Small Waters Strategies – Ice Fishing location

Small Waters Strategies – Ice Fishing location

Jan 15, 2013

Tools and Tips for Finding First Ice Hot Spots

By Mike Pehanich

In “Find Your Ice Fishing Spots Now,” Scott Glorvigen explained how he uses the late open water period to dial in on “soft spots” where zooplankton and insects emerge from collected sediment. In Part II, he details how he locates such areas.

It’s hard to find a serious fisherman today who does not acknowledge the importance of “structure.”

But, in practice, we too often scud the surface of structure theory and miss important subtleties.

Chris Morgal of Northland Fishing Tackle found this bluegill feasting on grubs and mayflies in soft sediment.

“It has been pounded into our brains through positive experiences and all the talk about ‘structure’ that we have to look for dropoffs, rock piles, brush piles and stumps,” notes Scott Glorvigen, of Wired2Fish TV on NBC Sports. “But, for panfish, a lot of key areas are the soft spots where sediment gathers.”

The idea of hunting for mud and sediment may surprise some structure-savvy fishermen, but even the father of structure fishing, the late Buck Perry, emphasized the importance of bottom content and, particularly, transition areas where the bottom shifts from hard to soft, or one consistency to another. Such transition areas are particularly important on bowl-shaped lakes with few conspicuous structural elements.

But, in late season, “soft spots” become panfish magnets on waters everywhere. In winter, bluegill, sunfish, and often crappie, too, dine principally on tiny zooplankton and insects that emerge from the mud.

Mapping Tip #1: The eyes have it!

Don’t overlook the obvious.

Nature gives shoreline hints as to where to find prime areas, and, besides, “God gave us eyes and ears first,” notes Scott.

“We associate oak trees with rock and gravel,” he goes on. “You find pines on sandier soil. Cattails indicate a softer bottom. If you are looking for soft bottom, venture from there. You have to play ‘geologist’ a bit, but it works!”

If ice has settled in already, follow the footprints.

“People leave tracks in the snow when they are ice fishing,” he continues. “You can follow those tracks to see where they were fishing. And if there’s a permanent house out on the ice, it’s probably there for a reason.”

The primary forage of crappie can switch from minnows to zooplankton and insects depending on the forage base in the lake.

Mapping Tip #2

The fall/winter mapping period is a time to slow down and tend to details. Glorvigen zeroes in on high-percentage areas, covering them thoroughly, and studying his sonar signals carefully.

“I go back and fine tune areas, using my electronics, punching waypoints into my GPS so I can go back to key areas when the water gets hard,” he says. “If you are searching water with your electronics, punch in not just a general area but specific things! Link them to a specific waypoint.”

Electronics manufacturers pack an incredible amount of capability and value into their systems today, even in modestly priced units like the Lowrance Elite 4, a compact unit (MSRP $299) that enables him to add waypoints over a contour chip.

Don’t just register conspicuous structure, he warns. Dropoffs and grasslines (“weed edges”) are important. But more subtle signals from the sonar unit may have more significant meaning come first ice.

“What you really want to pay attention to is bottom density,” says Scott, whose hunt for prime panfish areas focuses on sediment basins that provide panfish with plenty of zooplankton and insects. “We always look at rock piles, timber, brush piles, stumps, etc., but what you really want to find those soft-pan to hard-pan areas. They are really pretty nondescript, not as easy to read. You will see the echo band on a color sonar like my Lowrance unit. You get a wider yellow band with hard bottom or a narrow band where the bottom is softer…or you may see that double echo with a hard bottom. Those areas are really important.”

Marty Glorvigen drills holes over an area that he and brother Scott had previously surveyed for structure and bottom content

Underwater cameras can add clarity to your vision of the underwater landscape.

“Cameras can be tremendous tools,” says Scott, who picks up his relentless quest for mapping detail when the ice arrives. “They can reinforce what you are looking at with your sonar.”

Mapping Tip #3: Homework — Study and Fine Tune Your Maps

His mapping efforts don’t end on the water or ice.

“Look at existing maps or the existing cards in your electronics and really study those maps,” he advises. “Look for those tiny inside turns and nuances you hadn’t noted before, such as where a spot goes from a sloping break to a sharp break adjacent to a hole or depression.”

These conspicuous breaks are spots where you’re likely to find fish “milling around,” he says, noting that he and twin brother Marty have often used underwater cameras to study fish around such breaks.

“We’ve watched them on a lot of lakes,” he explains. “It’s like the crappie are on a carousel. You find them. Then they are gone for 15 or 25 minutes. Then they show up again, moving back and forth. That’s just the nature of the species. It makes you wonder if they are moving like birds or moving in a pattern.”

Camera study has given him a better understanding of the role a specific structural element plays in fish behavior.

Study your lake carefully with electronics prior to first ice, making rifle-sight notes or GPS points for accurate reference.

“In areas with contours that are more vertical than horizontal, fish often wander around like cattle,” he explains. “That is their gathering point. Cattle move around, and then they hit the ‘fence.’ That’s where they bunch up. It’s the same deal when you have vertical structure adjacent to a hole on a small body of water. That’s a collection point, and they take advantage of the feeding opportunities. That’s why you find more fish concentrated tightly in these areas…

“Even on a small body of water, you can find the whole food chain there!”

Upgrading maps and chips with relevant detail has enduring benefit, not just for the coming ice season but for your open-water angling, too, for seasons to come.

Coming: “Breakthrough Lake Mapping Technology” and “Finesse Your Way to First Ice Panfish”



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