Winter’s return to the northern reaches of Lindy Land temporarily put the brakes on the early ice-out process this week, giving hardwater warriors in some areas additional opportunities to enjoy a little extra icy hot panfish action before season’s end.
If you’re among those with access to fishable ice, keep in mind some of winter’s best fishing can happen in the home stretch toward spring. The trick is knowing where to look.
In many Ice Belt lakes, weedbeds greening up in shallow water can draw big numbers of hungry sunfish and crappies. Depth varies by lake, but in general, salad bars sprouting in five to 10 or more feet of water can yield epic late-ice action. Isolated beds can be especially productive, since panfish often scatter in systems where weedbeds are everywhere.
Areas that produced fish earlier in the winter are also an option. While the ruins of an abandoned shanty town might seem like the last place to look for March panfish, they might surprise you. Rising oxygen levels and abundant forage can perk up fish activity in main-lake hotspots; of course, less noise and fishing pressure doesn’t hurt, either. This pattern can be really good in stained lakes where weedbeds are slow to sprout, but is worth checking in clear water, too.
If you fail to find panfish deep or shallow, try rest stops in between wintering areas and near-shore weedbeds. Potential sweet spots include isolated holes or over mid-depth breaks, humps and clambeds.
A variety of lures catch late-ice panfish, so bring a selection and test the waters until the fish tell you what’s hot at the moment. Top picks include horizontal hangers like the Ice Worm, banana bodies like the Slick Jig, and noisemakers like the Rattl’n Flyer Spoon and Perch Talker.