Oatmeal "Frosting" Can Trigger Mid-Winter Bite

By Ted Peck - February 1, 2012
Mother Nature has made little ice this past week but those waters which wear winter lids haven't lost ice since the Packer's season melted away.

Days are getting longer. Come Superbowl Sunday we will be playing the back nine of winter-as least from a fish activity perspective.

On those lakes with 'safe' ice fish are in mid-winter pattern. Essentially this means active biting at dawn, dusk and when weather is passing through. At other times the fish may swim up and lick the frosting but are not eager to eat the cake.

A small amount of oatmeal laced with Berkley Gulp can trigger a brief feeding frenzy as it waffles down through the water column below your hole. This invasion will cloud the screen on your depth finder. But it might just make the spring bobber dance.

Another successful mid-winter ploy is trying to trigger fish into striking. With metabolism in slo-mo fish don't eat much or often. But they can sometimes be teased into smacking a small lure dancing seductively overhead.

Many winter anglers make the mistake of fishing too close to the bottom when fish are hugging the bottom. A bait six inches or even a foot overhead is more intimidating than inviting.

If electronics confirm your hole is directly over fish you might try working the hook two-or even five-feet above them. Winter fish will often move up in the water column to investigate this activity.

Most times they will then ghost back down to the bottom. I call this activity "frosting licking."

The key to triggering a strike when fish are in a frosting licking attitude is to pull the lure another six inches or foot away from them and animate the lure with even more jigging action.

If fish are motivated to move several feet vertically in the water column you already have their interest. Triggering a strike may take a change in jigging pattern or trying a different lure with an entirely different action.

Sometimes fish want lures in a horizontal orientation. Sometimes they are more interested with a bait designed to hang vertically. When fish are down there but don't want to come off the bottom to even lick frosting you have a good inkling on what lure orientation is likely to put more fish on the ice on any given day.

The first ingredient in any winter fish catching equation requires being over fish. At day's end the heaviest buckets go home with folks who drill holes until they find fish then camp over the holes until the fish decide to bite.

It makes no sense to leave fish to go find fish. If fish aren't active under one hole they won't be active under holes tapped 300 yards away-especially if this nomadic prospecting doesn't reveal the electronic signatures of fish on the locator.

Grinding holes just a few feet above fish which are pensive to begin with can quickly stymie activity in fish which are marginally interested in the first place. But you have to poke a hole to get down to business.

The smartest strategy is to drill several holes then put the drill away. Tapping three holes about 10 feet apart in a triangle pattern is an effective way to cover the ice when you're prospecting for fish.

If you happen to land over a pod of semi-aggressive fish consider that firing up the ice drill again can send the bite into frosting-licking mode again or even cause the fish to slide away.

Saavy bucketeers can hardly wait until Superbowl Sunday. Most folks from the Land of Cheese could care less if the Gnats or the Pats take home the Lombardi trophy.

One more week-maybe two-and extended daylight will goad those scaly devils into biting with a little more enthusiasm. Until then a little oatmeal might be a worthwhile weapon to tempt critters who just want to lick the frosting.

Author Ted Peck
Ted Peck
Cap'n Ted Peck has over 30 yrs. guiding experience, specializing in multi-species fishing on Pool 9-10 of the Mississippi from Genoa, Wi. to Prairie du Chien. Cap'n Ted is a pro staffer for Lund, Northland Tackle, MinnKota, Bill Lewis Lures, Evinrude, Uncle Josh, HT Enterprises and Custom Jigs & Spins. When not guiding Cap'n Ted communicates the outdoors experience via newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and through seminars. This work has taken him all over the midwest, Canada and beyond... but he always returns to the upper Mississippi which he considers the most diverse fishery in North America. Click here for more info on Ted's guide service. Cap'n Ted's new book Mississippi Musings with the Old Guide is a personal account of his long career as a professional fishing guide on Old Man River.