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February Thaw Makes Ice Cleats A Must For Anglers!

Hello anglers from around the world!

Ice conditions around the county are beginning to show signs of decay.  Of course, we went through a tremendous February thaw last week and it wreaked havoc on the ice.  Not only did it reduce the amount of ice on most lakes by as much as 8 inches, it also made the surface ice very, very, very slick.  Ice cleats are a must!  I’m all about walking on ice without cleats (and I’m dang good at it), but I had to put cleats on this last week!  I couldn’t stay upright! IMG_1018

Please be careful.  Check the ice – especially around current areas near inlets and outlets, which are often highlighted by bridges and culverts.  If your auger is throwing “chunky” ice and it seems wet when you drill through it, you’re standing on very rotten ice!  The best protocol to a situation like this is to step backwards and walk away from that spot.  For fishing, the spring thaw marks a fine time to pursue panfish.  But the spring is also about rapidly changing conditions which means the fish are liable to change just as quickly.  A “hot” area on a lake today may be completely vacant 3 days from now.  Most of what changes fish locations this time of the year is day-light hours.  All fish species are being cued longer days to exit some zones and enter others.

As always, keep on the move – don’t wait for panfish to come to you.  If you do, you might be waiting till next season—until they show up on the “hot” spot again.  I’ve been catching panfish this week right under the ice—where I’m able to sight-fish for them with out using a shelter.  I prefer not to fish in shelters so I can stay mobile—I’m definitely attention deficit so fishing panfish is a good fit.  When one hole quits giving fish, I just walk to the next.  If you’re fishing just below the ice (which is super exciting), use a “careful” hook set and a very “loopy” pole so that you don’t jerk the hook out of the fish.  Just give a little pull, and the fish will hop out of the lake.  My kids love fishing this way.  In fact, my oldest never holds his pole, he holds the line and when he sees his worm disappear, he gives a pull with his hands and hoists the fish onto the lake!  It’s really a neat trick and it reminds me of my grandpa—he used to do the same thing.

Be safe, be careful, and good luck fishing this week.

Ross Hagemeister


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