Late Summer Scouting For Early Ice Fishing Success!

Late August into October can produce some of the best panfish success of the season for many anglers. The weather is beginning to cool. The dog days of a body of water should be at an end or nearly there, and water clarity should be returning to a mere green hew instead of pea soup. Good time to begin scouting for winter? Or even thinking about winter? You bet it is!

Late season scouting for early ice panfish produced these slab crappie for Ray Tiffany and Mandolyn MacHaffie

Late season scouting for early ice panfish produced these slab crappie for Ray Tiffany and Mandolyn MacHaffie, the HARD WATER MANIACS

When fish begin to stage in the fall for the winter months ahead, you will find them where the baitfish or food is. The food can be found on, in, or near cover. Primarily, the cover of choice is aquatic vegetation. This is a general rule of thumb. The food does not leave these key areas just because the ice comes in. So, neither do the panfish.

Plush weeds, reeds, lilies, and other aquatic vegetation will remain below the ice and healthy well into the freeze. Some will remain healthy all winter long but, the first stage of ice, or early ice, is your best chance of finding the weed beds you fished in the fall still standing tall, green, and crammed with panfish! As winter progresses into mid ice and then to late ice, the oxygen levels of a body of water change quite dramatically, killing weeds in one area, and promoting growth in another. Dying weeds also deplete oxygen. Low or no oxygen is, of course, fish repellent.

It’s easier to scout these areas during late summer or fall in open water with a boat. You can cover a ton more water and don’t have to wear yourself out with a hand auger or spud in order to hunt these areas down. (Usually the ice is too thin to justify a gas auger.) When you find green vegetation, fish them and move on. If a spot is holding fish, mark it in your GPS or plot the area somehow.

When first ice arrives, return to the areas that held fish. If you are not too late, and the weeds are still there and healthy, the panfish will still be in the very same places or nearby, and they will be hungry! Aggressively fishing a Moxy Jig or a Fairy Jig by Arnold Tackle tipped with a single waxie or bouquet of maggies is a killer tactic that will catch the slabs we all look for!

Filed Under: CrappieIce Fishing TipsPanfish

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HARDWATERMANIACS About the Author: Raymond and Mandolyn Tiffany are a professional husband/wife ice fishing circuit duo who live in Kaukauna, WI. Avid conservationists and sports-persons whose primary focus is children and helping them to be involved in the outdoors and ice fishing. K&E Stopper pro staff, Clam Corp pro staff, Strikemaster pro staff. Team quote: "Learn what you can, teach what you know." NAIFC competitors. WIFL competitors. Open to fish with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Let's go fishing and make your new fishing partner a "MANIAC!"

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