An Ice-Fishing Buffet

An Ice-Fishing Buffet

Bob Jensen, Fishing the Midwest

I went ice-fishing last week and had a wonderful time on two levels.  First of all, we caught lots of fish, big and small, and of several different species.

Secondly, it was encouraging and exciting to be on a lake that has become an outstanding fishery in the past few years.  I was on Clear Lake in north central Iowa.  Clear Lake is a short drive from my home.  As a youngster, we would fish Clear Lake a couple of times a year.  That was in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  We caught mostly bullheads and every now and then a walleye.  That’s what Clear Lake was: A bullhead lake.  There’s nothing wrong with bullheads:  Lots of us grew up fishing for bullheads, and bullheads sparked an interest in fishing for us.  And prepared correctly, bullheads are good on the table.  Nothing wrong at all with bullheads, but there aren’t as many bullheads in Clear Lake anymore and the lake is thriving.  More than thriving:  Clear Lake has become one of the best fisheries for a wide variety of fish in the Midwest.

Clear Lake in north central offers a smorgasbord of fish species that are willing to eat your bait.

Clear Lake in north central offers a smorgasbord of fish species that are willing to eat your bait.          Photo Credit: Bob Jensen, Fishing the Midwest

On my recent ice-fishing trip, I fished with Kevan Paul and Chris Scholl.  Kevan and Chris guide on Clear Lake and are outstanding anglers.  During our day on the ice, we caught dozens of yellow bass.  Yellow bass are abundant on Clear Lake and provide forage for gamefish and people alike.  They are great on a plate, but yellow bass are small fish, mostly eight to ten inches long.  You need quite a few yellow bass to make a meal, and the good thing is, on Clear Lake you can catch and keep a lot of yellow bass.  There is no limit, and the fish authorities encourage anglers to keep yellows.

We also caught catfish up to about ten pounds.  When you’ve been catching half pound yellow bass and a ten pound catfish eats your bait, you know right away that something different is going on.

We caught lots of white bass, and one of them went almost three pounds.  That’s another interesting diversion from yellow bass.

We caught crappies and bluegills also, and they were nice ones.

clear lake ice 2015 015 B Jensen

Local guide Kevan Paul, who also organizes the annual Yellow Bass Bonanza ice fishing tournament.      Photo Credit: Bob Jensen, Fishing the Midwest.

Clear Lake also has an outstanding musky and walleye population, and there are several other species that are starting to show up.

Back in Clear Lake’s bullhead days, the water quality wasn’t very good.  Changes have created what appears to be much improved water quality that encourages vegetation growth and better fish populations.

The west end of Clear Lake, the Little Lake, was, back in the day, a bowl that was four feet deep and the bottom was mud.  A dredging process was employed several years ago.  The Little Lake now has lots of fish attracting structure and depths in the twenty five foot range.

Fishing techniques have expanded also.  In the bullhead days, if you wanted to fish for walleyes, you couldn’t use nightcrawlers or leeches.  They would be quickly destroyed by the bullheads.  Now, live-bait rigging with crawlers and leeches is a productive method for walleyes.

I know there are lots of other “Clear Lake Re-Birth” stories across the Midwest and North America, and that’s why I’m encouraged about the future of fishing.  There are problems in some places, but with effort, those problems can be fixed.  I’m hopeful and optimistic that we’ll see more bodies of water become what Clear Lake is.

To see the newest episodes of Fishing the Midwest television, go to fishingthemidwest.com.

To connect with Kevan Pauls Guide Service, go to paulsfishingguide.com.

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