Looks like we've got some ice making weather finally. With record lows on the way for the rest of this week I'm hopeful we will have ice for quite awhile this season. It went from wondering if we were ever going to fish, to getting the quad prepped for a trip to the lake this weekend.
It has been a unique couple of weeks for me, well more like a whole month. I've been off work because of the government shutdown. I feel like it was a glimpse into what retirement might be like minus the whole toddler running around thing. I definitely never got bored, ice fishing kept me busy!
It was a unique situation this year with the cold temps and no snow. High winds hampered a lot of ice formation but it still made ice fast. Usually we are getting lake effect snow at the same time and we get some weird pockets of ice because of the insulating snow. This year it was all clear black ice and you could feel pretty safe while spudding around out there, even though the ice was thin. Because of the ice conditions it put me in some new places I had never fished before. Some were a total waste, others were hidden gems that I'm glad I found.
I had one spot where I expected to find bluegills but instead found it was loaded with perch, some good ones too. The best part was they were shallow enough to utilize a FishSens SondeCAM and even sight fish at times. Speaking of FishSens take a look at the FishSens blog to find a few of my latest blog articles. Anyway I don't think I've ever caught a limit of resident Muskegon Lake perch so that and a fair number of bluegills was a nice surprise. I'll be very interested to see how that spot pans out next year on some true first ice.
I only had to endure about a week of fishing the shallow stuff for bluegills and resident perch before I could get on some main lake ice. The perch that come in from Lake Michigan to feed are the fish I really enjoy targeting throughout the winter. I was a little uneasy when I was the first man on the ice Wednesday at the sand docks. But I had heard there were people on it the day before and as I was checking the ice with my spud it seemed surprisingly thick. I could not make it to the areas I really wanted to be in since they haven't shut down shipping in Muskegon lake yet. But I did eventually tip toe my way to a school a fish and had a great day. It's been off and on since then and I am ready to get to other parts of the lake besides the sand docks.
Since we are on the topic of perch I've got to express a little frustration with the new perch regulations that are coming out April 1st. They cut the limit from 50 to 25 and the biggest reason I've seen for it is because it is the same as the panfish limit. Really? I don't have all the information on it but I don't see any science mentioned in it. Most lakes in Michigan don't even have the potential to consistently kick out a 25 fish limit of perch (and no regulations are going to change that). Our perch on the lakeshore are driven mainly by year class. I'm sure there are some exceptions especially with the trophy perch fisheries. But to handcuff fisherman throughout the state like this seems pretty ridiculous. My confidence in Michigan's NRC is marginal at best at this point. One major thing to watch in the near future is the crane season. USFWS will likely grant us a crane season if Michigan asks for it. If the NRC doesn't step up to the plate and get us one I will definitely have lost all hope that science is something they take into account when setting Michigan's hunting/fishing regulations. I could go on a whole rant about the perch and the possibility of us not getting a crane season. I'll save that until after we see how things work out.
I'll be looking forward to the next few weeks out on the lake. It sounds like my dad is making the trip this weekend. I'm hoping to really get him on one of the epic perch days. He's typically pretty good at shutting down the bite when he makes the trip. I'll definitely be changing areas of the lake up and it looks like the frigid temps are going to break for the weekend. I'm pretty confident we will be able to cut enough ice and get on the right school. See you out there!