Ice Fishing in Missouri
at being successful.
The most popular and active species during the winter months are bluegill and crappie. Many ice anglers are also surprised that largemouth bass and channel catfish are active during the winter. I know many anglers who throw back 8-inch bluegills in the summer while they are fishing for other species. Those same anglers, however, after getting introduced to the tug of a large bluegill on a light, 2-foot-long ultralight fishing rod, will now walk a mile through snow drifts to ice fish a pond full of eater-sized bluegills. There is something almost addictive about feeling that light tap, setting the hook, and pulling a fish through a 6-inch hole at your feet. If the sporting fight of a large, circling bluegill below the ice doesn’t turn you into an ice angler, the fresh fried bluegill dinner when you get home will seal the deal.
Most ice-fishing opportunities in Missouri are on small lakes or farm ponds, but good fishing can be also be found on city lakes, where allowed (be sure to check regulations first). I would try your favorite farm pond first. Many farm ponds are in need of some harvest to help balance the fishery. Whether the pond has a stockpiled bass population, or bluegill aren’t harvested often, fishing is a key management tool for a healthy pond fish population.
Ask your friend or relative if taking a few fish out of their pond is ok, then find the deepest part of the pond, easily located adjacent to the pond dam. During winter, fish stage in deep water over mud bottoms, gorging themselves on small aquatic organisms living in the mud.
Start by placing your bait 6 to 12 inches off the bottom, and keep the bait moving with very subtle twitches of the rod tip. If a fish is close, they will bite. If you fail to find fish in the deep end of your pond, check a little shallower, or drill a hole next to your favorite brush pile. Although not a requirement, modern flashers like the Vexilar and portable LCD fish finders allow anglers to easily check the depth and find concentrations of fish, eliminating the guess work that comes along with any type of fishing. Use these same guidelines to find fish in small- to medium-sized public lakes.
Next time you have cabin fever in midwinter, and you are pining