Approaching Lockjaw Bluegills

Category: article

 Jan 2nd, 2007 by OutdoorsFIRST 

Modified Jan 2nd, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Here he comes! rolls through my mind as the bluegill charges my jig. This gill was large, so big a penny would fit between his eyes. He is charging hard towards my jig and thoughts of explaining to the boss that there is another taxidermy bill in the mail flashes in my head. Then time stands still. Only a half inch lies between my teardrop jig, wax worm and a bluegill of Amazon proportion. Seconds seem as long as the days of summer and my patience grows thin. Then movement, life is shown from the bluegill and the decision is final, bluegill one, Justin nothing. As frustrated as a no armed fat kid below a doughnut tree I packed up my shack and traveled home to nurse my wounds. This is new to me, the agony of defeat and the worst was being there to watch it all happen. In central Wisconsin where I was born and raised bluegills were suicidal. The water was deep, dark and bluegills decision making skills were poor, but this is different. This is my new home in the Fox Valley of Wisconsin. The waters here are shallow and clear. When leaving a 4,000 population town to a 250,000 population community, there is a slight increase in angling pressure. This means that I have to relearn how to ice fish bluegills and even more so, learn how to sight fish. Pressured waters are different that non-pressured waters. The sounds of walking, ATVs, snowmobiles, trucks, augers, ice shacks, cracking ice from sun up to sun down are enough to shake the lateral line right off of a bluegill. These sounds push bluegills around the area they inhabit. When this flight mechanism is turned on, a bluegills defensive senses are going on high. Everything is dangerous. Because they are hungry they charge lures but because they are on alert, they instantly find something wrong with it. It would make sense to pick up and move away from the crowd. But what if you cant? Either your water is over run with anglers or the anglers are here because its the only place the fish are. It is a tough call and seems as though you are stuck either way. There is hope. Bluegills have to eat. These fish are daytime feeders. They charge your bait because they are hungry. There must be something you can do. These are all things that ran through my head and have assisted me in cracking the code of the lockjaw bluegills. Slow down In flowage situations it is common for me to use a run and gun style in my fishing. Drill holes and search with a locator until you find active fish and then continue moving to stay on them. This is a great technique and I enjoy the activity of moving all day. However in skinny, clear water this is recipe for disaster. Like I stated earlier, the bluegills spook easily. Making all of the noise of drilling and searching with a locator is too much. When I arrive to an area I believe is holding fish I drill only enough holes to find the bottom structure I like and then hunker down and play it like a bow hunter waiting for a big buck. This can be very difficult for those of us with A.D.D. so you must spend this time paying attention to the necessary details in your gear to apprehend these fish. Usually it takes awhile for things to settle down before the fish will return to the area where you drilled. For this reason I will often go and cut honey combs of holes about 100 feet apart from each other. It is important to set your stage for the day. This means that I must drill out a large area before I begin fishing. Too often anglers fish one spot without success and then fire up the drill driving fish to another area only to continue without success. Once I have located my favorite hole out of the dozen or so in each area, I mark it on the ice and come back to it eventually. I head to my first determined hole and hopefully by this time it has calmed a bit. Stay Hidden Once you have located fish you must begin a series of steps more or less trying not to screw it up. I made references to bow hunting earlier and it is no different here. When the moment of truth arrives, you must not screw it up. This is all before a bluegill decides whether or not she is interested in your presentation. It is very beneficial to be inside an ice shack, specifically a dark one made of black material to allow you to see best down into the water. In addition it helps camouflage your movements when a fish is below your hole. I make sure to pay a great amount of effort into not making unnecessary movements while fishing so as not to spook the gills. Like a whitetail deer, a bluegills eyes are mounted on top of its head, looking right at you. For this I even have gone as far as wearing dark clothes and making quite sure that I do not have anything flashy that could move like a watch or lanyard with clippers and files. While this covers the upper half of your body I feel it is important to remember your feet as well. Next time you are on glare ice listen to how far away you can hear a person walking with cleats as opposed to just boots. The difference is staggering. This is why I love to wear cleats that are easily removable and take them off when I plan on being in one spot for awhile or am hoping hole to hole. Lastly when speaking about keeping yourself hidden I go back to talking about bluegills eye location. These fish are constantly looking up and in front of them in search of food and protection against predators like you. It is important like stated before to limit the bluegills ability to see you and because of this necessity I down size my auger hole. When fishing in power driven 8 holes I have noticed the change from up above brings bluegills in more slowly and with higher alertness. When you downsize to a 6 or even 5 inch hole you truly limit a bluegills ability to see you or anything above ice for that matter making them more comfortable with approaching your lure. If your bluegills are so big that they wont fit through a 5 inch hole, a simple fix is to take a piece of carpet or foam (12 X 12) and cut a 5 inch hole in the middle and a cut from the hole to the edge of the mat. This allows you to see only what you need to and easily remove the mat to get your fish out of the hole. Lure Changes When fishing deep, dark water the technique was big and bright so the fish could identify the lure easily and second would sink fast to get down to fish before they moved on. In skinny water it is different. I learned this in my first experience fishing the Fox Valley with a veteran fishing guide who honestly, whooped my butt. I quickly adapted to his style of choosing lures and fishing them by first greatly downsizing. For one, it is ideal to take as much time to drop a jig 2 as it should 20. This means you must slow your fall rate down ten times! One way to do this is to greatly lighten up your jig. Jig weights of 1/124 oz or smaller are available from several manufactures. Another way to slow your fall rate is with water displacing materials. Soft plastics are a common way to slow down your fall rate. Another choice is live bait, preferably eurolarvae. My favorite way to slow down is to not use a regular ice jig at all, rather an ice fly. Ice fishing flies have constantly becoming more popular as we begin to understand winter feeding patterns for bluegills. There are several material combinations both synthetic and natural that perfectly match your forage basin. A good way to identify they type of insect the bluegills are eating is by banging the bottom with a depth finder or underwater camera. You will often find these insects swimming around and in some cases, attract bluegills to your hole. When going to an ice fishing fly verses traditional ice fishing jigs, you make a great change besides, size, weight and material. You also make the change of color. In shallow, clear situations like this, natural colors can be more affective the florescent colors we are use to. These ice flies come in a variety of black, olive and brown. There are also soft plastics in this color and also in red and purple. Color IS very important and the only way to key in on the proper color is to change and change until something works. If youre sitting at home right now because youre disgusted at the negative level of the bite, dont give up! Rethink your approach to shallow water bluegills and this may be the beginning the best ice fishing of your life! Justin Gaiche is a Wisconsin based hunting and fishing guide. He owns www.victoryoutdoors.net, an online hunting and fishing travel agency and is part of Gander Mtns Management Team in Green Bay.Justin Gaiche Gander Mtn – Fig Rig Rods – Hooksetters Fishing Services2616 West Eight StreetAppleton, Wisconsin 54914 www.hooksetters.biz

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