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Slow and Steady Wins the Race

 

The ice has come off, the lakes are opening up and I can’t wait to get on the water. While not the best time of year as far as fishing success goes, ice out is my first opportunity in five or six months to actually cast a line, perhaps even catch a fish.

The underlying theme on what it takes to get a fish to bite has everything to do with their metabolism. Fish are cold-blooded, or ectothermic, as the science gang likes to call them. That is, the surrounding water temperature directly affects their body temperature and therefore, their metabolism. When the water is cold, fish are cold and therefore they are slow and lethargic. Warmer water promotes a higher metabolism and more vigorous feeding.

To catch fish consistently at ice out I keep this in mind and I focus my efforts on two variables, location and presentation.

With location, I have one thing on my mind: temperature. Ice out water is extremely cold and, as the water warms, these warm areas become favored haunts by gamefish. When I speak of warmer water, however, it is in comparison to the rest of the water body. Even the ‘warm’ water may be cool, but it will be noticeably warmer than the rest of the area, which is why fish will congregate there. Not all areas of a given waterbody warm up at the same rate, so when I’m out fishing I’ll hunt around to find these areas of warmer water, because when I find them I usually find fish. Here are a few tips on finding warmer water.

All things being equal, shallow bays will warm up first, especially shallow muddy bays with dark bottom sediment as sediment will absorb and distribute heat. To take it one step further, shallow muddy bays located on the north end of the lake will warm up quicker as they are more exposed to the southern sun. This temperature swing can be significant, several degrees or more and this will often lure cold-blooded gamefish in for a nice warm water retreat.

There are a couple other areas I look for when searching for warm water. The next has to do with wind. Typically on lakes the surface water warms first and when a wind starts blowing, it will actually collect and deposit all that warm surface area to the windward shoreline. Now there will be a substantial pocket of warm water along this windy shoreline and without exception, gamefish will know about this and will be hanging around.

The last area of warm water I’ll mention has to do with creeks or rivers. The surrounding landscape warms up faster than a frozen lake. The creeks are smaller, so they melt first and warm up faster. They start flowing and deposit warm water into the lake, calling gamefish from near and far. Often times the creeks start flowing before ice out and present a great target for last ice fishing opportunities as well.

These three areas are my targets for early season fish. Now to catch fish, I’ll typically utilize two presentations that are purposefully slow to match the fish’s slow metabolism. The slip bobber is the ultimate in slow and its effectiveness is undeniable. In fact, I’ve dedicated this month’s tips column to discussing slip bobber techniques so when your done here click on the link and check it out.

The other presentation has to be the baited jig. Whether it’s a one sixteenth ounce jig tipped with a worm for trout or a quarter ounce jig tipped with a minnow for walleye, jigs catch fish. The trick is to slow things down. My buddy Aaron and I were fishing for trout at East Dollar Lake. We didn’t have much luck using active presentations so we each tipped a worm to a small jig. We anchored at the shallow edge of a visible drop off and cast the jigs out into the deep water. After they sunk all the way to the bottom slowly, every so slowly we dragged the jigs up the slope. Every few minutes one would get hammered and we’d be fighting an acrobatic rainbow or a beautiful brown. That’s all we did for the rest of that day and we caught a lot of fish.

Dragging jigs works exceptionally well for spring walleye too, but I have to keep jig size in mind. I prefer to start fishing with a quarter ounce jig tipped with a minnow for the simple fact that it’s real easy to maintain contact with both the jig and bottom. Often times, however, I’ll get bites on the quarter ounce only to see the minnow head left on my jig and the rest of the minnow eaten. If this has happened the solution is to lighten up. Take off the quarter ounce jig and move down to an eighth ounce. Now when a walleye bites, it will suck up both the jig and the minnow and the walleye will be caught.

When it comes to early spring, find the warmer water, hit it with slower presentations and enjoy the catching. The fish will certainly be there and with a little coaxing, they’ll be biting.


Previous Fishing Articles

(1) Fly Selection for Beginners

(2) Fly Fisher's Christmas

(3) New Waters

(4) Big Bad Burbot

(5) Looking Back

(6) Out of Africa

(7) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams

(8) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish

(9) The Browns of Autumn

(10) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons

(11) Walleye Town

(12) River Fun - One Bite At A Time

(13) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers

(14) Going With The Flow

(15) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman

(16) Swinging The Fences

(17) A View From The Aerie

(18) Dixieland Delight

(19) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts

(20) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon

(21) Montana's Cool Missouri

(22) Pretty Is As Pretty Does

(23) Toothy Critters

(24) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake

(25) Top Ten Flies

(26) Northern Exposure

(27) Home Water Lessons

(28) Chicken Of The Sea

(29) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish

(30) Deep In The Heart Of Texas

(31) Keep It Up!

