Back in the saddle

Back in the saddle

Haven’t blogged in awhile cuz serious gut issues almost sent me to the Big Adios. Two weeks away from the River was an eternity. Finally back in the saddle with a 9″ perch bump board scar on my belly.

A lifetime of Fishing the Big River and KEEPING A DETAILED DIARY tells me ’23 is shaping up a lot like the first quarter of ’14 & ’04. In both those years we experienced a substantial January thaw with single digit & below zero temperatures kicking in and remaining until about Feb. 12. Even with days that ambient temps only got into the mid-20’s after that, ice fishing was generally steady and productive ’til ice out…and on days when temps got up into the 30s it was pure bucket-fishin’ joy!

Fishing open water below the dams has been good to the point of almost too easy for sauger, walleye & perch during this January thaw window. This will come to a screeching halt tonite as temperatures bottom out and the River starts making ice again.

Great news if you like ice fishing! Several super mid-pool spots have been tough to access due to spring holes and open water in little tribs. Extremely low water level at initial freeze-up made fishing spots like Hayshore a waste of time. The thaw made the deeper water at the southeast corner of this backwater almost impossible to anyone without a hovercraft or similar ice boat. Folks who were able to slide out there had a field day on quality perch.

But “ya shoulda been here last week” is worthless info. I think the cut between Millstone Landing and weed edges in Hayshore with >3 fow will lock up enough to allow lightfooting out to those jumbo ringers. Don’t look to me as the vanguard of this expedition. Days when i was among the first to fall through the ice in December and last to get wet late March are over–unless I fall off a plank extending out from shore.

Peak bite for the past month has been from first light until about 11 a.m. with another short feeding window from about 3-4 p.m. “Peak bite” is a relative term in mid-winter. Some days the action is slow early–then it slacks off.

BUT I’m thinkin’ that will change mid February. Open water running in under the ice from those tiny tribs is adding oxygen to backwater water columns. When arctic high pressure from the predicted two week cold spell backs off fish under the ice will become more active, for a longer period of time often suspending a little higher in the water column instead of hugging the bottom contour, to 2′ up.

Fish metabolism will still be slow until water temps warm into the 40s. The finny critters will eat when they feel like eating and respond to a striking presentation with the lightning-fast reflexes of a gutter wino reaching for a half-full bottle of T-Bird or Muscatel.

Every day on the Immortal River is a blessing. It is also a study in constant change. Keeping a diary won’t put fish on the ice or in the boat–but it certainly provides a jump-start in honing presentations that lead to rippin’ lips.

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