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Ice Fishing for Keepers

By Dave Duwe - December 1, 2009
For many years, my father and I were plagued with catching only 5 to 6 inch bluegills while ice fishing in the shallow weed flats. My how things have changed, with Vexilars and other fish locators, 5-6 inch bluegills are a thing of the past. The ability to see underneath the ice opened up the deep water structure on many local lakes. With fish locators, ice fishermen can now work the deep water locations where the larger bluegills reside.

When I say deep water locations, I'm referring to are anywhere from 18-30 ft. The deep water bluegill bite relies on clear water, enabling weeds to grow to depths of 20-27 ft. Some of the best deep water bluegill lakes in SE Wisconsin are Little Cedar Lake in Washington County, Pleasant Lake in Walworth County and Beaver Lake in Waukesha County.

Some of the equipment needed for deep water bluegills is of course, a good fish locator; I prefer the Vexilar FL12. A pole with a good spring bobber spooled with 2 lb test. If I was fishing shallower water, I would use 1 lb test, but due to the depth, I like a little heavier line. Because the water is so clear, you will not get many bites if you go over 2 lb test. With the depth of water, you will use a small ice jig with a micro split shot, just to help the bait go down faster. When it comes to ice jigs, I like the Lindy Fat Boy or the Genz worm, orange or chartreuse work the best for me. I prefer using spikes or wax worms depending on the size of the jig, I will use one or two on the hook. When jigging, you need to occasionally hit the bait off the bottom of the lake; this makes the bait more interesting to the fish by stirring up the bottom.

The deep water fish are roaming; they aren't concentrated in one spot for long because of the lack of structure. One needs to keep moving around, hole hopping if you will, to find the aggressive fish. Most often the fish are tight to the bottom and you won't see them on your locator until the jig gets near them. Another benefit of deep water fishing is the multiple species that you can catch. Not only do the bluegills use the main lake basin, but you can also find perch, white bass and an occasional largemouth bass. To get started, I begin on a weedline in 12 ft of water and gradually drill holes and go deeper finding the larger active fish. Most of the time, the fish are off any kind of weed in 20-25 ft of water.

We often look back on the good old day's ice fishing with dad and have fond memories. Those memories will always be of good times. Hopefully, our children will look back on ice fishing and remember the time we spent together, but will also remember that the fish caught were impressive as well.

Author Dave Duwe
Dave Duwe
Full-time guide Dave Duwe owns and operates Dave Duwe's Guide Service, featuring the lakes of Walworth County, WI. Dave has been guiding for over 20 years and is one of Southeastern Wisconsin's best multi-species anglers. Dave is an accomplished outdoor writer and seminar speaker. He is a member of the Great Lakes Outdoor Writers Association and Walworth County Visitor Bureau. Sponsors include: Lund Boats(Jerry's Sport Service Inc.), Mercury Marine, Arkie Jigs, and Vexilar Marine Electronics, a pro-staff member of Minn-Kota trolling motors,Hummingbird graphs, Cannon downriggers, Lindy, Pure Fishing and All Terrain Tackle. For more information, please check out Dave's website .
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