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Trolling for Hard Water ‘Eyes
By Colin Crawford
Trolling has always been a way to find fish that are neutral or lethargic
in the summer time. Trouble is when the water gets hard and ice forms
it is really hard to go out and start trolling. Most ice augers even
today do not cut a groove in the ice, but instead allow the anglers to
drill a series of holes quickly and easily. This series of holes
can be used by the angler to start his trolling run. Using a depthfinder
through the ice allows a degree of precision you can only dream about in
the summer. While trolling, for example, you get a vague idea from
your depth finder of the structural elements, like points and indentations
in a drop off, and if the wind isn’t to stiff, you can more or less repeat
a pass or hold your boat directly above a piece of fish holding structure.
In the winter, however, you can literally mark an X above the tip of a
point and walk a trail along a break line. You can map every detail
of a reef and know for the rest of
the winter where to dig your holes. Such precise scanning of the bottom
is possible because the depth finder reads right through the ice.
Just squirt some liquid on the ice, place the transducer face down in the
puddle, and note the reading. You can then move another 2 feet and
take another reading. It’s possible to hone in on fish or on the
most likely place to catch them before
drilling a single hole.
Let’s say I’m working a sunken island that tops out at eight feet and
is covered with vegetation that ends at 14 feet. I’ll drill holes all over
the top of the structure that I’m going to jig in, and I’ll drill some
more holes along the edge of the weeds where I’m going to place a tip-up.
I'll put the tip-up with a shiner minnow right on the edge of the weeds
then go jig a lure in the shallower holes. You give the tip-up a half hour
to produce something and if the flag doesn't pop, then move it to another
hole. If I don't get a bite on the mid-lake structure I know the fish are
relating to the shoreline. Here you're fishing weeds, weed lines and drop
offs. Drill a series of holes along the weedline first to give you an idea
where the points, inside turns, and edges are. Then drill some holes here-and-there
over the top of the weeds. Set the tip-up and
shiner right on the edge and go jig in the weeds. I like the spoon,
which is a heavy metal vibrating blade bait, to search in the weeds for
a couple of reasons.
First, this lure is heavy enough to poke through any mats of vegetation
and get right down underneath where the weeds thin out and the fish wait
to ambush unsuspecting prey. Second, the lure vibrates and makes a sound
that draws these aggressive feeding fish into the lures range. I work a
hole for about 15 to 20 minutes. I don't have a depthfinder transducer
in the hole when I'm fishing like this because the lure is often under
or in the weeds and it's impossible to see the lure or any fish.
In lakes where the weeds are sparse a depth finder can help you
see the lure and show a fish if it moves up to the bait, but typically
you're fishing in water less than 12 feet deep, so you can't really see
fish on the sonar unless they are right on top of the bait. Sometimes the
tip-up gets a lot of action and the shallower jigging is not producing.
When that happens I'll use the jigging rod in the deeper holes. On the
weedlines I like to use a quarter ounce
Fire Eye Minnow and tip the treble hook with the head of a minnow. Of course
at this time of year it is hard to troll to find active fish, but in a
sense you can apply the methods that you use in the summertime. Drill
holes from the shallowest portion of the structure you are fishing and
then continue to drill holes at various depths as the structure drops off
into deeper water. Then instead of "trolling" along the structure
you can use tip-ups to cover from the deepest to the shallowest point.
Tip-ups enable you to cover more water than you could
with a minnow and float. A flag can be seen from several hundred
feet away. Most states allow you to use two lines and if you have
a number of fishing buddies with you, you can cover the structure
at various depths and in effect troll the edge of the structure. For more
information on fishing those hard water ‘eyes or any other species that
swims, stop by Guides Choice in Eagle River, Wisconsin and ask to see the
latest gear in for ice fishing or the upcoming fishing
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