Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Look what Santa Brought for our only reader.

Congrats to Daniel and his first Vexilar! Glad Santa loves you.

Here is an article by Thornebros Expert Matt Johnson.

By: Matt Johnson

We’re all familiar with 3-color flashers. We’ve used them for years and
they have become a foundation for most ice anglers. Having the ability
to “see” what’s below you and react accordingly is something most of
us would never forfeit. It’s to the point now that if we leave our Vexilar
at home then we turn around to get it. Fishing is just not the same
without your flasher staring you in the face when battling with a finicky
fish. But do we really use our Vexilar to its fullest? It’s not just a tool
that shows the bottom, the fish and your jig, it’s much more than that…

Whether it’s an FL-8, FL-18, FL-12 or FL-20, your Vexilar has fast
become your best friend on the ice. Seeing that green flicker turn into
an orange line followed by a solid red blip drives tingles down every
watcher. Then when it results in a solid thump only to have a plate-
sized bluegill on the ice moments later do we realize how exciting, and
important our Vexilar becomes. Seeing the fish in relation to your
presentation is more than half the battle, but using your Vexilar to
determine the fish’s mood can drastically change the way you put fish
on the ice. Understanding how a fish reacts to various jigging
movements can help boost your success rate. For example, things like
when to slow down, when to speed up or when to do nothing at all.
These are all things we need to pick up on when using our Vexilars.

Fish are simple creatures. They need to eat to survive and like
humans they go through various feeding patterns and variances in
appetites. When a fish comes in fast only to stop abruptly and leave
your offering alone we need to then evaluate the situation and decide
that the jigging action was important, but the appeal/look of the
presentation needs a minor adjustment. You called the fish in with
action, but once the fish got a look at what was moving it decided to
shut its mouth. Changing color, upsizing or downsizing, adding
scent… these are a few ideas in which to increase your triggering
power in this situation. Case in point, watching the fish’s behavior on
your Vexilar allows you to take out some of the guesswork and make
changes based on how fish react to what you’re doing. Don’t just
settle for the old saying, “fish are down there but they just aren’t
biting.” Be smarter than that; use your Vexilar to help you make your
next move.

We all know that the stronger the signal the more red the line
becomes… but what about determining the size of the fish? Or better
yet, the direction a fish is facing or whether or not that fish is
aggressive or negative? Your Vexilar can tell you these things. Of
course the obvious is to assume the larger red blips are larger fish,
and this would sometimes turn out to be true. However, fish with
larger air bladders will also show up as larger marks. This is the
reason why jumbo perch show up as large blips, because we all know
that those jumbos have air bladders the size of golf balls. Larger
gamefish like pike and walleyes have larger air bladders than panfish,
but what we’re also seeing is the orange and green marks of the fish’s
“extremities.” What I mean is, the longer the fish, the more potential
there is for a change in signal. As those larger fish move, the
transducer picks up on those movements and shoots back orange and
green lines surrounding your once single, solid red line. This
oftentimes looks like more than one fish if Mr. Pike is on the prowl, but
as you pay closer attention you will realize that those red lines are
“stretching” and not separating. Fish that change body position to a
more vertical posture will give off those stretching characteristics, so
when those sometimes pesky pike rise to check out our tiny ice jig
that is why we see a larger red line. Telling the size of a fish is
possible with your Vexilar, so don’t listen to grandpa.

Determining the aggressive level of the fish is also easy to do with
your Vexilar. The obvious is simple, when a fish flies in and crushes
your bait then you have an aggressive fish. OK, you got me there. But
when you have fish that decide to swim in slow but constantly
“quiver” then I wouldn’t throw out the aggressive card just yet. Just
because a fish doesn’t slam the bait doesn’t mean it’s not aggressive.
Watching your Vexilar and picking up on those short rapid movements
can tell us that we have a fish that wants to eat, we just need to find
out what that desired menu item is. Then on the flip-side we have
those fish that slowly rise to the bait, seem as if they are motionless,
and then slide away. Those would be our negative fish and it might be
time to find a new spot. Determining whether or not the fish under you
are aggressive or negative can save on frustration and valuable
fishing time.

What about the idea of reading below the bottom? Sounds ludicrous I
know, but not impossible. In fact, it’s very doable and important when
targeting bottom-hugging fish. This phenomenon is made simple by
watching what is below your “actual bottom.” Movements below the
bottom indicate fish coming out of weeds or fish that are off to one
side where the bottom depth is slightly deeper in one spot. I can
assure you that the bottom is not moving with the intent of teasing
you, but rather because a fish is starting to build up the ambition to
soon attack what you’re offering. Next time you’re on the ice pay
attention to what your bottom is doing, you’ll be surprised just how
much activity goes on that you might have ignored.

