Ice fishing season is here! It’s almost a week earlier for me than first ice last year and, given the warm weather, I wasn’t sure there would be ice at all. Black Nugget Lake is my usual first ice destination. The lake is small enough that it’s quick to freeze over and the first ice trout fishing is usually pretty good. I set my alarm for 6:30 am Sunday but woke up ready to go 10 minutes before it went off. First ice is always exciting.
I packed my one man flip over shelter the night before so all I had to do was throw it in the truck and grab my morning coffee. I arrived at Black Nugget Lake as the sun rose and was relieved to find the whole lake frozen over. There were already footprints out on the ice and plenty of areas where people were fishing. Even with that knowledge, it’s good practice to check it yourself. Using a spud bar I opened a small hole just off shore to reveal 5” of solid ice, which is plenty to walk on. Back to the truck I went to get the sled and away we go.
When fishing for trout I like to stay mobile. Since trout are a cold water species they remain pretty active as the water temperatures drop. To keep up with them I am actively searching throughout the day and try to travel light. Today my gear list includes: a spud bar, my 7” Nero hand auger, two rods, a small box of hooks, bait, camera and flasher. To make finding fish even easier I bought two Jaw Jackers specifically for trout fishing. I think the Jaw Jacker is the perfect tool to narrow down trout feeding zones. I set them up over different areas, such as one deep and one shallow, or one on an inside turn and another on a drop off. If I find that one area is more productive I can drill more holes around that one and narrow down where the trout are pretty quickly.
A big advantage I have this year is utilizing all the mapping I’ve done on Autochart Live. When I look for structure I’ve always relied on the shoreline features, such as hills or flat areas, to give me some clues about what was below. That and drilling a lot of holes. Since I’ve fished this lake before I have a good idea where the productive areas are but the ability to walk over to a waypoint, drill a hole and be on top of the zone is pretty amazing.
One of my all time favourite trout lures is a very small green dropper. I have no idea where it’s from but it has always worked really well for ice fishing trout. Over the course of the last two years I’ve noticed a lot of daphnia in the trout lakes I frequent. I started to imitate them while fly fishing but never considered them as a food source in the winter . I can’t remember where I read it but I found out that daphnia may take on a green colour in the fall instead of their usual pink/nude color. My success with the green dropper may be due to this colour change in the trout’s forage. All of this information leads up to a major upgrade of my ice fishing lure of choice. I began tying my first flies in order to create what I thought was a better representation of a fall daphnia cluster but with the added benefit of a heavy metal tungsten bead. The result is awesome:
I’m not the only one who thinks this jig looks good either. The reaction from the trout really took me by surprise. During the majority of bites I observed the fish wouldn’t hesitate to take it. If the lure was stationary on the Jaw Jacker I would add a maggot or two but if I was actively working it I didn’t need to add anything. The jig body is made of Semperfly Straggle String. The Straggle String reflects so much light it almost looks like it glows. The head is a 5/32 slotted tungsten bead on a #12 scud hook but I also made #10 jigs for larger trout. The added weight of the tungsten is great for getting it back down to the fish quickly and increasing the amount of feedback from the lure. This hook is very basic, takes zero skill to tie and is surprisingly effective.