Ice Bluegills Deep
By: Dave Duwe
After first ice, the bluegills will migrate from the shallow water of early season ice and suspend over the main lake basin. The best time to catch deepwater bluegills is usually late January through February.
I consider deepwater any water depth over 15 feet of water. Deep water bluegills are roaming and don’t concentrate in any area for a long period of time. When they move they are usually in small schools of 5 or 6 fish. I will always catch the upper fish in the school first not to spook the fish that are lower in the water column. I find that the upper fish in the water column seem to bite better the fish that remain tight to the bottom. The greatest asset to the deepwater gill bite is a fish locator; my choice is a Vexilar FL-12.
The equipment needed is a medium action jigging rod with ultra-light spinning reel spooled the 1 or 2lb test monofilament line. The most important part of the rod and reel combo is a sensitive spring bobber. Frabill’s tungsten spring bobber is a great choice. The better the spring bobber the easier the angler can detect the shy biters.
I will use two approaches for the deepwater bluegills. My favorite is a double jig dropper rig and for the real shy biters a small ice jig without a sinker using light line. The double jig dropper rig is a simple rig; it’s putting two jigs on one line. I tie a flying gold ant approximately 10 inches to a foot above a waxie rig made by Synders Lure’s. To attach the ant I will tie it on the line using a Palomar knot leaving the tag end about a foot long to tie on the waxie rig. The ant works best if it hangs horizontal, also making it easy to detect on the Vexilar. By using the two jig rig, it allows the angler to add extra weight to the line getting the lures into the strike zone faster. The two jigs allow you two opportunities to get bit. Using a sinker also works; however, it doesn’t give you two chances for a bluegill. I will always use two different baits on the double jig rig. The flying ant will get a waxworm or wiggler, the waxie rig gets one or two spikes. This gives you a subtle presentation. Getting a small jig down to 20-30 feet of water can take some time but some days that is the only way to get bit. Patience and fresh line is the only way that it can work. I bait the jig with two spikes which can help you pick the jig up on the fish locator.
This year I have been catching most of my bluegills on Turtle Lake and Pleasant Lake in Walworth County and Little Cedar in Washington County all lakes are in Southern Wisconsin.
The lake determines the depth I will start fishing. I usually start deep 30 to 32 feet of water searching for fish. If I can’t locate them I will move shallower, I will seldom go any shallower then 20 feet of water. A lot of times you will need to fish an area before ruling out that there are no fish. Sometimes the fish are so tight to the bottom you can’t pick them up on the locator. A lot of time you send a jig down the hole and the fish will fly off the bottom coming up 10 or 15 feet to inhale the falling jig. The deep water bluegills bite will last through February and this year most likely into March. The deepwater bluegills have a tendency to be a larger size then there shallow water counter parts. Ice depths can vary and ice heaves can create a dangerous situation, so be careful venturing out in the main lake basin.