There's been a lot of fun stuff going on lately, including the release of a big secret I've been keeping for awhile. Amanda and I are expecting baby Elliott to join the family this summer! This sure is an exciting time for us, summer will be quite different than ever before. I was very relieved this year when the D&R schedule came out and had all local events on it. I'm crossing my fingers baby Elliott will hold out until their real due date of July 12th so I can get through the Grand River tournament on the 8th. There is no question this will be a year to remember.
In the meantime, the ice fishing season has abruptly ended much too soon. It's sort of crazy to think I had all my shanties, rods, and gear put away by mid February. That last weekend of ice fishing was pretty spectacular though. We had found a big school of bluegills, sunfish, and perch all mixed together on Muskegon Lake. It was a guaranteed panfish limit with a lot of bonus perch. On my best day I walked off with 30 bonus perch, all was great until I had to clean them all. I also got a couple trips in with a few people who haven't ice fished much this year. Amanda hasn't made many trips this year because the ice has been so touch and go all season, but solid ice and warm temps were the perfect opportunity for her to get out one last time. She made quick work of them with a Clam Outdoors half ant drop jig. It's always interesting to see how feisty she gets when she is really catching them. She's got no mercy and really starts getting competitive...it's cute. It even trickled down to the freezer bag in which says "Amanda caught 80 percent", even though we each caught our 25 panfish. Maybe she caught more perch, I don't know. I do know we had a blast, especially because next year she probably won't have a chance to hit the ice.
I also got a chance to take my bud Trevor out to catch his first fish ever ice fishing. Trevor has done a lot bass fishing, but never has caught them through the ice before. We went back to the same area Amanda and I had been fishing. Although it was a vastly different day, it was even better. The day before Amanda and I had to move around within the area to really catch them. Today I dropped the Humminbird ICE 45 on one spot and we set up shop. It took Trevor about 3 seconds to catch on to ice fishing and he was having a blast. We had a big school underneath us the whole time, so we also deployed the FishSens SondeCAM to see exactly what was going on. It also helped us avoid the small ones, since it seemed a lot more of those were in the area today. By the end of the morning we caught a pile of fish and Trevor had caught both his biggest perch and sunfish ever. It's always fun to see how excited people get who have never really crushed them ice fishing before. Drop down, catch fish, and repeat, it never gets old for me!
One thing I really leaned on ice fishing this year was a vertical style jig. Clam Maggot drop, and Half Ant Drops really caught a ton of fish. They don't seem to spin as bad as the horizontal size jigs, so sometimes I think they help to catch fish a little faster. There also wasn't any certain color that was really hot, I caught hundreds of fish on a Maggot jig that all the paint was chewed off of. It was primer white with some silver spots, where the primer had been chewed off. The biggest thing with ice fishing is to be around a lot of fish, if you make that happen you'll get them.
I also want to give a big shout out to Clam Outdoors for all the support this year. It's obvious why they are the leader in ice fishing. They've got products for everything and they work great! One thing I really was happy to have this year were some of the Clam safety type products. The Ice Armor Lift Suit with floatation, ice picks for wearing around your neck, and a throw rope that is neatly kept and easily accessible. While we were cautious all season, these gave me the extra piece of mind when the ice wasn't so great. I also want to highlight a rod/reel combo I used a ton this year. Ice conditions kept us in shallow water a lot. Most of my winter was spent in 10 feet of water or less and I had opportunities to sight fish when the water was clear enough, which kept a 20" Dave Genz Ice Spooler combo in my hand a lot of days. It helped me to hover right above the hole when I could see them. I also used it with the SondeCAM and ICE 45 a lot since that large spool kept my jig from spinning. I caught bass up to 3.5lbs on it with 2lb test and being able to quickly back reel was really helpful in those situations. If you do any sight fishing, I highly recommend you pick that combo up for next season! Just a heads up as well, ClearH2O Tackle is dealing on all of their remaining ice fishing gear so if you need something now is the time to give them a shout and make a deal.
I know there has been all this talk about ice fishing, but we have sort of switched gears. It wasn't really planned but that switch flipped when I had three bass on three consecutive casts. I'm going to be honest, that did something weird to me. I was just having fun fishing, until that happened, but I could smell blood in the water after that. Check out my Facebook page for a little video insight into what was working. It definitely isn't something you are going to want to largemouth fish with once tournaments come around (unless you want to weigh in less than 10lbs) but it is definitely worth checking out this time of year and I think I'll keep my mind open with it for smallmouths.
Other than prepping things for the upcoming season everything else has been pretty quiet, although there has been a lot more work than expected with the new boat coming. It is killing me not having one with this early spring. I was hoping we would still be ice fishing in April this year! I do however have a new Reel n Smoke recipe out (complete with a Michigan beer pairing) and if you like smoked fish you are going to want to check this one out!
That's all I've got for now, see you on the water!