Winter is in the air. It is time to get out and put new line on your ice fishing rods. Make sure the mice have not eaten holes in your shanty and check your heaters to make sure they are still functioning. Sharpen your jigs and auger, find your ice scoop and sleds, and locate your buckets. Charge up the battery on your quad or snowmobile for later this winter when the snow is deep. Fix those broken tip ups and re-rig the ones from last winter when your hands were too cold out on the frozen iceberg to fix.
First ice fishing can be the best opportunity to catch a lot of nice bluegills on many of our local lakes and ponds. The top first ice lake in our area is Hamlin Lake. Most of the smaller private lakes will be safe enough to fish just before Upper Hamlin Lake and if you have access make sure you take advantage of this window of opportunity. The perch fishery from the lakes that enter into Lake Michigan will not be safe until around the end of January if not mid-February. (Such as Pentwater, Pere Marquette, Manistee, and Portage.)
The key ingredient to first ice panfish is weeds. Look for 8 to 12 feet of water with standing weeds. Drill until you find a school of fish. You may want to spend a bit more time in one spot when you do find early ice bluegills, the thinner ice makes them spook easier. Spikes, Waxworms, and Mousies tipped on jigs are a great way to go. Soft plastics on ice jigs normally seem to catch the larger fish, if they are willing to bite them on that particular day.
I like to watch my line while jigging, especially when jigging the rod while dropping the lure. Many times your line will just go slack, like your jig hit the bottom and you will not feel anything..set the hook and you will catch a lot more fish. Some days most of the bluegills I catch are caught this way “on the way down”. See you on the ice.