Don’t let that sweat on your brow keep you from making the right choice of tactics for summer panfish. Ice-fishing techniques are best even in the heat of summer!
Trade in short rods for long and make a few other minor modifications in hard-water approaches to enjoy summer success for bluegills and crappies. Oh, and leave that ice auger at home!
“One-hundred-fish days are common,” said ice-fishing guru Dave Genz.
Weeds Are Key
Weeds are the key. Vegetation gives off oxygen, promotes the growth of zooplankton on which young fish feed and provides cover to enhance their chances of survival in their fish-eat-fish world.
Weeds are found in rivers and flowages in low-current, backwater areas. In lakes, prime locations are inside turns of points that reach to deep water.
Good weedbeds are easy to locate by mid-year breaking the surface near shore. Genz focuses from the point that weeds slip beneath the water’s surface to the weed edge where light no longer penetrates deep enough to promote growth. Big bluegills and crappies may also hold close to standing timber over deeper water in lakes and reservoirs. Man made fish cribs are also great summertime magnets.
Equipment is simple. Cane poles or long, lightweight spinning rods are best. Use 2-pound or 4-pound monofilament most often, but switch to 6-pound when fishing among rocks or fallen timber that might cause nicks in your line.
Wax worms, eurolarvae, night crawler pieces or small leeches are great choices for bait, and ice jigs are a terrific way to present them to hungry, summertime ‘gills and crappie. They lend color and action, and unlike plain hooks, fish are usually hooked in the lip with ice jigs and rarely swallow one. System Tackle’s Fat Boy or the Genz Worm, made by Lindy Little Joe, are good choices. The Flyer, the Quiver Jig, the Little Nipper, the Little Guppy and the Queen work great also.
Ice Jigs Work Best
Dark, natural jig colors like black work best early in summer when water is clear. But after algae blooms begin, switch to chartreuse, orange, or other high-visibility colors.
Genz’s choices of ice jigs are tiny, yet heavy enough to balance with lightweight Thill floats, such as the Mini-Shy Bite. Together, ice jig and float create a lethal, sensitive combination that detects the lightest of bites. Fine-tune the combination if needed by adding tiny lead shot. This is a practice known as “shotting.” When done correctly, the float reacts quickly when a fish takes the bait. Lighted floats, such as the Thill Nite Brite, are perfect for night-biting summer-time crappies.
Anchor the boat over a likely-looking weedbed to precisely control presentation and avoid spooking fish. Don’t cast. Gently lay the float on the surface to drop the bait down into shallow pockets or trenches in the weeds when the sun is at its brightest. Fish begin moving to weed edges or to the shallows in low-light. Control bait depths with a bobber stop threaded on the line. The jig sinks until the float reaches the stop.
Let the bait rest briefly or lift and drop it to impart a jigging action to trigger strikes. Move if you don’t get a strike soon. If action stops, try adjusting the depth of the jig. Fish often move up or down in the water column over the course of the day while they follow the vertical movements of tiny one-celled animals called zooplankton, which they feed on.
Also, keep bait fresh on the hook.
Ice fishing tactics for summer panfish — pretty cool!
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