I have recently been suffering from a bit of writer’s block, so I thought I would throw it to Twitter to see if people had some questions they would like answered. The responses varied greatly from serious/insightful, to downright ludicrous. I will try to do my best to answer them to the best of my abilities, hopefully you find some information that you can use on the water, as well as a little humor. Do you have a question you would like answered? Ridiculous or not, send it to me via Twitter: @dropshotbob
As the ice leaves the lakes there are varying stages of weeds that fish will prefer. Some of this has to do with time of their emergence and some has to do with the location of the aquatic vegetation. Right after ice out, almost any green weeds you find will have fish near them. Two of my all-time favorites are Coontail and Curly-Leaf Pondweed, because of how quickly they green up in the spring, often when there is still ice on the lake. Curly-leaf pondweed is an invasive species, however it has been around so long, few people realize it anymore.
Later in the spring, panfish will begin to hang around areas that have lilypads starting to bud up from the bottom, but this is more due to that fact that lilypads grow in dark-bottomed areas that will warm up faster than the rest of the lake. During the spawn, crappies will hang around in hard-stemmed bulrush provided it is at the correct depth.
Curly Leaf Pondweed
From Blues and Baseball: Gummy worms vs real worms, thoughts?
Umm? Ok, I will bite. I have never been a huge fan of nightcrawlers as bait. Too messy, their guts get everywhere, and while I will use them if I need to, it isn’t very often that you can’t catch panfish with artificials. While I am sure I have tried gummy worms or those haribo bears at some point in time (I like to tinker), have you ever had a wet one in your hands? One drop of water and they turn into something so slimy an eelpout would be proud.
When I was younger, I begged my parents for one of those Creepy Crawler kits for years until they finally caved one year at Christmas. While most little boys wanted to make things to freak out their sisters or kids at school, I was busy trying different colors and shapes to make fish bite. Wish I could find another one of those machines today and change the molds so I could pour some new plastics for the tackle box. Side note: sadly they never got me my own Easy-Bake Oven, so I had to settle for sharing my sister’s.
From Aaron: Preferred jig and bait combo for early season panfish? Or just trying to match the insects/baitfish?
Bait? We don’t need no stinkin’ bait! Truth be told, I can’t remember the last time I purchased bait for panfish. If you are on spring panfish, you shouldn’t need anything more than a handful of different bobber styles (more on that in a moment), some assorted jigs (hair and plain), and some plastics. There are a variety of plastics available on the market today. My personal favorite is the Lindy Watsit Grub, aptly named because no one really knows what it is supposed to look like. While it looks like something that would come out of someone’s Creepy Crawler set after a half dozen beers, these plastics are just plain crappie suicide! Jig size is generally dependent on how deep you are fishing, but I rarely use larger than a 1/32nd ounce in the spring time.
As for bobbers, there are a few styles you are going to want to have with you on the water. One of the most versatile is your average round foam float. These are available in both weighted and unweighted. I like these for when the fish are shallow and aggressive. Cast it out, and pop it back to the boat. The gurgling and popping sound the bobber makes dragging through the water, calls attention to your bait for fish that are roaming. When fish are little more skittish, I like to use a very thin pencil style bobber with a spring. This bobber won’t call attention to your offering, but it won’t spook fish that are in shallow, clear water. The third option is a slip bobber. I go to this option when after cold front when panfish push back out to that first break due to fronts coming through in the spring. My favorite is the Wobble Bobber, as every little ripple in the water makes your bait dance around.
From E. Rolf: What's the best way to jig? Does the movement even matter that much? Or is it all about the bait?
The best way to jig is whatever way made a fish bite last. This may sound really obscure, but it is true. Change your jigging motion often when you aren’t getting bites and remember what you were doing before you got bit. The movement of your bait does matter a lot, but only if you can duplicate it. Save the bait for roughfish like walleyes.
Serious question for you: Do you know what your bait is doing down there? I like to put every jig/plastic combo I plan to use through my “testing tank”, which is a fancy way of saying an old cheese ball container full of water that I keep in my basement. Make sure to keep the lid on when not in use though as dogs seem to enjoy finding a way to knock it over otherwise.
From Clarence: What is your number one secret for catching cold-water slab papermouths?
There are two things I do every spring to target big fish. The first is to upsize. Big fish want big meals, have you ever seen how big the mouth of a 12” crappie is? While I keep my jig head size small in the spring, I have no problem attaching a 2” plastic to it to target only big fish. Likewise, you needn’t only use jigs for spring panfish. Crankbaits and stickbaits are awesome fish searching tools in the spring and target for bigger crappies and sunfish.
Number 2, is to not go too shallow when the crappies are spawning. While there are a ton of fish to be caught up in those shallow bulrushes, often the bigger fish will spawn deeper than the majority of the rest. If the multitude of crappies is in 2-3 feet of water, try backing out to 5-8 feet of water. The fishing won’t be as fast and furious, but the average size is going to blow away anything you are catching up shallow.
From Josh: Is it true you are more likely to catch fish drinking Schmidt's w/ wildlife cans than w/o?
Absolutely! Even better yet is when you pour your beer from a wildlife can into one of the Schmidt’s collectors mugs with fish on them. That gives you double the luck! There are several different kinds of luck out there. There is Beginner’s Luck, Dumb Luck, Lady Luck (this is why my fiancé always outfishes me, I swear), Dammit Luck (this is when something goes incredibly wrong and you are just due for having to deal with that problem) and Luck Charms. The wildlife print cans fall into Luck Charms, in that they make no difference, but if you somehow believe that it is working and you get confidence from it, then it is doing it’s job.
I was on a trip for a photoshoot somewhere in northern
a few years ago, and when we got
out of the truck at the hotel, the driver stepped on a horseshoe. No kidding,
there was a horseshoe just lying there in the parking lot. He took this as a
sign that the fishing was going to be great the next day, while it was
fantastic, the belief in the luck was more important than the random horseshoe.
He actually kept the horseshoe around for several other trips, until he left it
on his snowmobile trailer one day and lost it. Coincidentally, his next trip
(Devil’s Minnesota Lake) was a complete disaster for him
from the fishing perspective.
From Aaron: better practice to improve a fishery. Slot size or reduce limit?
That depends entirely on the species and the body of water. While I am a huge fan of slot limits as I feel reduced limits put a target on a lake; slot limits on popular lakes can have an adverse affect, especially during the heat of the summer when fish mortality rates rise exponentially. All in all, I think the Minnesota DNR does a good job with what they have to work with, I just wish there was more of an emphasis on trophy panfish vs letting people keep them for a meal.
From Josh: When ice fishing, if your buddy is out fishing you 5:1, is it ok to puke in his Sorels? And: When running from the CO is it best to zig zag, run a straight line, or just trip your buddy?
You must be from Stearn’s County… #GoHuskiesWOOOOO
Seriously though, send me some more questions. I get bored on nights the Wild aren’t playing, and I seriously doubt this rain will ever stop. Next time I put out the call for questions, I will pick a random question to send some assorted tackle.