Brad Laabs column: Ice fishing is about to get trickier
We are coming up on the time of the winter that the bite for all species changes from early ice locations.
Crappie and sunfish anglers that were having good success in shallow weed areas may find that bite is less active. It seems there will always be some relating to the weeds, but anglers that adjust to those fish that have moved to deep holes and are feeding over soft bottom areas, may find themselves getting better numbers and quality.
The shallow water walleye bite is more limited to early morning, or just before dark in the evening now (or after dark). The daytime bite will be more successful on the edges and in deeper water during the day. Being mobile can help increase activity.
If you set a permanent house out, you may want to put it in a location that works best for when you are able to use the house, also knowing that having active periods and lulls in the action is to be expected when you are stationary.
Choice of lake for those that are mobile can help up your odds. Typically, our clear lakes in the area will have a better bite in the early morning and late afternoon-early evening, especially on clear bright days. On those bright sunshiny days, some of the lakes in our area that have a stain to the water will have fish more active during the daylight hours. Those darker lakes, most of the time, have a poorer early morning and late evening bite.
On the cloudy days, those clear lakes may have fish fired up all day, whereas the stained water lakes may have a less active bite. Light levels make a significant difference. As we get thicker ice and more snow cover, we have less light penetration, so also take that into consideration when choosing where to fish.
Yes, weather makes a difference in the winter too. High pressure (clear skies/nice weather), low pressure (bad weather/stormy conditions) means changing barometer. Prefrontal conditions will translate into higher fish activity, just like it does in the summer.
The middle of these changes will slow things down when it comes to fish activity, and as we become stable with either a high or a low, fish will start to become active again. As the next front approaches, expect high activity again right before the front with a slow down to follow.
A buddy and I just experienced the consequences of the power of nature and the influence of weather on fish activity with our fishing. We went from a 25 walleye day in about five hours on the pre-frontal side, to a three small fish day the following day. We called it quits after about three hours as the situation became obvious to us.
The active day was easy. When the fish came in and we would see them on the Vexilar, they would bite. Only a few fish needed to be teased and finessed into a bite. A third of the fish we saw didn't even get marked, they just came from a distance with aggression and attacked.
The following day, we had fish coming in fairly constantly, but they were lookers, not takers. We changed colors, lures, sizes, and cadences, most times that can help trick a few, but sometimes nature just wins.
(Laabs owns Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes)