Crappies, ’bows through the ice make good table fare

Brad Kerr
Just Passin' Through
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A single-digit temperature greeted us as we pulled off the road along the Narrows at Pineview. Nonetheless, we worked our way down the rocky hill to the lake, and stepped off into some standing water on top of the ice. Not enough to really bother us, we began our walk out toward deeper water.

We cranked the power auger to life, and began drilling holes and checking depths. The target today was crappies, suspended in deep water. And we settled in at depths of 35 and 42 feet, looking to cover some varied depths in search of schools of fish.

On Jon’s first drop, he caught a 10-inch crappie, and his day was off and running (12 inches was our largest crappie). While the fishing wasn’t really fast, it was consistent enough to keep us watching the fish finder and chasing fish all over the screen. The bite was so light, you’d swear the fish were only breathing on the lure below. But our jigs, having been sweetened with a wax worm, brought in the perch and crappies, which were at least interested in checking out our baits. We kept most all of what we caught, mainly because at that depth the fish tended to have swollen swim bladders when pulled them up from so deep.

We found our fish in deep water, which is what we were expecting. And being out fishing on a weekday, the crowd of anglers you see on a Saturday were not present. We had the place to ourselves.

A bag of crappies with a few perch thrown in made for some filleting when I arrived home and put my gear away. I don’t really mind this task, as the reward is so well worth it. There’s nothing like a fresh fish dinner on a Sunday afternoon when there’s a chill in the air.

My wife Cindy cooks up the best fish dinners I’ve ever enjoyed. Complete with baked beans, Cole slaw, hushpuppies, and fried potatoes, I always eat too much. And it’s all homemade. But it’s worth it to enjoy those sweet, white fillets, and all the fixin’s for a big dinner treat.

Soldier Creek ’bows

Until the bite just shut down about 11:30 a.m., I had a busy morning with the rainbows and cutts on the Soldier Creek side of Strawberry. Having arrived early on a solo trip, and dragging that power auger along, I soon found fish on my finder after beginning by cutting 10 or so holes from which to choose. I was curious if moving around would be the ticket on this day, but as I found out when the bite really got good around 8:15 a.m., I could pretty much do all my fishing from three or four holes.

I set up a dead-stick rod in one hole, putting my Rat Finkee down about two-thirds into the water column. I caught four rainbows on that setup to supplement my catch that day. From the warmth of my tent I pretty much stayed put, seeing fish regularly on the finder, and having quite a few investigators. I found my best success came when I would slowly lift the jig when a fish was

just sitting and staring at it. The strikes came as the fish would suddenly fly up a few feet and grab the lure.

I did change up my lure choice twice, going to a small teardrop jig and then a tube jig, all tipped with waxies and meal worms. But the success rate didn’t improve, so I went back to that orange and white Rat Finkee. I just was curious if something else might produce better. You never know unless you try.

Some cutthroat were also part of my catch, probably about 30 percent, but rainbows in the 16- to 18-inch range were dominant on this day and in this location. I remembered when we took our last boating trip of the fall to Strawberry, and got into the rainbows almost exclusively. Slow moving tube jigs in shallow water was really picking them up.

I also like to take home some ‘bows for filleting, and tend to always put them into the smoker with either alder or hickory wood chips. They are so tender and flavorful when prepared this way, and go well with any side dishes you might put out on the dinner table.

The winter season isn’t over yet, even with the moderate daytime temps here in the Top of Utah. But high-altitude lakes like the ‘Berry will continue to offer a good surface to fish on. Pineview, however, needs to be watched carefully. The edges can become soft during the day when the sun is out and temperatures rise. The slush monster is a concern too. Always venture out with the utmost of care.

Brad Kerr is an avid angler who can be reached at bradkfisherman@msn.com.

Brad Kerr

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