Have you ever thought of the idea that weeds are really our friends? I
know it’s important to focus on green weeds when available, but what
I’m referring to is having the ability to use either Low Power mode or
the S-Cable to see through the weeds. While fishing in thick weeds we
oftentimes throw in the towel because we can’t see our jig… but let’s
take a lesson from Rocky and not give up without a fight. Switching to
Low Power mode cuts your watts from 400 to 200 and allows us to
drastically cut down on the amount of weeds we pick up on our
Vexilars. By adjusting our sensitivity we can soon find out that not only
can we see our jig, but we are successfully targeting and catching fish
amongst the once overlooked weed flats. Ask me where my favorite
areas to fish on the lake are and I’m going to the weeds, and having
the ability to fish the weeds helps solidify my decision.

These are just a few simple ideas to add new ways to interpreting your
Vexilar. The idea here is to not always just look at things at face value.
Step outside the box and use your Vexilar as not just a fish indicator,
but rather a learning tool that will teach you a lot more than you know
about the underwater world. If you get a chance to use your Vexilar in
coordination with an underwater camera then you can see exactly how
fish react and what sort of signal you’re receiving. Sight fishing is
another way to build confidence in what your Vexilar is telling you.

Understanding the mood of the fish will help you decide what to throw
next. Understanding the size of the fish you are targeting can make
your decision to move easier. Understanding how to effectively fish
thick weeds can pay off with great rewards. Understanding how to use
your Vexilar to the fullest will help make you a better ice angler.
Turning the unit on is only the first step, but by the time you turn it off
make sure you got the most out of what that underwater world has to

Good Fishin,
Matt Johnson

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ice is Forming, Time for New Lines.

I have been on a search for a new line this season. Every other year I tend to change my line and most years its been a no brainer as to what type of line I select. Now that I've started to take things up a notch in the skills department, I thought I would take a bit more time searching out the perfect line.

Line twists and tangles are usually dealt with by yanking out a bird nest or two and using whats left. Most tangles occur when a 9 or 10 year old dude tells you the line they are using is messed up. Most of the time its to late to save. These problems can still occur with a new line(more on that later) mixed with a beer or two, however most of these problems can be eliminated with a re spool of shiny new threads.

As for my selections, I narrowed my search down to two popular choices on most North American fishing board surveys. P.line Fluorice (a fluorocarbon coated line) and my first choice, Sufix Ice Braid. Although I have only been able to track down some six pound Sufix I hope to use the P.line on one of my perch rods to compare and determine this years true winner.

I have been reluctant to go all Fluorocarbon because of its durability after a Pike joins the party. Although its been a few years since I locked into a big toothy critter. Usually someone (well usually Dan my Fishing Partner) hits one in the hut and it can really mess up line. Remember its always good to cut a bit a of line off once the fight is finished. You don't need to find out the hard way on the next party crasher lunker.

I have been using a 4 and 6lb braid for the past 2 years. I am amazed that it tends to last as long as it does and still run well no matter what it goes through. Berkley micro ice has been the top selection however, its the Neon Red Sufix braid colour that caught my eye.

Four years ago Dan and I discovered Shakespere's cajun line on cajun rods. We had a blast reeling in fish when we first used them for a heavy bite day on our first Lake Nipissing adventure. Those rods were a bit too light and I've since retired mine to light Crappie fishing days(never tried it, but its in the plans).

What was really fun with Cajun iceline was being able to line watch this highly visible colour. I really missed the red when i started to really work on this technique at the end of last season. Because in the huts its quite easy to see line of any colour i had no idea my Berkley Vanish was so tough to watch on a rare sunny day in March.

Ive strung my Trout Ice Rod Ugly Stick 2'6" with 6 lb Neon Red Sufix and it looks awesome (bright orange really). I can't believe how well it stands out and it should make line watching a breeze. My only concern is will it hinder the fishing? Is this stuff so easy to see that the fish can tell its there? According to many it won't make a difference. I plan to try it 2 ways; 1) straight to hook and 2)with a fluorocarbon leader.

Like braided line, fluorocarbon has less stretch than monofilaments. Actually, the stretch of fluorocarbon line is more like that of braided lines than monofilaments, but without the "give away" dark thread look.
Speaking of braided lines, another advantage of fluorocarbon over braided line is that fluorocarbon line sinks quite a bit faster than braided lines, To some, the fact that fluorocarbon sinks rapidly makes it a better choice for baits that dive or sink. Sounds perfect for Ice fishing doesn't it?

