Late ice is a time that ice anglers always look forward to. It just seems that the fish seem to go on an eating binge at this time. Plus, the weather is milder, making it much more enjoyable to get around.
I know that people are chomping at the bit to keep after those perch on Big Spirit. Yes, I have heard the grumbling about the need to sort through so many fish, to take home a nice mess of perch. But think about it that means that there are multiple year classes involved in this, which makes the future look even brighter. We've been waiting for this to happen for several years.
January and February were awesome with DNR creel data showing nearly 50,000 perch harvested in January and over 64,500 harvested in the first half of February! At the same time, angler interviews showed over 101,000 perch released in January and a whopping 103,000 released in the first half of February.
With warmer weather, people will be using their locators and hopping from hole to hole in search of those ever-moving schools of perch. It can actually be kind of funny to watch. As a school comes through, you will see an angler set the hook as a perch strikes the bait and as the school moves, you will see others begin to do the same thing. I remember one time years ago on the south end of Big Spirit when this happened. There was a line up of a dozen anglers sitting on their bucket, and I watched the following happen.
First, the guy on the west side got a bite and raised his arm in a quick hookset, followed by the next one and the next one-all with the school moving to the east. By the time the angler at the east end was getting some action, the first person at the west end had moved all the way to the east of the last person and was set up waiting for the school to come through! It was "ice hop-scotch!"
Of course, there is also the Grade, the Templar Boat Ramp and Anglers Bay that can really get hot for big gills and crappies.
On West Okoboji, the bays usually get hot for gill action, along Minnewashta and Upper Gar.
However, this is also the time of year that the ice becomes treacherous. I've heard talk of some people coming across some spots along Templar and Marble with some pretty thin ice. Some say it's springs-not sure, but I do want to warn everybody to be very cautious.
I've also heard of some shacks being moved, leaving some pretty thin and treacherous ice conditions. Be careful of those spots!
What usually ends the ice fishing season is the access points to the ice. The sun begins to work its magic, first causing water on top of the ice with the ice eventually melting away from shore.
I do remember two years ago, when there was still a pretty good patch of ice in Hales Slough. We were over looking around the Anglers Bay area, when we saw a huge chunk of ice break away and start to drift toward the north into Anglers Bay. Yes, the fishermen were still on the ice!
One of the lake residents had a boat in the water and was able to go out and make the rescue. Scary thought!