There’s a spoon out there for any fish through the ice
Once winter’s grip has taken hold across the prairies, thousands of anglers head out in pursuit of one species or another through the ice to pass the time. Some will rarely stray from their comfort zone for the majority of the season while others prioritize the prime times for various species.
Once all the logistics and safety measures are taken care of and any species and water body specific research complete, one of the most important things is the tackle and a good variety at that. Some days the fish might smash anything they see, while others it takes a bit of trial and error to find out what can really get them to bite. One of my favorite styles of lures for winter fishing is the spoon and with countless varieties out there it pays to stock a tackle tray or two with a few.
There is only so much vertical jigging one person can do and let’s face it, that is the majority of ice fishing. Lucky for us there is a vast array of lure options out there and species to target to keep things interesting. Jigging spoons have been around for a while now and come in all weights, shapes, colours and sizes and quickly become a staple in many tackle boxes. Some spoons stay relatively vertical down the ice hole while others will sway and flutter even outside of the range of a sonar’s cone. Mainly they impersonate a dying or injured baitfish, presenting a meal most fish have trouble resisting. During ideal conditions on minimally pressured waters they can often be fished without scent or tipping allowing their true action to shine, but more often than not, the day’s catch will improve with some form of scent applied.
If fishing vast flats and semi-featureless basins like Lake Manitoba or Lake Winnipeg, spoons can be a great way to attract fish or entice a bite. When searching for a school on these flats I will have a handful of rods ready to quickly cycle through lures, at least two of which will be rigged with spoons. I will always start with lures I have confidence in, and the PK line is definitely one of them. The flutter on controlled drops can enrage a fish on most days and with a few different styles, paint jobs and sizes they can be used for a variety of species. It only takes a minute or two to figure out the spoons’ different cadences and with a little practice each spoons’ ability can be fine tuned. The action needed can depend on the mood of the fish and a flasher or underwater camera can help you see how they react to the different jigging styles. Often what called them in or grabbed the fishes interest might not necessarily be the action that seals the deal.
Over the last few years there have been some great options of what I like to call “micro” spoons in 1/16 to 1/32 ounce like the Northland Forage Minnow or Buckshot Spoon. These small slender profiles accommodate lighter line classes than their 1/8 ounce and heavier counterparts and are some of the first spoons I try when targeting smaller-mouthed fish like Perch or Tulibee. Pounding bottom and stirring up detritus can work well to spark some interest along with jigging in the middle of the water column to catch the attention of cruisers. If the flash of the spoon is calling them in but they aren’t committing, a dropper rig can be quickly tied by removing the hook from the spoon and adding some line or chain between the hook and spoon, experimenting with line length as needed. A small sinking fly or tungsten jig as a dropper hook is a great option if a normal hook isn’t cutting it.
Heavier spoons like the larger versions of the PK Panic or Flutter Spoon along with the tried and tested Williams lines can really shine in deeper lakes no matter where you fish them in the water column. Big predators like lake trout and northern pike have no problem hammering such spoons, while the occasional burbot and walleye will as well. Medium heavy to heavy rods with strong line and leaders (for pike) should be used when targeting these bigger fish and boy hold on because when they hit and know they are hooked it can be a drag screaming good time. Some lines of salmon spoons and saltwater spoons can work well when seeking out trophy fish, keeping in mind one colour or shape might be preferred over another so it’s a good idea to have a few options along.
Fish aren’t always keying in on baitfish but the ones that are will almost certainly show interest in a spoon. Next time you are prospecting a new lake or sitting on your tried and true spot, if you haven’t already, tie on a spoon and see what you can coax up. Keep in mind that if timing and conditions are right, there is a spoon and a cadence to land almost any fish in winter.
The Jedi Spoon
I had an old jigging spoon, the likes of which will remain nameless, due in part to “its” ability to catch fish. It wasn’t my skill (or lack thereof), nor a specific cadence, this thing just knew how to catch fish. It was the “Jedi” of my tackle box and all other spoons would cower in its presence. You could drop this thing down pretty much any hole in the ice that fish were within 15 feet of and it wouldn’t take long before my fishing rod would be bent over and a battle would be on. It caught trophies of a few species and many others just shy, put food on the table and provided hours upon hours of entertainment. There were more than a few trips where it coaxed a toothy pike into battle and my knees would quiver and heart would race at the thought of losing it forever. There were even juvenile fish barely bigger than it that couldn’t help but hammer its treble hook. Another standout catch was a quillback sucker through the ice on the Red River when targeting the famed greenbacks, it fought harder than our target species and its thick shoulders barely made it up through the hole. This spoon was always one of the first lures to be tried on each trip out no matter the species or scenario. It ended up catching over 300 fish and 7 different species but finally met its demise on a late season multi-species trip. From out of nowhere it was smashed and the hook was set, weight was felt and then nothing. I was crushed, as it was one of the first lures I ever bought and didn’t know if you could even get them anymore as is sometimes the case. Gone but not forgotten, it took me some time to get over the loss. Eventually I was able to bring myself to look for a replacement and with a bit of effort searching the world wide web, a few more of the “Jedi” spoons were located, purchased and shipped successfully to yours truly. I can only hope the force is as strong with these spoons as it was with the old one this season on the ice.