By Mike Frisch
When writing about open-water fishing, I often refer to the “fish-catching equation” of finding fish and then finding the best presentation to catch as many as possible. One our TV shows we often refer to this as L2: location plus lure. A winter outing awhile back where jumbo perch were the target brought to mind a simple winter fishing equation: a sonar plus a jigging spoon equals fish!
This trip included three hours of drilling holes, fishing in each for a few minutes, and then moving looking for fish. Eventually my partners and I located a school of perch. These fish would appear on sonar, a few could be caught in short order, and then no action until the next small “pack” appeared. Interestingly, we were able to use an aggressive jigging approach to “call in” packs of fish minimizing our time between bites. Here’s what we did.
We started using a variety of jigging lures trying to locate fish. Eventually we settled on the Jointed Pinhead Pro. This spoon has a joint in the middle for extra action and movement. It creates a unique combination of flash, sound, and vibration in the water. More subtle baits slither and flutter through the water, this spoon’s action, sound, and vibration are more aggressive. This day, that aggression was what the fish wanted.
We baited our spoons with minnow heads or wax worms, dropped them near bottom, and aggressively worked them. When fish appeared on the sonar, we slowed up and simply held the spoon above the fish and waited. Invariably, one would swim up and inhale it and the fight was on. The next order of business was landing the fish and quickly returning the bait near bottom. Often, we would land two or three fish in short order.
When the action slowed, we would go back to aggressive jigging, with one twist. We discovered that we could minimize our time between flurries by letting the spoon crash into the bottom occasionally. This crashing created disturbance on bottom to call in fish from a distance. When they appeared, we simply raised our jigs again, slowed the jigging action, and held on!
On this day we used 1/16-ounce spoons in a perch holo color pattern. As daylight gave way to evening, we switched to the chartreuse lime glow pattern. Often using a glow lure late in the day will put a few extra fish on the ice and this day was no exception.
Another important part of our successes was the use of sonar. Knowing when fish were in the area to slow our jigging strokes and elevate the bait was critical. And, when no fish were around, we knew it was time to go back to aggressive jigging, with occasional bottom crashes mixed in. Not only does sonar increase success, but it adds to the fishing fun as well. The FLX-28 unit I use is loaded with features and does a great job of showing bottom, my bait, and fish allowing me to call in and trigger fish. Plus, it comes in a soft-sided carrying case which protects the unit when hauled around in my truck or in my portable fishing shelter.
Moving from spot to spot, using aggressive jigging, and closely monitoring our sonar units put several dozen perch on the ice this day. Though the mood of the fish will vary, staying on the move, experimenting with lures and ways to fish them, and using sonar will lead to winter success on your trips as well. In fact, a jigging spoon plus a sonar unit equals fish is one equation anglers across the North Country can use to increase their successes this winter. Good luck on the ice and, as always, remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure!