The weekend deep freeze puts nicer ice on many inland lakes, but this thaw-filled winter has kept anglers on an early-ice agenda throughout the cold-weather season.
Rescue agencies recommend wearing bright orange or red outer clothing when venturing out distant from shores. While most ice-auger addicts go with hand- or motor-driven drills, when ice is thin it is still a good idea to take along a spud bar, an ice chisel on a long steel or wooden handle, to check ice depths and hardness.
When it comes to getting new electronics, experts such as Scott Brauer recommend the newer models of flashers for instant bottom and fish-movement readings. With no electronics in hand, some savvy ice regulars consider using an underwater camera unit, rather than a flasher or LCD unit, to survey what is under the ice.
Either option, any electronics that at least give an idea of depth and bottom cover (weeds, mud, rocks, stumps, etc.) will help in finding fish. Look for a detailed account of fish hunting and finding from Maki Plastics fishing sage Scott Brauer in next week’s fishing line.
• Ted’s Tackle’s Conesus Lake Frostbite Ice Fishing Derby, set for Saturday and Sunday, depends much upon the lake’s ice conditions today. Coordinator Ted Decker will announce options for the derby this afternoon.
If Conesus ice is solid enough for lakewide access, the derby will be on as scheduled. If nearby lake ice is sound, Decker might opt to open this derby to a statewide, ice or open-water competition. Check with Decker for derby doings today to Friday at (585) 429-0587.
• The 2016 Ice Masters Elite Singles Tournament Trail wends its way to Keuka Lake at Indian Pines Park Feb. 27; competition goes from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Weigh-ins are for panfish (3 bluegill and 3 yellow perch) and game fish (largest northern pike or chain pickerel), with an optional Lunker Pot for largemouth bass. For more details, check with Mark Dusablon at (607) 742-0304 or Paul Toarmino at (585) 226-8404.
• The NYS Ice Pro-Am Tournament Series sets up at the fire hall in Sodus Bay this weekend for all anglers, tourney pros and amateur individuals. Divisions are in place for big fish (walleye and northern pike), panfish (bluegill, sunfish, rock bass, etc.) and yellow perch, with minimum sizes required for weigh-in. For more information on this tourney, call Tim Thomas at (585) 330-0494 or visit nysiceproam.com.
Angler on the ball
Alden angler Barry Ball is having a spectacular fishing season, with outing options on ice and on open water. He took a sizeable walleye while perch fishing with friends in his boat two weeks ago and has made trips to Lake Simcoe on ice to search for perch.
Ball was raised in Alden but was born in Orillia, Ont., a city on the western shore of Simcoe. His ice-fishing runs to that lake this year have been good but so-so. “So far I’ve fished McPhee Bay and Couchiching Narrows for mainly small stuff and finally got into some bigger perch on thinner ice at Port Bolster and around Georgina Island,” Ball said of earlier outings.
Most of his fish hit on minnows and smaller glow jigs. “It’s a rig something like a Finesse jig with an emerald shiner,” he said, adding, “spikes (grubs) also work at times up there.” The action of the smallest of grubs has been working on Simcoe and other inland lakes so far this ice season.
During the warm-water seasons Ball enters walleye tournaments and regularly fishes Lake Erie for ’eyes, but most of his open-water lake time is devoted to perch fishing. “Mostly minnows are my prime bait for perch fishing,” he said of the early-spring to late-fall perch season.
“This has been the most I’ve fished in a boat during the winter. I was out a half dozen times in January,” he said. Outcomes in his boat have been akin to catches seen on ice early last winter season. Perch and other fishes scattered and it took anglers a while to get over feeding schools of fish last January; that has been the results Ball has seen on outings in a boat with Herb Schultz, John Held and others this winter season.
While emerald shiner minnows have been a mainstay for his Erie perch fishing, Ball has pulled a few nice ringbacks that hit a No. 5 Swedish pimple with a perch eye on the treble hook. “But that’s when the fishing is good,” he noted.
As for terminal rigging for deep-water perch, he suggests either a spreader that separates two hooks with leaders or a “crappie rig”, two or more hooks on leaders off the main line above a sinker. “One works one day, the other might work better the next day,” Ball advises.
Boaters this year might have an early Lake Erie perch season to try out Ball’s suggestions.