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Illinois hunting and fishing

Ice-fishing advice from The Godfather

January 10, 2010 at 03:46 AM

Illinois hunting and fishing

A pioneer on ice

Dave Genz has changed the way people ice fishby stressing mobility, efficiency and the importance of having a plan. To further those ideas, he developed much of the modern ice fishing gear used today, including

* Fish Trap, the first instant setup portable shelter.

* Ice Box, now known as the Genz Box, along with a system for adapting Vexilar flashers for use in ice fishing.

* The concept of ice-specific jigs that “fish heavy for their size,” enhancing efficiency and visibility on depthfinders. You will recognize Lindy baits bearing his name and input, including Genz Worm, Genz Bug, Fat Boy and others.

* Spearheaded development of short rods that “fish like long rods in miniature.”

* Developer of Down Viewing method, using underwater cameras, for ice fishing.

LEWISTOWN — My trusty ice auger couldn’t drill fast enough last Tuesday at the Emiquon Preserve.

Months of anticipation had inflated dreams of how many and what species would flop onto the ice through that first hole.

Fifty bass? Another state-record pumpkinseed? Fat crappie? Chunky bluegill?

All are real possibilities in The Nature Conservancy’s fish-filled Emiquon Preserve northwest of Havana. That explains why I actually welcomed the frigid cold that has gripped central Illinois.

That also made what happened next all the harder to take. While fishing buddy Gordon Inskeep and I found plenty of ice (most 6-8 inches thick) we did not find a fish in more than two hours of drilling holes, changing jigs and wetting lines at depths from 4-14 feet.

To my knowledge, we may have made history as the first anglers to leave Emiquon without catching a fish.

In the chilly aftermath I was left with one recourse: a call to Dave Genz, alternately known as Mr. Ice Fishing and The Godfather of Modern Ice Fishing. As expected from a man who has for nearly 40 years made a living talking about ice fishing, Genz had sensible tips.

His advice should come in handy in the weeks to come since most lakes in the northern two-thirds of Illinois are frozen.

“The biggest thing for people is the timing of when you go ice fishing,” said Genz, who hails from St. Cloud, Minn. “You want to go one hour before sunset until sunset. That’s the golden hour. Fishing around sunset can also be good. But you generally want to avoid midday.”

Why? Genz explains that as the sun starts to set, zooplankton rises from the bottom and fish start moving and eating more.

“That’s the time when you can sit at one hole and have the fish come to you instead of having to go find the fish,” Genz said.

During the middle of the day, the zooplankton sinks to the bottom and fish are much less active.

For those who do fish during the day, Genz says the key to success is to be mobile and to use electronics.

That’s why he invented the Fish Trap, a movable shelter on a sled that makes it simple to change locations. That’s also why he was among the first to bring electronics onto the ice. The most popular ice fishing electronic system is called the Vexilar, whose lighted screen lets you see a lake bottom, any fish present and your fishing jig or lure.

“That’s going to make you a much more successful angler, especially in the daytime hours,” Genz said. “The biggest thing it will tell you is there aren’t any fish here.

“Many ice anglers are changing lures and doing all this stuff but there’s no fish down there. Keep moving until you find fish and then concentrate on your presentation.”

Beyond that, Genz underlined the need to re spool with new line each year. “The weight of your jig has to take the kinks out of your line so you can feel those light bites,” he said.

And he stressed the need to have a good sharp auger, a portable ice house and warm clothing like his Ice Armor brand.

“If it’s easy and comfortable to move spots, you will move,” he said. “If it’s too hard, people don’t move as much. Then they don’t catch as many fish.”

So what did I learn?

For one thing, any return visit to Emiquon will come closer to sunrise or sunset, not at midday. I’m also going to re spool my rods and borrow a friend’s Vexilar unit.

And I’m bringing a jug of homemade wine, even though Genz didn’t mention that. Wine might not help catch crappie, but it takes the sting out of the cold and makes any fishless hours pass easier.

Ice fishing info

Anglers who want to ice fish at the Emiquon Preserve are reminded they must first obtain a free permit at Dickson Mounds Museum. Permits are good for the entire year and can be obtained daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

In addition to the Emiquon Preserve, several other central Illinois sites are open to public ice fishing.

Popular spots include Evergreen Lake, Banner Marsh, Spring Lake, Lake Storey, Anderson Lake and the Fulton County Recreation Area near St. David. Snakeden Hollow opens to fishing on Feb. 1.

The area also has two ice-fishing tournaments this year. The first is Jan. 30 at Lake Camelot from 7 a.m. to noon. One week later on Feb. 6, Wildlife Prairie Park will host its first ice-fishing tourney from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Call (309) 676-0998.

Finally, Herman Brothers Pond Management offers guided ice fishing trips for $75 per person and $50 per child. For information call Nate Herman at (309) 303-5691.



Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Hey Jeff,
I just spent most of the afternoon out on Emiquon. In about 10ft of water, we managed to catch an release half a dozen bass right at 13inches. Most of the activity occurred right around 4pm. Also had what appeared to be a pumpkin seed, not a state record though.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/10 at 06:23 PM

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