Good morning, weather all over the board starting with another winter weather advisory starting today and lasting through early Monday morning.  Total snow accumulations of 5-9″ is what I am hearing.  Then a low in the single digits, and highs at 40!  “March comes in like a lion” as the saying goes certainly seems to be holding true so far this year.  Ice travel is about as expected with the snow we have received recently…’s doable, but not very easy unless by machine.  If traveling by machine be mindful that a lot of the creeks/rivers are open and flowing water into the lakes so there may be thin spots on your travel routes.  Always check ahead of you if you have a snowmobile or ATV/UTV that you are taking out on the ice.  Most lakes should still have a good amount of ice. My guess would be at least 12-15″ but I have heard far less by moving water.  Only around 6″ is what I was told by the Teal river.  Again, check and be mindful of where you are on the ice.  Enough rambling here is the report:

Largemouth/Smallmouth bass–I know it’s not very common to target either of these fish this time of year, but I have had some folks calling who are traveling up to ice fish and inquiring about catching some bass right now.  You can fish for bass right now, however you cannot harvest any until the open water fishing seasons.  May 7th for largemouth and June 18th (northern zone) for smallies.  Tip-ups rigged with fathead minnows/shiners in and along weed beds would probably be the best bet to catch largemouth right now.  Smallies will probably be holding off of deeper points with rocky/hard bottoms.  Jigging with bigger jigs/plasitcs or lures such as rapala jigging raps would be a good choice.

Crappie–I have not heard a lot on a crappie bite lately, but fish should be starting to transition from deeper water into their spring spawning areas.  I would look for deeper weed edges that relate to a basin or the main lake if in a bay.  On lakes with a general basin bite fish may still be holding out there but may be more scattered vs. schooled up. Look for fish in the basins just outside these deep weed edges.  On lakes with a shallow/structure related bite look for fish deeper into the weed beds especially where there are creek inlets or any kind of moving water stirring things up under the ice.  The approach is pretty much the same in both systems with small tungsten jigs tipped with plastics/waxies the most popular way to ice fish.  

Perch–Perch will most likely be in these shallow areas where things are getting stirred up as well.  They will feed on spoons tipped with minnow heads or loaded with waxies that are getting pounded into the silt and lifted.  Using a slightly bigger offering will help catch the biggest fish in the group and deter smaller fish from taking the bait.  Live bait seems to produce better than plastics for perch in most situations.  

Bluegill–Bluegill will also be in these shallow water areas as all of these panfish are starting to transition to spring spawning locations.  Fishing for big gills can be quite different from crappie or perch though.  Much more subtle, smaller jigs with plastics that “match the hatch” or jigs tipped with just one waxie or spike.  Less aggressive on the action and just twitching baits a lot of times will get gills to eat.  They also bite very light so ultra light action rods can help detect bites you cannot feel.  

Have a great weekend, enjoy the snow if you can 😉 and we will talk soon!!