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The Magic of First Ice.... Part 2

By Mark Romanack

Crappie are one of the author’s favorite fish to target on early ice. It
takes some work to find these fish, but once you locate them the action
can be red hot. These fish were caught using soft plastics designed
 especially for ice fishing. Anglers can also do well using live bait or
soft plastics and live bait combined.
Last week we took a look at how to find first ice crappie. This week we’re taking a deeper look into tactics for catching them.

PLASTIC, BAIT OR BOTH?
Historically I’ve caught most of my early winter crappie on a small jig tipped with two or three wax worms, mousies or spikes. Bulking up the jig with lots of bait causes the jig to sink slower and more deliberately. Also, should I miss a fish, there is a very good chance the jig will still have bait on the hook and I just might get a second shot at that fish.

My jig of choice has for years been the Bait Rigs Panfish Cobra because it has an offset hook that readily allows me to pack on the bait. This jig is produced in four sizes including a No. 10, 12, 14 and 20 size.

The Magic of First Ice... Part 1

By Mark Romanack

Slab crappie like these are one of the rewards anglers can expect
when they target panfish on early ice. Sometimes hard to find, once
 these fish are located they are typically pretty willing to
bite and bite often.
The thing I like most about living in the ice belt is looking forward to the changing seasons. I think of these calendar events as fishing milestones. The changing of the seasons naturally rejuvenates our spirit and gives us the motivation and drive to get outside, stretch our legs and also to spend some time fishing.

One of the many seasonal milestones I look forward to is the magic of first ice. It’s on first ice that the best hard water action of the year takes place. This magic extends to a host of different species, but in my mind nothing beats targeting crappie in December.

I have a soft spot for crappie because this species is locally abundant. Within a 30 minute drive of my northern Michigan home, I can access half a dozen lakes that routinely produce limit catches of crappie on first ice. Over the years I’ve been blessed to be able to spend a lot of time with my family targeting these fish and making great memories.

Alternative Species

By Mark Romanack

While trolling with planer boards on Saginaw Bay the author caught
 this channel catfish. Not the target species for sure, but it’s important
 to note that catfish and walleye often feed in the same places and on
the same forages. The author view catching catfish as a good sign.
It would be wonderful if every time we as anglers hit the water, the fish would be cooperative. Truth is, for every trip that goes as planned, there are others that don’t exactly meet our expectations. Thankfully, as anglers we have a ace in the hole that can be simply summed up as “alternative species”.

I’ve long since lost track of how many times I set out to catch one species and instead found myself settling for another. For some setting out to catch walleye and only finding catfish, sheepshead or white bass may measure up as a failure. For me, every tug on the string is a good thing. Admittedly some bites are more noteworthy than others, but catching fish is a good thing even when the fish aren’t exactly the desired species.

Lead Core Lines Go High Tech

By Mark Romanack

Lead core line has been on the fishing scene a long time, but recently
new lead core lines produced with thinner braided and fused coatings
are starting to catch on among open water trollers.
Lead core line is a popular choice with a growing number of walleye, trout and salmon anglers. This sinking style fishing line has been around for decades and is made of a soft lead wire surrounded by a protective covering of Dacron. Useful for reaching significant depths, various lengths of lead core are commonly used either as flatlines for structure fishing or fished in combination with in-line boards like the famous Side-Planer by Off Shore Tackle when targeting suspended fish.

If you haven’t noticed lead core lines have experienced some rather important, yet subtle changes in recent years. The Dacron/Nylon products that have dominated this fishing line category for decades are now slowly being replaced by lead core lines featuring both Microdyneema and Spectra fiber coverings. Microdyneema is a fused line type and the same stuff Fireline is made of. Sprectra is a true braided line that is exceptionally strong and super thin in diameter. Commonly used when fishing diving planers Spectra braids are marketed under a number of popular line brands including Maxima, Vicious, SpiderWire, Power Pro and others.