Icing Bullhead in the North East. Why wait until spring.
By: Nathan Krusko “Fishman”
Team Panfish Persuders
How many of you have a particular season or species of fish you wait all year for the days to come and only wish that some how it would come early. Now ice fishing is that season for many of us. Surprisingly ice fishing is a way for many of us to get a jump start on one of these seasons, the spring bullhead. This is a commonly overlooked opportunity, one that only a select few either know about or even recognize. Bullhead fishing is a right of passage of spring for many anglers that have waited all year for these days to come. For most it is a family affair. Now is the chance to get out and stop waiting for those spring days and get a jump on the season. Late season ice is here and the big bullhead are hungry and ready for the catching.
I bet many of us fish near our treasured spring haunts in this late ice season but never put much thought into the spring opportunities that are lurking below us, the brown bullhead. There are many places that people fish for them from varying bodies of water but most all share one common trait. Shallow mud bottom areas that get full of weeds as the temperatures rise. In finding these winter bullhead it may be something entirely new but also very familiar. Familiar is the fishing for them at night. There are anglers that catch them during the day much like in the spring but to be far more productive go back to your familiar spring habits get out the lantern, a heater and a shelter to keep you warm. For an added element for more fish catching fun, look into getting a light to illuminate the water below to attract plankton and bait fish. This attraction will help yield some night bite crappie and bluegill action to pass the time while jigging for the bullhead.
To break down your potential spot we need to break down your body of water and eliminate the spots that are most likely to hold fish. In the spring most of our bullhead spots are in shallow muddy areas, lets look from here. Lake X has a deep basin 30 to 40 feet. Off from this basin there are some structures that are worth looking into. There is a creek channel that flows in from a place that you would likely spring shore fish. In this corner the bottom gradually drops from a shelf of 12-20 feet into this basin. Try to find the point with in this funnel that fish would follow from the deep in search of food. Try varying depths up this funnel. The other structure is look for points that extend out into the lake or pond that have muddy bottoms and if it has a few weeds that is a bonus. Lake X has a point that extends out from a shallow flooded bog. This point has a flat wide top that drops off into the basin in a gradual slope on all sides. These spots are good since the fish will be traveling them in search of food in the shallows and through out the weeds. What food you may be wondering? The bullhead can be aggressive feeders, eating bait fish, crayfish, blood worms and yes even small panfish.
Tactics are relatively simple. Try locating some suspended fish just before dark and hopefully in an area where you see some bottom activity on your flasher. Suspended fish are an indicator of active feeding crappie or bluegill in the area and yes even a suspended bullhead, this does happen. These fish will be feeding on some of the same foods that the bullhead will be looking for. Time to catch them and dead sticking is in order as well as some jigging. Keep in mind that there is limited light other than from your lanterns.
Try using smaller lively minnows tipped on a glow jig preferably a jig with a bright glow like the Crappie Glow Jig by Jammin Jigs http://www.jamminjigs.com/ . These jigs are a good choice for the small size that will allow your bait to swim freely and they have a good sized painted surface area with a glow finish. To set this drop your dead stick presentation slightly off bottom for the bottom hugging fish. Your Jigging presentation can be varied at the depths that you are marking fish at on your flasher and if not using a flasher at depths from bottom to three feet off bottom. One of the great benefits of going for bullhead this time of year is the multi species action that will be experienced from and evening fishing like this.
The next time you are out on the ice look around and think of the opportunities lurking beneath your feet. Locate a spot for your next evening fishing trip and reel them in, the misunderstood winter bullhead.
Good Luck and Tight Lines