What concerns me is that I get the feeling that I can use my braid longer(2year max) than the Fluoro. So I'll use Fluoro if needed, for leaders. However I have learned in the last few weeks pitching Cleos that you also need to know your knots and make sure they are perfect with fluorocarbon.

As mentioned I've also decided to try one spool of Pline Fluorice as well I'll discuss this line and my plans once I have tracked down the product. In Southwestern Ontario as with snow shovels, Ice Fishing gear isn't stocked on the shelves until we are already fishing.

If you are looking at changing line this season I have attached some great tips from Crappie Tom at Thornebros in MN. He had a great post regarding new line, tests and spooling for the season.


"First and foremost: When you close the bail on your spinning reel, close it by hand and not by turning the reel's handle. Closing the bail by cranking the handle puts 1/2 of a twist in the line every time you do it. Develop a habit of doing this and you'll love yourself for it. This applies to open water as well.

Secondly: Only remove enough of the line already spooled to allow sufficient ice line to go on for your fishing. You know what the deepest water you'll fish is.....allow about ten percent more line than the max water depth. You'll save a bunch on line this way.

Third: Lay the new line spool flat on the floor and put a dozen turns on your reel, being sure to apply tension by running the line thru your thumb and finger. Stop and lower the rod tip almost to the spool and watch what the line does between the rod tip and the spool. If it coils up, flip the spool over and then continue putting the line on. If you don't see any obvious coiling, just continue filling as the spool lays.

Fourth: Take time to check your line roller bearing at the take-up corner of the bail. Be darned positive that that bearing is turning freely. If it is not free, remove the screw that holds it carefully and give the bearing a good cleaning. It the bearing is still binding or won't turn, either get a replacement bearing or a different reel.

Fifth: Get in the habit of walking your line off the reel's spool and re-winding it with nothing tied to it every other trip or so. Just the action of jigging can twist line something fierce.

Store your rods out of direct sunlight as much as possible when you aren't using them as sun can force the monos to take a set and create line hooping. Sunlight can also degreade the line and create weak spots.

Another issue may not be the line at all, but rather, the lures you use and how aggressively you jig them. Take a minute or two to watch your lure just hang down in the water a couple feet every so often. If it is spinning, take time to snip the lure off and walk your line off at least as deep as your fishing is maybe 10 feet more. Then re-wind as mentioned and re-tie. Fish will be very likely to shun a spinning jig hung in front of their nose."


So I guess we are only a few weeks away. Simcoe is freezing quickly and North Bay is about a week ahead of its Southern Sister. I'll get into more gear selections and tests in the coming weeks. Holidays start in a week and I will be booking the first Ice Trip for january 2nd. Hope for the best!
Keep your Pole in the Hole!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Quest to be the Best.

Well my friends, this is the first post of my blogging career.

I've been a Chef for the past 17 years. Anyone in the business knows that the culinary industry can ruin a personal life and destroy any hobbies along the way. In my case my personal life is better than ever thanks to the fact that I really don't subscribe to the "consume yourself into your work" chef description.
However my favorite pastime was wiped out a few years back when my wife and I decided to open a restaurant. That's right, restaurant in, fishing out.

Working in a seasonal restaurant its easy to figure out just where the fishing has been eliminated. However since we opened in 2002 I have turned my focus to the incredible and growing sport of Ice Fishing. In this blog I hope to bring to you, all of this years trials and tribulations. My friends and I will do our best attempting to master this challenging sport.

Trips,Tips, Tactics,& Trends will be the primary focus of this Blog.
Also as a chef it is probably an unwritten law to fill you in on a few ideas for cooking the catch of the day.

As a relatively new student of the modern ice fishing game, I'll document what I've learned from seasoned vets, forums, TV, and of course the funniest of all media outlets... the fishing magazine. We'll test it all out and give you the results.

We will also travel down memory lane for a few lessons from the greatest woodsman of all, my late grandfather Jack "Papa" Dixon. His experience living, working, trapping, and fishing in Northern Ontario for more than 65 years make for wonderful tales. The can help pass the time and learn something new from the old ways of survival and sportsmanship.
Papa would kick my ass for using those two words in the same sentence, but in most of his tales of putting bread on the family table, he always seemed to have time for fun and games.

I guess to be honest, thats my goal in life and in this blog.

I'll take you along for the ride as I try to become the best ice fisherman in the world. If that doesn't pan out, at least we'll have fun trying.

Cheers and keep your pole in the hole.