Late Season Bluegill Ice Fishing

ice fishing bluegill, fishing for bluegills

pverdonk via flickr

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

Move Around

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.

Bluegill Ice Fishing

See also: Great Ice Fishing Action Video.

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5 Bluegill Baits You’ve Never Tried

Everyone knows that nightcrawlers, plastics and small flies are effective bluegill bait. However, it’s time to think outside the box. Here are 5 Bluegill baits you’ve never tried.

1. Marshmallows

Fishing With Marshmallows

zimpenfish via flickr

Yes…marshmallows. Marshmallows have been a secret weapon for fisherman for a long time. Trout, carp, catfish and even our coveted bluegills will strike on marshmallows. The small sized ones work best for bluegill bait. There are two strategies:

I. Cast them out with a fly line or regular line and retrieve them. If there’s not a heavy weight on them, they’ll float and make a pretty good action while you reel them in.

II. Attach them with a weight and use a bobber or have them sit off the bottom. Many fisherman will use a worm, cheese, or powerbait with them to enhance the scent.

Regardless of the strategy, marshmallows are a cheap, fun way to catch fish. You can mix it up and use flavored/colored marshmallows as well. It’s also a great way to get rid of those stale ones in the back of the cupboard!

2. Bread balls


Traditionally, breadballs (sometimes called doughballs) are known for being catfish or carp baits. However, bluegill will also nibble on them when given the chance. Additionally, you can beat the price. Everyone has some old bread that’s a few days past the expiration date. The process is simple: get a few slices of bread, wet them, and roll pieces into the shape of a ball no bigger than a dime.

The biggest downside is that it’s easy for them to pick clean off of the hook. However, with some patients and good technique, you can be slaying them in no time.

3. YoZuri Snap Beans

Yo-Zuri Snap Beans

These little guys are incredible. They are essentially mini-crank baits that zing through the water. Using Snap Beans is a great way to locate active fish. Another big benefit to using them is that despite their size, other species of fish will also strike.  Bass, crappie and trout will all go after these guys. Be careful to only use light line though. They can be difficult to cast.

4. Live Crickets

This might seem like a no brainer to some, depending on which part of the country you live in. In the Southeast US, fishing with crickets is common. However, in the upper Midwest, few fishermen use them. If you can’t find them in a bait shop, you can go to just about any pet store and find them there. Lizard, snake and other reptile owners use them as pet food. They are usually pretty reasonably prices as well.

The key to using them is to keep them alive as long as possible. If large enough, try hooking through a leg or back part of the abdomen to keep them alive long.

5. BOOYAH Micro Pond Magic

BOOYAH Micro Pond Magic

These are just flat out cool. Pretend like you’re bass fishing with these miniature 1/8 oz spinner baits. Along with the YoZuri Snap Beans, these are effective weapons in finding active fish and covering a lot of ground quickly. Keep in mind that bluegills tend to only follow a short distance so don’t retrieve them too fast or you might miss a strike.

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