Panfish a perk of fishing in March

By Ross Hagemeister,

Is this the first week of March? Or is it the first half of January? If I just came out of a coma, I honestly wouldn’t know! Actually, the first half of January was much nicer than our “March.”  While March often invites anglers back to the lake (it’s the big ice fishing rebound month), so far it’s a dud.

In fact, a trip to the lake right now is more like a challenge course full of traps, obstacles, and endurance stations. Be ware of: deep snow, hard packed drifts, water under snow, water under a crust of ice under snow, and my favorite, 10 inches of water under a 3 inch layer of ice under snow under old frozen snow pilings from earlier in the season. Why all the water on the ice?  The weight from all of the recent snowfalls is pushing on the ice causing it to sag.  If there are any holes or breaks in the ice, it floods. The amount of “sag” determines how much and how violent the flooding is.  It’s a problem that we see on the lakes early in the season and less a problem in March—so it’s catching a lot of anglers and snowmobilers off guard this year. It’s tough. There doesn’t seem to be a perfect lake vehicle, because the slush and water are hiding beneath the deep snow which can bog down tracked machines too—hence the “obstacle course” nature of the lakes. The worst part of the terrible lake conditions is that the forecast for the week is dismal, so I don’t imagine there will be much lake repair.

Use caution when you’re heading out to the lake this week. Be prepared for “issues:” Pack a shovel, a good tow strap, water proof boots, and better yet—have a fishing partner bring a spare truck with good tires, and even better yet—a truck with a V-plow and good snow tires and a couple more friends that don’t mind shoveling and pushing. If there’s a path or plowed trail, keep your vehicle on it but be sure to fish and drill holes away from the path so you don’t flood it for everyone else.  The best fishing option right now is to park along side the road NEXT to your favorite lake and walk out. It’ll be your best chance of avoiding most problems.  Pack light, and consider leaving the portable at home (they are tough to drag through the snow).

On a positive note, the fish are biting, if you can get to them. My oldest kids and I went fishing this afternoon. We did the “hard easy method.” We left the truck and on shore and walked out.  I broke a path for the kids and they labored behind on my trail. When we got to our destination, we drilled a bunch of holes and found some panfish. By the time the chilly afternoon breeze cooled us off, we had enough for a fish fry and we marched back to shore. If you’re not into sweating to get out to the fish, then you might want to hold off until the snow begins to melt. The only trouble with that plan is that’s it looks like we might have to wait a couple more weeks!

Remember March 1, 2019 is the day that anglers 16 years and older need to purchase new fishing licenses.  Good luck on the lakes this week.

Check out the new clothing store and get your Otter swag today!