Everyone has their favorite species to target through the ice. While I love chasing a variety of species, nothing compares to catching big bluegills. Trophy bluegills are becoming increasingly rare and finding them can prove to be quite challenging. In this article, I will take you through my tools, gear, and techniques to find and catch these elusive giants.
Before I step h3
Before I step foot onto the ice, I conduct research to come up with a plan of attack. Beginning my search for different lakes to check out, I utilize the Navionics mobile application to allow me to see the maps of potential lakes. After finding a lake of interest, I then search for the lake in the Minnesota DNR Lake Finder application, located on the Minnesota DNR’s website. This application allows you to look at fish samples the DNR has surveyed throughout different years using multiple survey techniques. When looking at a lake’s survey, I’m looking for a few key things:
- A good number of bluegills in the 8-9 inch range
- Lakes that have fish sampled between 10-11 inches
- Fertile lakes (good water chemistry, good spawning ground and abundant forage)
Fertility is important in lakes because it allows for faster growth rates, creating a recipe for fish to grow above average lengths.
Before I step h4
Once I’ve found a lake with good potential, it’s time to hit the ice! To determine where fish might be located, I use lake maps to locate areas with specific depths and break points. From my experience during early ice, I have found big bluegills in bays that, at the deepest point, are around 15-20 feet. The bay should have substantial amounts of aquatic vegetation providing rich oxygen content to keep fish located in those areas. During mid-winter, I head towards deeper basins. To pinpoint where fish are located, I drill a pattern of holes from the 15ft depth out to the deepest point.
While drilling the holes, I use electronics to determine which depths and areas fish are located. When a fish is marked on my flasher, I drop down using 13 Fishing’s Widow Maker paired with the FreeFall reel. The FreeFall allows me to quickly and conveniently drop down to fish with just the pull of the reel’s trigger. I get down as quickly as possible by using a tungsten jig, which is heavier than traditional lead with a smaller profile. I like a small spoon, such as a forage minnow spoon tipped with a wax worm. If they are not as active, use a small jig approach. By throwing different baits tied to several rods, I find what interests them. Varying presentations to entice big bluegills, which tend to be finicky, are done on 4-pound test. Small jig strokes to get their attention, and then very small movements to get them to bite.
As soon as a fish has met my jig, 13 Fishing’s Widow Maker with the PC2 flat tip blank allows me to see a negative or positive bite, even with the most finicky fish.
With a little bend in the rod from the weight of the jig, the rod tip will go up when a fish “up hits” the bait. This negative bite is easily detected with the Widow Maker with a straight upward movement.Otherwise a positive bite occurs when the rod tip goes down upon a strike.
I divert my attention from the flasher to the tip of the rod just as the fish meets the jig.
After pulling that fish up, I drill a sequence of holes near the hole that just produced the first big bluegill. I stay mobile by dropping my transducer into different holes until I mark a fish in a hole. To preserve the great fisheries, I’m sure to always practice selective harvest so future generations can enjoy this beautiful fish for generations to come.
I hope these tips help you make your own luck out on the ice!
For other tips, videos, and educational tutorials on ice fishing in the midwest visit https://www.youtube.com/user/lakesareaoutdoors
Lakes Area Outdoors