I fish a couple of very clear lakes that have healthy, thick weed beds during the summer and have ample panfish populations. However, come winter, the weed beds vanish and so do the panfish. The lakes aren't huge but the basin areas are very expansive and deep, so I don't like my chances of finding them out there. Has anyone here had any success through the ice on lakes like this? What areas might panfish utilize if there are no weeds?
If no weeds, then what?
You guys need to watch you tube about this topic. Several good ones out!
Trouter - I've very rarely ever seen suspended fish on my Vexilar either. That's one of the reasons I've been so hesitant to start swiss cheesing the basins of these lakes - it seems like trying to find a needle in a haystack and very likely a fruitless proposition. But, maybe the reason I haven't found suspended fish is because I'm hesitant to look in areas they're likely to be suspended!
I seek out suspended fish. Sometimes they are in the deepest hole. Sometimes there on the deeper side of a step bank. Where maybe 15 yards away they'd be on bottom due to slope. Suspended fish almost always bite better. My best depth for finding suspended fish is 20-25 feet, in a spot it drops quickly from shallower water.
I seldom mark fish more than a foot off the bottom. I read about suspended fish, but I never, or almost never see such a thing on my vexilar.
If the lake bottoms out at 40 feet, I fish at around 15 feet. Right off the bottom.
Trouter - I assume you mean over the basin (in 40+ FOW) but fishing 15 feet down in the water column?
I exclusively fish lakes less than 50 acres that bottom out at 40 feet.
I focus on the first dropoff, which is around 25 feet for me.
The other spot is in a basin at around 15 feet.
Just my 2 cents.
I would guess both those lakes should have a basin bite, the lakes with weedline oriented bites year round tend to have super deep holes pushing 70+ feet around here. It definitely pays to get out with a buddy if you can! Something I don't do enough of but you can break down a basin in a fraction of the time with one guy drilling and one guy checking holes. By the time you're done drilling a straight line out to the basin, the other guy should have a good idea of what the crappie are doing so you can either double back and drill out a grid pattern in a particular area if they are stacked, or head a different direction if needed. I personally never do a grid pattern until I know the fish are stationed in the area. Probably more info than you care about but I have it down to 7 steps between holes to start out searching (gets me about 20-30 feet between holes, so 10 holes gets me roughly 75-100 yards out from my starting point) and after that I punch holes every 10' in a grid or cross pattern. 5 feet makes a big difference for those lethargic roamers mid-season, you either have to drop down right on top of them or get ahead of them.
Junkie - Thanks for the insight...very helpful!
One lake is very small (75 acres) but deep for its size (about 45 feet deep, and 90% of the lake is 35+ feet deep). The other is just under 300 acres, and max depth of 65 feet, with most of the lake 50+ feet deep. There isn't much for mid-lake structure on either lake, pretty much just deep, big basins.
I'll try your strategy of starting at the weedlines and finding what depth they're suspending over.
Agreed, drill out the basin in a grid pattern and start searching.
What size lakes are we talking about? Big, clear lakes (500+ acres) with huge, deep basins seem to maintain a weedline oriented bite throughout winter in my experience. Once the weeds die off, there are likely still some green or standing weeds somewhere, even just a small patch will keep the fish around. I really struggle on lakes like this, I don't open water fish enough to know the weedlines and they are tough to pinpoint in winter.
If these are smaller lakes with several basins or just one main basin, what I tend to do is start wherever those weeds once were or where you think they are, ideally where the deepest weedline is, and then start drilling holes out towards the basin. Sometimes my starting point is an inlet or outlet if I don't know where the weeds are. I find that once the fish leave the weedlines, they stage at various depths into the basin. Sometimes the deepest part, but more often than not its at a particular depth. Once I find them suspended at a certain depth, I'll stick to that depth and drill out the rim of the basin at that depth. If that doesn't produce consistent fish, what has worked well in the past for me is taking a look back at the contour map and seeing if there are any points or mid lake structure around the depth that you are marking suspended fish at (ie if you are marking 1 or 2 fish at 25 fow in a 40' basin, I try to find structure at that 25' depth). It seems like if the fish aren't staging around the rim of the basin, they will be working their way off the structure, and you're finding them suspended at that depth because that's where the structure was.
At the end of the day it is just a lot of holes and if they aren't in the weeds, they are somewhere in the basin. If your lakes are anything like the ones I fish, it seems like the crappie have hit their mid winter pattern and you are more likely going to find them staging around the rim rather than hugging the mid lake structure. If you find a spot with some consistent marks where you plan to hunker down, tip downs are nice for getting an idea of where the schools are moving in the basin. I try to stagger the depths of tip downs, it's amazing how far a school of crappie will travel in a short period of time.
Good luck! I'm interested to see what else works for people, or if anyone has any tips for those weedline oriented bites.