Brad Laabs column: With colder temps, ice anglers need lures with more sound, color, movement
The unseasonably warm January thaw of the last week or 10 days has knocked the snow cover on the lakes to almost nothing on the majority of our area lakes.
During the warm stretch, fishing the lake conditions was slushy, wet, and flooding occurred around heavier permanent houses (nothing that blocking up houses couldn't fix).
Now, with-below freezing temps, the lake surfaces have re-frozen, and travel and fishing conditions on the ice will be better. The fish were more active during the warm stretch, and many anglers had improved success over the severe cold front fish of two weeks ago, especially with crappie and sunfish action.
Some of the lake accesses will be in rough shape for a while—the slushing left deep ruts, and these ruts have now frozen. Be careful getting on and off the lakes with vehicles with less clearance on bad accesses, as ice can do more damage than many realize.
Accesses will improve with travel over the top of the ruts and if we get some of the snow in our forecast. Travel will not be a problem to remote locations on the lakes with the current conditions.
When moving permanent houses to new locations, do keep in mind that we have all of February left and conditions will change. Getting houses back off the lake always has to be a consideration. Conditions will be slippery again now until we get some snow cover again. Tread carefully, and your ice cleats may need to accompany you again.
Now, I will suggest a few things that may help ice a few more fish, as fish may start to be more finicky at times.
The use of noise (rattles), bright colors (and glow), and aggressive-style jigging baits (rattle spoons, flutter spoons, rattle flyers, rattle stop signs, jigging raps, slab raps, ripping raps, and Swedish pimples) help call fish into your location. Sometimes they may draw the fish to your more subtle dead rod with a hook/jig and minnow under bobber.
Aggressive jigging, followed by some pauses, slower lift and drop jigging, some still motion, and a repeat can get fish under your hole.
When you see them, pay attention to how they react to jig strokes and change it up until you find what triggers the bite. If fish come in above your presentation, raise your bait slowly up past them, get above them and pause or jiggle slightly, and raise bait slowly again.
If they follow it up, they will most likely bite. If they disappear from view, keep the bait there and jig. They (most times) will come back at that level.
Sometimes the still motion is still imparting action on your bait just from your own bodies vibration. Once you find the bite trigger, other fish in the school will react similarly. If what your using is getting them to come in, but not bite, change your lure.
If you're using half a minnow, try a smaller minnow head, downsize the lure, try a different lure, or try a little different cadence. Even during the day, lighting up your glow jigs can make a difference.
It can sometimes help to pound the bottom a few time with your lure, and then lift and jig off the bottom again.The disturbance and noise will bring curious fish to investigate the disturbance.
When dropping back down with flutter or swimming type baits, drop them a few feet, jig a couple times, let them down some more and stop to jig.
Watch it on your electronics to keep it under you all the way back down to the fish. This will help keep your lure from diving into your dead rod line or entangling with your fishing partner. Many of these baits can "swim" more than five feet from your hole.
We have a number of weeks left to get out on the ice. Now is when all the ice derbies get rolling. If you have interest, pay attention to radio ads, flyers, on-line information, and local bait shops, which can provide dates and times for area events.
(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)