Mother nature has caught a case of the crazy this winter. There's been just enough polar blasts to keep it interesting, and keep me on top of the ice, but then followed by a bunch of days in a row with above freezing temps and the worst of all...RAIN. Not to mention tugboats and shipping traffic breaking up boat lanes in Muskegon Lake. Needless to say it has been a challenge on the bigger, deeper, waters.
It has also involved a lot of tip toeing around on the ice, especially that first trip to Muskegon Lake. The pressure crack that happened when we were out there made me jump out of my shanty so fast. That was the first time I had ever felt ice move like that, we had to have shifted at least a foot. The next couple trips had much better ice, but the temps and the sun kept things interesting. I don't care how much time I've spent on the ice, or how I know the ice is only popping because it is making ice, watching a crack develop through the hole you are drilling, or hearing/watching it pop with every step, always keeps you on your toes. Having some extra safety equipment from Clam Outdoors helps put my mind at ease, that not only could I get myself out but I could help a fellow fisherman. The floating lift suit, ice picks around my neck, and throw rope are definitely must haves, especially on big water.
The perch fishing has been interesting to say the least. The first day I got on some giants, even though I couldn't move around or get to the good spots. There was also a bunch of smerch (small perch) around, but it seemed like schools of good ones would come through. It is fun when you can't keep the rods in the water on a school of big ones! After that trip it got warm and the tugs went through, the ice was all broken up in that area and we had to expand. For two days we punched holes out there trying to find a school of big ones, but smerch was the name of the game. I've never seen it where there are just fish everywhere in Muskegon Lake. There were a couple areas you could pick through the smerch and catch some good ones, but I'd rather spend my time drilling looking for that special spot. We covered a huge chunk of the lake and it's safe to say they aren't there. I'm really hoping we get some more ice so I can check out the other half of Muskegon Lake, but it's going to be unsafe for the foreseeable future.
If we do get some ice again and you are planning on coming to target some deepwater Lake Michigan perch, you are going to want to have some big tungsten jigs and some Clam Speed Spoons (death on perch everywhere). Tip them with spikes, waxworms, minnows (or just minnow heads), or wigglers. It all depends on the day what they will want, but some variation of those baits usually gets it done.
It will be interesting to see what happens if we can get back out there. Obviously, there is a really strong couple year classes of perch on the smaller spectrum. There is also a year class of true Jumbos out there, but finding the in between ones, the 8,9 and 10 inch fish, has been a challenge. It could be that those were just really weak year classes of fish. If this year happens to be a bust at least the next couple could be really good. It might be the year I attempt to target walleyes.
We did use a couple of those questionable days to really dial the bluegills and some resident perch in at Snug Harbor on Muskegon Lake (I also caught my first bass of 2017 a 3.5lber on 2lb test). Bring a shanty if you go there, you can sight fish! The lack of ice on the big water has at least caused us to go out and figure out some new water, even though we are always sharing it with 100 of our closest friends. I really hate that about early ice spots in west Michigan, most of the time you don't have to fish in the crowd to be on them though.
I've also been thinking quite a bit about bass fishing and the new boat is getting closer to being a reality. The boat is going to be decked out with Minn Kota and Humminbird accessories. As it gets closer I will fill everyone in on exactly what bells and whistles it will have on it though. One thing is for sure, it looks like I will have to put the new SOLIX series from Humminbird on it. It was just released this week, so we are still learning about it, but it's going to be some amazing technology especially with the MEGA Imaging. But one of the coolest things that Humminbird has come out with is Autochart Live's ability to map vegetation and bottom hardness. Being able to actually map those hard spots is going to be HUGE! Since I will be upgrading this year, I am going to be selling the ONIX8ci SI units I currently have (they are updating Autochart Live to include the bottom hardness feature). If anyone is interested please contact me.
I think all of the important tournament schedules are out as well. Shaun and I will be fishing the D&R tournament series again and filling weekends in with whatever else happens to be available. Seems to be a couple good options out there for open weekends this year.
The new rig will also be getting a wrap on it this year, which is going to be an interesting process, but should turn some heads when we get it finalized. Right now it is in the early design process but it'll be a big change to the fishing rig for 2017 for sure.
That's about all I've got for now. See you on the ice...or maybe the open water if this keeps up.