Bluegills and U-Boats

Using what whatever snow is left in the yard to get the Skidoo to the water, I drove out on the ice on Jasper Lake  on March 16 at 1:30 PM to set up a pup-up shelter for fishing.  It was warm out at about 40 degrees but like every other March, it was windy.   Blowing from the south, then the north, we ended up tying the 6 x 8 pop-up off from each end to my Skidoo and my dad’s 4-wheeler.  We were 100 yards off the beach of Northwind Lodge.

We made use of pre-drilled holes from the day before when we went fishing with Dave Oliver and Paul Haraldson, so setting up was quick.  We got inside the tent along with Delilah and began paying homage to the gods of bluegills by staring down the hole.  Boy, talk about getting a sore upper back and neck after doing that for 4 hours straight.

We dropped down various jigs a sparkly little spinners and they began to come in.  There were fewer today, but they were running bigger.  Nice sized, fillet-able fish swimming 5 to 7 feet below.  Today’s visibility was not as good as yesterday and we can never understand why.  Conditions were about the same with a partly cloudy day, but nonetheless, the sunnies below were bigger and a bit more picky.  All of a sudden, a 5 lb northern pick glided across in the shallow depths below.  The sunnies blew the popstand at that point and then some really nice sized largemouth bass came in for a look.  Even though the sunnies are good sized, those bass come in and they are huge.  2.5 to 4  pounders stopping in to see if they want that tiny #14 tungsten jig with a little bit of plastic on the hook.  It gets your adrenalin flowing because these are really nice fish. But nope, they swam by. After all that fish activity going by, it takes the bluegills about 30 minutes to come back after the head bluegill declares the coast to be clear.

I have 5 rods on the ice floor of our living room on the lake.  Each is rigged with a different jig & different plastics.  Most of the stuff I use is tungsten.  When the school is passing through, one must keep their interest for them to stick around.  So, if they are slow moving to one lure, crank up fast and drop another.  Must have been the air-pressure, but they were only moderately interested in what we were offering.  There was my dad setting the hook and saying “aarrggh!” and and me doing the same while declaring  “dang it!”.  The fish below would suck in a jig completely. To hook them requires an immediate hookset.  You’re like a coiled spring with a trip wire.  Trouble is that inexplicably, you can set the hook and miss them time and again despite their having inhaled the entire jig.  We call it “flipping them”  when we set a hook and it pulls them up and they flip a sideways somersault and swim away dazed but unharmed.  To avoid frequent flipping, we tried letting them take it for one second and they spit it out in slightly less than one second.  Their little bluegill tongues must quickly identify plastic.  We finally moved to tungsten bead head flies made by Cortland with no plastic and caught a few, flipped a few more.

Then, in a blast of sunfish panic, those slow-moving fish dispersed in all directions like spokes on a bicycle wheel.  Big northern coming through like a German U-boat on the hunt.  The bluegills beneath his level could hear the “ping” as the big green U-boat glided methodically overhead.  To hide, they descended deeper & deeper, closer to the bottom, holding their breath, beads of sweat rolling off their gill covers.  Minutes changed to hours as that big predator swam between them and the two faces staring down the holes in the ice above watching and waiting.  And waiting. And waiting.

Dang northern scared everybody off.  We sat for another 30 minutes with 5 bluegills on the ice and nobody was returning back to that spot.  My dad and I finally gave up.  We knocked down the tent, loaded the sled and cranked up our machines and headed home.   Had we caught every fish we saw including some very large perch, we’d have had fish laying all over the ice.  There certainly is no shortage of fish in Jasper.  Keeping them on the hook is the tricky part.