By skinny, I am referring to depth of water. The contradicting term fat, corresponds to the oversized mature fish you will often find in the form of dominant predators, such as Pike, Bass, and Walleye’s-in Northern latitudes. Just enough water to float a fish, will keep them perfectly content-and even more so-when there is a security blanket of ice directly above them.
More importantly, this ice forms a very distinct barrier. Quite significant in helping us to determine the proper position in which to intercept our intended quarry-particularly in respect to when and where they will be going on feeding forays. This barrier serves as a crucial aid to the predators in that it removes escape routes for their prey. They will literally herd their victims into extremely shallow water, and as all vertical escape routes are now gone… they can only move horizontally in hopes of getting away. Thus, the aggressors have heavily tilted the odds in their favor, as one half of the opportunity to flee is now removed.
We can often predict heightened periods of activity on moderately shallow mid-lake bars, points, and shoreline related structure during lowlight periods or heavy overcast days, this in itself is no mystery. A very notable fact is that we can also expect vigorous action all day long, even with a bright sun-at late to last ice. I equate this to a couple of factors. One is that the ice has now darkened and very little light enters, thus offering comfort from intensifying rays and an additional low-light feeding advantage for the predators. Combine this with the fact that the fish are now staging in shallow shoreline areas prior to spawning; needing substantial calories to finish off their egg sacks, as well as providing the energy needed to perform the spawning ritual…we now have a set of conditions absolutely perfect for a torrid bite.
Most, if not all, our efforts should be now be focused on shorelines, as the lip directly adjacent often abruptly drops into a couple feet of water, forming a horizontal wall and eliminating the only other escape route available for the prey. Pay close attention to distinct inside turns as they will act as a funnel from which there is little chance of avoiding capture. Always keep in mind that your top of the line predators are keenly attuned to this and will use it to their advantage at every opportunity.
With a smorgasbord of numerous minnow species, and panfish such as bluegills, crappies, and perch-widely available along shorelines with old downed and newly emerging weed growth-the fish come out of the mid-winter doldrums with a vengeance and begin to feed in a binge like fashion. Let’s not forget that the lowly bullheads play an important role here as well. They are now lethargically rising from their winter slumber, and make for an easy meal. Dark-mud bottomed bays in 6 to 12 foot of water are the key, and present an overlooked pattern worth some serious investigation.
Presentations should be loud, and border on downright gaudy, as these fish aren’t shy.
A new hybrid lure worth employing in this role is the HummBait from Mack’s Lures. It interestingly combines the characteristics of an in-line spinner with a spoon, giving us both spin and flash…thus offering an exaggerated complement of triggering cues aggressive fish find irresistible. Fish it in a traditional lift-fall-hold manner, and hang on tight.
Do yourself a favor and take one last shot at what can prove to be some of the best fishing you will ever experience…regardless of season.