Here's another tip. Watch the screen or the flasher. If most of the crappies are concentrated at one depth and you see a fish come into the sonar's cone at another depth, raise or lower your jig quickly to intercept it. Most likely it's a bigger crappie than those in the main school.
The Rattl'r by Lindy is a jigging spoon that combines both sound and flash. It's perfect to attract fish in low-light conditions, and it comes in sizes for both walleyes and panfish. The Rattl'r's action is more violent than small jigs. Skarlis "casts" it down the hole by feeding line out fast to let the spoon free-fall down with no resistance from above. The result is the Rattl'r darts and dives and covers up to a 10-foot radius depending on the water depth. He then pops it, letting it fall again. Take up slack in the line and pop it again. This will draw it ever closer to the spot right below the hole. Once there, jig it back to the surface and repeat.
Walleyes and crappies tend to be most active in the low-light times within two hours of sunset and sunrise. Most anglers just fish one or the other. But, Skarlis has noticed that just like big walleyes are often caught in tournaments near noon, big walleyes are also taken in the hours just before and after midnight.
"You have to be a night owl," Skarlis said. "But, the benefits are great for those who fish the red eye."
For more tips and information on upcoming ice tournaments and seminars, get the free Ice Team Annual or visit www.iceteam.com, www.onicetour.com or www.lindylittlejoe.com .
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Since August 1, 1998