(32) River Fishing for Fall Walleye

(33) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the flood

(34) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity

(35) Hawg Holes

(36) Saltwater Salmon

(37) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing

(38) Down a Lazy River –
A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan

(39) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead

(40) IN SEARCH OF SPECKLED FOOTBALLS

(41) FISHING CANADA'S PRAIRIE CITIES

(42) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver

(43) Canada's "Other" Salmon

(44) Fall Walleye

(45) Wet Flies

(46) Versatility the Key to Success

(47) Grayling of the Boreal

(48) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish

(49) Size Matters

(50) Fly Fishing Small Streams

(51) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time

(52) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel

(53) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas

(54) The Point Of It All

(55) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day

(56) Fall Fly Fishing

(57) Personal Pontoon Boats 101

(58) Big River, Big Fish

(59) Bottom Bonanza

(60) Fishing Small Flies

(61) So Many Choices, So Little Time

(62) Four Seasons of the Bow

(63) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot

(64) GEARING UP FOR SMALL STREAM TROUT

(65) Trout Hunting - New Zealand-style

(66) Don’t Leave Home Without Them –
10 Lures That Should Be In Everyone’s Tackle Box

(67) Edge Walleye

(68) FLY FISHING STRATEGIES FOR HIGH WATER

(69) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge

(70) Four Corners – Four Waters

(71) Chasing Pothole Trout

(72) Springtime Stoneflies

(73) The Torrents of Spring

(74) Drift Boat Fly Fishing

(75) Bust Them With Bait

(76) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book

(77) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months

(78) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout

(79) Terrestrials

(80) Fly In For Fishing Fun

(81) Rocky Mountain High

(82) Reading the clues

(83) Where the Trout Are
The art of locating feeding trout
in rivers and streams.

(84) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin

(85) Fly Fishing 101

(86) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod

(87) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay

(88) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder

(89) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead

(90) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital

(91) Eliminating the Spook Factor

(92) Trust Your Electronics

(93) The Most Important Hatch of the Year

(94) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout

(95) Finding Success for Ice Trout

(96) Walleye can be Humbling

(97) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed

(98) Winter Flyfishing

(99) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Gem

(100) Hot Fall Pike Action

(101) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down

(102) Reading Trout Stream Waters

(103) Frequently Asked Questions

(104) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout

(105) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice

(106) Deep Water Perch

(107) Post Spawn Brookies

(108) A Fisher's Life

(109) The River's Last Stand

(110) The Big Ones Come out at Night

(111) Coho on the Coast

(112) Chasing and Catching Halibut

(113) Summer in the Mountains

(114) Peak Walleye Season

(115) Slow and Steady Wins the Race

(116) Last Ice Rainbows

(117) The Burbot Event

(118) Tackle Matching

(119) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light

(120) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location

(121) The Lure of Brook Trout

(122) The Shallow Water Hunt is On

(123) Hot Backswimmer Action Happening Right Now

(124) Fishing Among Giants-Pursuing Lake Sturgeon on the Prairies

(125) Adventure at Davin Lake Lodge, Northern Saskatchewan

(126) The Vesatile Plug

(127) Bead Head Flies, Plugs and Shot and other Spring Favorites for Pothole Trout

(128) Planning your Upcoming Angling Adventures

(129) Good Fishing at Last Ice

(130) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations

(131) Daily Fish Migrations

(132) Fish Migrations - Following the Spawn

(133) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star

(134) Pick Your Favorite Brook Trout Lake...and Go Fishing

(135) A Look Ahead to Great Trout Fishing

(136) Wrestling White Sturgeon on the Fraser

(137) The Fun in Ultra Light

(138) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines

(139) Embrace the Spirit of Adventure

(140) Never Stop Learning

(141) Ice Fishing is Getting Hot

(142) Jigging through the Ice

(143) An Ice Fishing Unsung Hero – The Setline

(144) Rainbows on Ice

(145) The Season of Ice Begins

(146) Red Hot Fall Pike Action

(147) Hitting it Right with Water Boatman

(148) Facts On Cats

(149) West Coast Adventure

(150) June Walleye Frenzy

(151) Aerated Lakes are Big Trout Factories

(152) "First Fish of the Year - Pothole Rainbows and Browns"

(153) "Northern Exposure"

(154) Sometimes There is More to Fishing Than Catching Fish

(155) Early Season Pike On The Fly

(156) Man Overboard