Grand Rapids Fishing Report: March 2016

What a winter? You never know what direction things are going to turn the next week. Light snow and moderate ice in February have been great for fishing if you are willing to endure some cold temps and do some drilling. Both gills and crappie have been spooky. Oxygen levels and water temps keep flip flopping like the weather this year. Large schools are rare, and typically moving fast. The guys and I have also moved to smaller baits to mimic the natural foods that are in the water.

Ice trolling has become the aggressive tactic of fisherman. Utilizing a hopper bucket or other form of fast deployment for your flasher and equipment have slimmed down what most anglers are dragging out on the ice. The ability to move and chase schools seems to be a requirement. I have been utilizing less poles and actually retying on the ice to help with mobility. Cordless drill on the auger in one hand and hopper bucket with your flasher in the other; we would drill and catch a couple fish, then try to jump ahead of the school to catch a few more. Try swinging your transducer as the school fades, it will help you pick a direction to move.

Plastic baits are doing well this year. Each lake and weather pattern seems to have its favorite color. I have started to do some tracking; you might want to as well. Doesn’t matter whether you use an app on your phone or a little spiral bound notebook, a fishing diary can help you analyze on days when you can’t get out what worked and what didn’t. Big ‘kudos’ to my salmon fishing buddies in Ludington for showing me how they tracked their catches all summer, it works with ice as well.

Many people ask about size. I follow the old rule, go smaller if they are not biting, and move larger to filter out the small ones. Don’t be afraid to try a jigging spoon or a shiner bait to see if the big guys are just lurking below waiting for something worth swimming up for. I had something so aggressive it broke a rod in half and left me spewing expletives about sea monsters.

March should bring in a bit more stable schooling as the days warm and the nights are still below freezing. Don’t be afraid to scale back your sled, leaving some of that extra equipment in the truck as the temps creep up, and the snow cover dwindles, you may have to drill a few more holes, so extra drill batteries are a better choice than a heavy shelter.

The best new norm in ice suits seems to be buoyancy. If you are going to shell out the cash for a suit to be mobile, you might as well get one that floats. Get your cleats back out, wet ice is slippery ice! Too many reports of accidents on the ice. Be smart and safe.