By mid to late winter more and more bluegills and crappies show up in deeper water and can make for some easy pickins. They’re easy because they show up on good electronics and can usually be caught, as long you’ve got “right stuff.”
Deeper water depends on what type of lake your fishing and can be as deep as 20 to 30 feet and as shallow as 10 or less. There are good gill lakes here in the Midwest that really don’t have much for deep water and 10 feet maybe as deep as it gets. Fish will move to the deepest water rather quickly and be there for most of the winter. They’re also the easiest to nail down because the fish only have so many options and you don’t have to cover that much water or drill that many holes to get on ‘em.
They’re also the ones that are most likely to be in peril this year with arrival of early ice and plenty of snow which shuts off sunlight and can kill a lake due to a lack of oxygen. The 20- to 30-footers could also be the deepest water available and might mean right out in the middle of the lake.
In either case finding fish is a matter of drilling some holes and getting a bait in front of a few them and seeing what will bite. It also means using power augers and being mobile. After cutting a hole you can drop a tiny jig like a Northland Mooska tipped with a couple of eurolarvae and watch it on a depth finder like the Humminbird 597ci and soon see if there are any fish around. The Mooska jig is small in size but drops quickly because it’s made out of tungsten which is heavier than lead and produces more feel.
Fish will at least come in for a look if they are there. If you don’t see fish in 10 minutes or so it might be time to move on. You may not have to move that far though and will depend on how much water you’re planning on trying to cover. If you pick up a fish or two you’ll probably want to drill some more holes in the same area. Typically what you find is little packs of gills and crappies that move in and you can maybe pick off one or two before they move out again. You can sit and wait for more to show or you can do some hole hopping which usually translates to more fish on the ice. See you on the ice.
Ron Anlauf is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.