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On Ice, Jan. 2023

Quick blog post today; just want to give a little report on what I have been seeing on the ice.  Yes, ice fishing 2023 has been good, have been on the ice quite a bit so far this season.  Mostly I have been fishing small waters, pits and ponds.  There is no real reason for that, no real strategy.  It has just worked out that those are the waters I have fished the most.  Actually, my new year did start on ice fishing on small water.  That was way back around Thanksgiving and that small water was where we had safe ice at that time.  Since then, I have just been fishing mostly pits and ponds.

A goal every winter is big bluegills.  My son and I are always on a quest for sunfish in excess of 10 inches.  We have our favorite spots.  Fished one that has been good over the years and were pleasantly surprised that the bluegills were even bigger than we expected.

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Here is that fish “on the board”.

I caught one just about as large.  Mine looked like it had some redear blood in it.

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Have fished several small waters in addition to that one.  Numerous other bluegills have hit the ice, but none quite that large.  I caught a couple of nice black crappies in the process, but I am holding out for even bigger ones for pictures.

Of course you know there have been some green bass thrown in for fun.  This one has been the largest so far:

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You might have noticed the rod in my mouth in one photo.  That rod is one of the lightest that I use.  I would tell you that when I am using that rod and reel I am using finesse techniques.  On Nebraska ponds, and especially pits, we can have some incredibly clear water under the ice.  The bluegills can be very picky under those conditions.  When they are, I go finesse–light line (2-pound fluorocarbon) and small jigs.  Usually I will tip a jig with a wax worm or two, maybe plastics.

However, I have had a couple of afternoons recently when the fish were much more active.  When it is like that, forget the finesse stuff!  I tackle up to bigger baits and heavier lines.  Then, when a bass swims along, or some other “surprise”, I am more likely to put them on the ice too.

Speaking of active fish, again recently, I have been catching fish suspended well off the bottom.  The bass in the photo above came through about 3 feet below the ice!  Usually, I do not see fish that far off the bottom until late ice, but hey, I am not going to turn them down!

As a matter of fact, when they are suspended off the bottom they are usually mobile, agile and hostile!  Those fish are active and looking for something to eat.  I will always tell you when ice fishing you start your presentations just above bottom and then fish up from there.  However, in recent years I have spent more and more of my time jigging well off of the bottom.  I believe your bait is more visible up there, and the fish that are riding high or willing to come up are the fish you want.  Those fish are the ones that will bite, and they often are the larger fish too.

I mentioned that we were pleasantly surprised by the size of the bluegills at one of our favorite spots.  We have always caught nice bluegills and a few big redears there, but usually no 10-inchers.  What do you know?  Maybe releasing those big panfish really does pay off?!!!!!!

I dare you!

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About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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