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Ice, open water and prep fishing

February 15, 2008 at 04:10 AM as printed on www.prairiestateoutdoors.com


The big boy was grumbling before we started shivering.

"Dude, I don’t think those fish are going to bite in this cold," Chef Todd said.

That's usually his way of saying, "Let’s stay home."

Not this time. Cold or not, we needed a good ice fishing outing. And Nate Herman of Herman Brothers Pond Management had sent enough pictures of big bluegill to keep us on the hook.

Thank goodness for that. Despite Monday's frigid conditions, the fish bit. The ice was plenty thick. And cold didn't chase us off frozen Peoria County water until we'd caught about 70 fish, including bluegill up to 9½ inches.

"A few of those were Boone & Crockett bluegills," Chef Todd said. "This was a good trip."

Yes it was. If you haven't been out ice fishing yet, now's the time to take advantage of what is shaping up as the best hard-water winter in years.

While edges of some ponds were shaky even last weekend, that's no longer true. Ice reports range from 4 to 14 inches, with 6-8 inches fairly common.

And while fishing action is hit-and-miss, there have been hotspots. Strip-mine panfishing is improving in Fulton County, farm ponds are good most places and crappie are still gobbling minnows at Lake Storey.

"It seems like the main bite is late afternoon and early evening," said Al Hayden of Al's Sporting Goods in Galesburg.

Then again, we fared well in the morning at two man-made lakes we visited with the Herman brothers, Nate and Justin. Ours was one of several successful outings they've had in the past few weeks.

In addition to pond management duties, the Hermans guide for open-water trout and for ice fishing. Visit hbpondmanagement.com or call (309) 303-5691.

Herman Brothers Lake and Land Management