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Ice Fishing Finding Fish

Bluegill | Crappie | Perch | Largemouth Bass | Northerns | Walleye | Trout


Probably the most sought-after and most frequently taken fish in the winter, bluegill seem made for ice fishing. They're easily caught, and they make a tasty platterful when the fishing's done. Bluegill are widely distributed across the state, living in farm ponds, sandpits, and most other small and medium-size lakes and impoundments. Another point in the bluegill's favor is the civilized schedule it keeps. There is no need for a pre-dawn arrival at the lake, nor is it necessary to brave frigid temperatures and inconvenience at night. Bluegill usually begin feeding an hour or two after sunrise and consistently bite best at midday. There is sometimes a feeding spree at dusk, but it's over soon enough to allow the fisherman to pack his gear and get off the lake before dark. The guiding principle of winter bluegill fishing is "think small." The bluegill's food preferences, its dainty winter appetite and its rather small mouth all dictate the use of small baits and hooks. In Nebraska, the most popular lure is a teardrop on a No. 8 or No. 10 hook and a grub, such as a waxworm or mousee. Bluegill often nibble or peck at a bait or just pick it up without moving off, so it is difficult to detect them or know when to set the hook. Thus, a tiny bobber that barely supports the bait or a flimsy wire "spring bobber" attached to the rod is useful. Monofilament line in the two- to four-pound-test range is appropriate.

Bluegill usually stay near the lake bottom in five to 15 feet of water unless they are in brush or other submerged cover. Then they might be found suspended somewhere between the bottom and the ice. When no cover is present the angler should experiment with various teardrop colors before deciding to move. In cover, try varying the depth at which you fish. In either case, though, it's best to abandon a spot if it doesn't pay off in 15 minutes or so. Sometimes bluegill will slam a teardrop-and-waxwork rig as it hangs motionless beneath the bobber, but at other times they demand a bit of action before they bite. Often a series of short, gentle twitches of the rod tip will be all it takes to turn a spot that at first looks like a dud into a real producer.

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