By: Russ Maddin
The weather finally made the turn, and it looks like most of the areas mid-sized lakes will have safe ice or close to it by January. Look for first ice pan fish in the 9′ to 16′ around remnant weeds or along drop-offs or in shallower lakes find the weeds, and you will find fish. The first-ice bite can be red hot for crappies and gills. Limits can be achieved in short order if the angler drills the right well. I love the plastics this time of year since the action is fast and it saves re-baiting. Some of the new products from Eurotackle, Berkeley, and BY-baits as well as others can all be tipped on your favorite jigs and can add size to your catch, and as a bonus, they also keep the bait thieves off.
Early season, tip-up fishing can be great for pike and walleye. I recommend mixing baits both live and dead and vary the depths. 10′-20′ areas off structure are great places to start on most lakes. First ice it’s one of the greatest moments of the year. Taking that first step on hard-water and seeing that pan fish color push through the hole is something that we look forward to all year. Enjoy first ice, be a safe and courteous angler, and always “stay on top.”