Take steps for fun, safe ice fishing experience

By Al Smith - Guest Columnist

Wishful thinking …

While we’re here putting up with a polar vortex in the Midwest, don’t you wish you could be in a place like Florida open water fishing?

Before returning to his teaching duties at Riverdale on Thursday, Limaland pro basser Kyle Weisenburger and his dad, Ron, did just last. They fished Lake Okeechobee for a few days. They took Kyle’s rig down and pre-practiced a little since the FLW Tour begins in late January on Okeechobee.

“We got a couple good ones. I had a 7.5 and dad got a 5,” Kyle said.

Back to reality …

If the rest of us anglers are thinking of doing any fishing, it’s most likely going to be on hard water. And there should be plenty of safe ice. But remember no ice should be considered safe and use extreme caution when venturing on to it. Check with local ice anglers, bait shops or your county wildlife officer for ice conditions in your locale.

On early ice, especially smaller bodies of water, anglers can congregate in certain areas. Even in crowded conditions, you can catch fish, according to Brainerd, Minnesota’s “Panfish” Phil Laube.

He uses the same method many anglers use in open water — he finesses fish by going to a smaller presentation.

“Over the past four or five years I’ve downsized presentations when it seems like community hole anglers are fishing bigger jigs or dunking crappie minnows,” he said. “It’s just like open-water bass fishing, sometimes going smaller is the key to catch pressured fish. Another thing: crappies can switch from a minnow feed to micro-invertebrates in a heartbeat. That’s sometimes the case, more than the fishing pressure itself.”

If you’re fishing for crappies, consider using plastic bait rather than live bait. Focus on weed lines to find them. A lot of times crappies will hang out in the middle of the water column, halfway between the ice and bottom.

If you are in stained water or fishing at dusk into early evening, consider using a jig that glows when lit up by a laser light.

If you want to give ice fishing a try, contact a friend who loves fishing on hard water. He likely has extra equipment you can borrow. He can tell you how to dress for the sports. You also can register for a free ice fishing workshop at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area on Saturday, Jan. 27.

You will learning the basics of ice fishing during the workshop which will be held from 9 a.m. to noon. The workshop will be held at the Sportsmen’s Migratory Bird Center pond on Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, located at 13229 West Ohio 2, Oak Harbor, 43449. The workshop is free of charge, but preregistration is required by Jan. 25, as space is limited. Interested individuals can register by calling Kelly Schott at 419-898-0960 ext. 21.

Trained professionals from the ODNR Division of Wildlife will cover the basics of ice safety, equipment, bait, and technique. All needed materials will be provided. This hands-on workshop is weather dependent, and participants should dress appropriately as instruction will take place outside.

Participants 16 years or older are required to have a valid fishing license. Possible species that may be caught include bluegill, largemouth bass, and channel catfish. Any fish of legal size may be kept.

The Lake La Su An Wildlife Area, located near Pioneer, normally is closed for fishing during the winter months, but Lake Wood Duck on the area will remain open throughout the year. Anglers do not need a reservation to fish Lake Wood Duck, but all vehicles must park in a designated parking space around the area.

Lake La Su An is located at 9455 Co. Rd. R, Pioneer, OH 43554. Lake Wood Duck is located on the south side of County Road R, just west of County Road 8.

Sunfish bag limits are 10 fish daily, and fishing is permitted from sunrise to sunset. All other species caught follow the statewide fishing regulations posted in the 2017-18 Ohio Fishing Regulations.

Anglers can head north to Michigan for the annual winter free fishing weekend Feb. 17 and 18. This event has taken place since 1994.

In addition, during the free fishing weekend, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will waive the regular Recreation Passport entry fee that grants vehicle access to Michigan’s 103 state parks and recreation areas. Several locations also may be playing host to official 2018 winter free fishing weekend events.

“There’s nothing better than bundling up and heading out on the ice for Michigan’s annual winter free fishing weekend,” said Jim Dexter, DNR Fisheries Division chief. “For those avid anglers, we encourage you to take someone out who has never experienced winter fishing to show them how simple and fun it can be.”


By Al Smith

Guest Columnist

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at flyfishman7@hotmail.com and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at flyfishman7@hotmail.com and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

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