Late season ice

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If there’s any silver-lining in the cold-windy-snowy-sunny-rainy-squally-grauply, typically April weather we’re having, it’s a few more days of ice fishing.

And that sounds good to me!

If you remember late last year, ice formed pretty sketchy in November and December.

Late forming ice got multiple blankets of heavy snows which kept the ice from forming deep and safe.

Then we got weather so cold even the hardiest ice fishers were challenged.

While late ice can provide some of the best ice fishing of the year, late ice can be the trickiest to assess for safety.

We’ve discussed safety on late ice several times in this space. If the weather holds, maybe we’ll revisit the topic of safety late-late ice in the near future.

In the meantime, if you don’t know how to read late season ice, stay off!

Early spring is a good time to catch big pike through the ice. Still fishing with frozen herring below a big bobber or mechanical hooker will catch pike.

Pike often spawn in water less than 10 feet deep, so concentrate efforts around shallow weed beds.

Rainbow trout like to cruise shallow water in early spring. Remember, the water is cold so limit your jigging and don’t be making lots of noise of the ice.

Small jigs or wide-gap bait hooks sweetened with maggots or mealworms often fool trout.

Early spring is a great time to put some big perch in a bucket. My favorite bait, price-wise, is small pieces of earthworm. Leftover bait can be pitched into the garden!

Years ago I learned, if the perch aren’t biting late in the day, go back early the next morning and expect a bunch.

What I’m looking for are some kokanee salmon. On most lakes limits are liberal.

Remove heads and guts and lay them on the barbeque! Delicious!

Now go take advantage of the last days of this year’s ice fishing.

Jerry Smalley’s Fishful Thinking column appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.

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