Horseshoe Chain
Fishing Reports
By: Matt Johnson

We   spend   much   of  the  ice  fishing
season    targeting    fish    in    deeper
water.  We rely heavily  on  our  flasher
units to  tell  us  whether  or  not  there
are  fish  below   us  and   if  those  fish
are  interested  in our  baits.   We  also
drop  down  underwater  cameras  that
allow us to partake  in  the  underwater
ecosystem. We’ve become accustomed
to using artificial or technological means
to determine what’s going on below the
ice.  Now, let’s  give  those  machines a
chance to cool off and use  what we’ve
had all along – our sense of sight.

Sight fishing is nothing new to ice anglers. Sight fishing is a staring contest
between you and the fish. Here we are, sitting above a hole cut in the ice
staring at a wary bluegill, just waiting for it to take our tiny offering. This is as
real as it gets. Everything is real time and what you see is what you get, there is
no guessing. There is just something magical about actually watching a fish
take your jig. “Now you see it, now you don’t.” You have to love that expression
when sight fishing, because it’s so true. Panfish are notorious for inhaling and
exhaling tiny morsels in a split second. Your helpless jig is now in the realm of
the bluegill and its fate is entirely up to that plate sized trophy. You sit intently
waiting for a reaction from the flutter below. You hold your breath when you see
the fish move in and then suddenly you see a set of gills flare and the jig is
gone. Set the hook! A tussle with a “bull” bluegill never felt so good in your life.
Now that’s sight fishing.

Sight fishing is both productive and fun. You become a part of the underwater
world and the underwater world becomes a part of you. Fish of all sizes and
species use shallow water areas during late ice. Largemouth bass, northern
pike, muskies, walleyes, perch and of course panfish, dwell in shallow water
areas and will relate to the weeds at late ice. Now is the time to key in on the
excellent fishing that the shallows can bring, and what better way is there then
to embark on a day of sight fishing. You become as giddy as a school child
when fish appear and every fish, no matter the size, gets your blood pumping.
Focusing intensely while a sunfish sniffs your bait only to watch a monster pike
fly by at mach speed is no doubt a sight to be told, but that’s a common
occurrence in the shallows during late ice. Watching a swine largemouth bass
inhale a gallon of water, along with your jig, will provide excitement enough for
an angler of any level. Fishing is about fun and excitement, and sight fishing
has a surplus of both.

Locating sight fishing areas is rather effortless. I like to look for shallow green
weeds and areas where you find panfish during the early spring. Panfish like to
congregate in these shallow areas and their activity level skyrocket during
these times. I personally like to call it the Late Ice Bonanza, because these
panfish turn on the feedbags and become highly aggressive as the winter
wears down. Once you find these spots, you’re going to want to punch a series
holes over the immediate area. The reason I like to punch several holes is
because when fishing shallow water the fish spook easily and if you decide to
make small moves you don’t have to fire up the auger and scatter the school.
So, position yourself over a hole and flip over the portable fish house and begin
your journey. A portable fish house like the Clam Fish Trap is a must when sight
fishing because you need to block out as much light as possible when trying to
look down the hole. I close up all the windows of my portable to ensure the best

Sight fishing is a great way to get the kids hooked on the sport of ice fishing. A
chance to actually see a fish swim by is exhilarating to any young angler. Now,
add on the fact that the kid can actually watch the fish eat the bait and you just
about guaranteed yourself an ice angler for life. So, enjoy the Late Ice Bonanza
and try sight fishing if you haven’t already. The underwater world is waiting!!

Good Fishin’
Matt Johnson
Matt Johnson Outdoors 2003-2015
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