Late Season Bluegill Ice Fishing
In the Upper Midwest, March is usually thaw time – the time when the ice begins to melt to clear the way for fantastic open water spring fishing. Despite many anxious anglers being ready to hit the water, there are still fish to be caught on the ice. In fact, warmer temperatures mean a more pleasurable experience. The temperatures are rising and the days are longer. Ice fishing bluegill during the late winter/early spring can be extremely productive. Below are a few tips for catching some late season bulls.
Late Season Strategies
Bluegills, among other species, tend to get shallower during the late season. Staying mobile is key. Finding the right depth and spot is not an exact science during the late season as factors like water temperature, structure and ice clarity can all factor into bites. Also, bluegills, perch and crappies tend to group up into larger schools late in the winter/spring. Locating them is the key to success. Panfish also tend to strike up during this time of year, however keep testing different techniques.
Mix Up Baits
Wax worms are always a good option for bluegill ice fishing. However, small shiners cat be the ticket to catching aggressive fish. Hook a small shiner through the back and fish a foot or two above marked fish. Keep in mind the size of the mouth of a bluegill. The minnow should be no more than about an inch. Also try artificial Gulp! brand nibbles for effective bluegill ice fishing.
Time of Day
Feeding habits vary greatly depending on time of day. Of course we can’t always be picky with when we can go. However, if I had the choice, I would do the later afternoon to sundown bite. Fishing can be good at sunrise but I think bluegill ice fishing is slightly better at dinner time.
A Warning About Late Season Ice
Late season ice can be extremely dangerous. This is particularly true with rapidly warming temperatures. Ice thickness can vary greatly by location on a lake or river. Open and westerly exposed shoreline will likely be thinner than other areas of a lake. In general, fishing on foot with limited equipment can be done on 4 inches of clear ice or more. With 5 inches, you can use a snowmobile or heavy sled equipment. 8 to 12 inches are enough for a car and 12 to 15 are needed to hold a medium truck. Vehicles on any ice thickness should not be parked closer than 50 feet from each other. Also, please note that white ice (“snow ice”) is not nearly as strong as newer clear ice.
See also: Great Ice Fishing Action Video.