Monday, March 10, 2014

2014 ice fishing so far

It's been a great ice season so far, with the main target being the invasive white perch (Morone Americana)  This invasive species has been thought to gain access to Champlain through the Hudson River via the Champlain Canal.  Ever since, their numbers have grown exponentially.  They seem to thrive regardless of condition, and are very prolific spawners.  They love to eat walleye eggs during the Spring spawn, which is a big reason they are so hated.  Another big reason is they are yet another predator to our declining population of baitfish - the rainbow smelt.  Pretty much everything about white perch are hated - besides the meat.  Personally, I do not care for most fish besides perch and panfish.  So to find out these fish are not bad tasting at all (similar to yellow perch) I've been more than happy targeting them, and usually finding them in HUGE schools.

Though these fish have the name, "perch"  They are not a member of the perch family, but rather the bass.  They share the same habitat and resources as our native yellow perch however.  Due to them being on average, bigger and MUCH more aggressive than yellow perch, they seem to be thriving in our Lake.  Having caught so many, it is astounding to see how many of these invasive species can come out of just ONE hole through the ice, in 15-40 feet of water.  I have personally had many days where I've filled more than 2 5-gal buckets only fishing 3-4 holes.  The fact that these fish can be caught on a plethora of different baits, even at different depths, just goes to show how voracious they are.  Unlike yellows that seem to like to hug the bottom, I've caught these fish anywhere in the water column, even 10 feet below the ice in over 40 feet of water.  Bibets, spikes, spoons, minnows....they will eat almost anything through the ice, and for the most part hit very aggressively. Couple that with the fact they they seem to fight harder than yellow perch of equal size, they are actually very fun to target through the ice.  Almost every time I have been out targeting them, I've gotten over a 5-gal bucket of them, with 75% of the trips yielding 2-3 buckets!

It is scary to think how many of these invasive fish are actually in our Lake if I've caught this many through the ice in just one general area of the Lake.  4-5 years back, before knowing much about these fish, I was fishing the Winooski river in early June, hoping for anything really.  After catching the usual bass and suckers, I started to catch white perch.  A few hours later, I had probably caught 150 lbs of them.  My mind was just blown at how many of them were in one spot in this 9-mile stretch of river.  I know now that they were probably gorging themselves on walleye eggs.  In any case, I have shown a few fishing buddies of mine where to catch them, and they've had their fair share of white perch as well.  I'd like to think we're doing the Lake a favor by taking out hundreds of pounds of these fish every weekend.  After fishing with a friend who used a vexilar (a type of fish finder)  I noticed how much easier it made finding these fish...I know what my first purchase for next years ice season will be!

Here are just a few pictures of some of the action that's been had this year through the ice.

Next to an 11' filet knife, a fat 13" white.

The big fish of the day, a white that was almost 14"!

Made the mistake of only bringing one bucket.

Two of the bigger fish of the day, both 13"

After a fun day of catching a combined 5 buckets of fish between a friend and I, I thought this pose would be good.  Swimming in white perch!  You can't tell by the picture, but the perch in my right hand was massive.  I forgot to get a weight, but it was 14" and probably close to, if not 2 lbs. 

My latest adventure.  This was the just the beginning of our piles of white perch. Notice the third hole to the left - my friends fish finder was in it.  We were fishing 25 feet of water, and there were so many fish from bottom up to about 10 feet that we thought bottom was just 10 feet below the ice.  It wasn't until we looked at the "depth" on the fish finder until we realized that the fish were in there so heavy, it wasn't bottom we were seeing, it was the TOP of the school of fish.  Amazing!

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