Last Saturday I made it out on the ice to chase a few trout around. The morning started out terribly slow with only a couple missed fish while jigging a Swedish Pimple. Due to my lack of fresh spawn I didn't have much in the way of spawn sacks so opted to fish with medium golden shiners instead. By around 11AM the waiting game was getting old so I slapped on a couple older spawn sacks. No more then a half hour later one of the Automatic Fisherman with a chartreuse spawn sack on it tripped. 5 minutes later we had our first brown on ice.
Luckily for us it was a female with a few loose eggs left in her. We milked the eggs into a Ziploc bag, snapped a few pictures and quickly released her. With fresh brown trout spawn in hand I knew we were in business. I quickly went to work tying up the few eggs we had gathered into 4 fresh spawn bags.
Ice fishing various harbors for trout the past few years I've learned that alot of times there is no better bait then fresh spawn. Old frozen or freezer burnt spawn will not do. Knowing this I always make sure to bring along my "Spawn Bag Maker” which makes tying a spawn sack up on the ice a breeze.
Before I could even finish tying up the second sack my brother had already hooked into a Brown! He was using a marabou jig tipped with the minutes old fresh spawn bag. Wow, that didn't take long! The next 30 minutes were a blur with us landing three more Steelhead, (including a double header!!) on the three other spawns sacks I had tied up.
To say the fresh spawn made a difference is an understatement. Last Saturday reinforced just how important having fresh spawn is while chasing these wily trout through the ice. As important as fresh spawn is it's also just as critical to be rigged up properly. For spawn sack rigs I use an Automatic Fisherman spooled with 8# test mono, rigged with a 6# test fluorocarbon leader. The leader consists of a couple small split shot and a small #8 octopus hook snelled on the end.
You want to set the Automatic Fisherman (using the float above the bottom eyelet) so that it trips almost immediately after the fish grabs the spawn sack. When a trout takes a spawn sack it is essentially biting a naked hook. If you allow the fish much of a lead (using the float above the bottom eyelet) before the Automatic Fisherman trips they spit the bait. I've learned this the hard way, and can say from experience you do not need much if any lead when fishing spawn sacks below Autos. I set the spawn sacks no more then a foot above bottom often times I only set them 6" above bottom.
If you are using a Golden Shiner below an Automatic fisherman my set up is a little different. Instead of the #8 octopus hook I like to use a single small #10 treble hook. Rig the hook just behind the dorsal fin of the shiner. Make sure the shiner is as lively as possible, trout will not touch them if they are dead so the livelier the better. Unlike when using spawn sacks I often have the best luck with shiners set five or more feet off bottom. When using the shiners below Auto's the float becomes critical, I set the float to allow a foot or more of slack line before the Auto trips. This lets the trout grab the shiner and get the small treble in it's mouth. Fishing trout through the ice can be slow, but the rewards are great. As was the case last Saturday, more often then not it's the little things that make a big difference.