Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Sports columns

February 2, 2013

MARTINO: Playing the zoo can mean more fish for you

A lesson learned during a light day of ice fishing

— I learned something that day I will always remember and it has paid off through the years. It was one of those typical midwinter afternoons. The mercury rested at the bottom of the thermometer and a thick layer of snow blanketed the landscape. Several friends and I decided to enjoy an afternoon of ice fishing.

Although the conversations were fast, the fishing was slow. Between the four of us, we did manage to pull in a few bluegills here and there but nothing like we had hoped for. We all knew the lake held good numbers of fish and our electronics proved they were there. In spite of our best efforts, we could not entice them into taking the tear drop jigs that dangled at the end of our lines. So we did what any respectable hard water angler would do when the “catching” is less than expected – we popped open a Corona.

We had barely taken that first sip when Jeff Ellis said “what the heck are these?” He was now on one knee staring intently into the round hole he had cut earlier into the ice.

Closer inspection revealed dozens of tiny, white, comma like creatures moving in chaotic fashion up and down through the water. “It is some type of zooplankton,” I surmised. “Maybe that’s why the fishing is slow.”

Then it hit me. I grabbed a rod spooled with two-pound test line. After rummaging through the small tackle box, I tied on the tiniest ice fly I had. It was so small in fact, the two pound line barely fit through the lure’s eye.

The bait never made it to the bottom before I felt that unmistakable “thunk” of a hefty bluegill inhaling the fly, which I made even more appealing by tipping with a mousie. After several fish lay flopping on the ice everyone started searching for similar lures in their arsenal of baits.

It was evident the fish were eating zooplankton, the smallest of underwater animals. Not to be confused with Phytoplankton, which are the tiniest of aquatic plants.

Since then I have learned these little creatures go by names like Daphnia and copepods. I remembered learning about these small aquatic creatures in Patty Zeck’s botany and zoology classes at Northwestern High School. Now I wish I had paid more attention back then, maybe it wouldn’t have taken me so long to put this piece of the puzzle together. Slowly it came back. Zooplankton eats phytoplankton and planktivorous fish (like bluegills, crappies and perch) eat zooplankton, especially in winter under a layer of ice when other food is scarce.

Normally residing on the bottom, these tiny animals migrate up and down through the water column, especially during times of changing light like sunrise and sunset. This could be the reason why sometimes the screens on our ice fishing electronics become filled with dancing flickers.

Later that season Ellis purchased an underwater camera. For the first time we actually viewed how fish fed on these diminutive creatures. We inquisitively watched bluegills and crappies move through the screen as they slowly swam through clouds of zooplankton raking them in. They were filtering them much like some types of whales do when gorging on krill (also a type of zooplankton). These panfish would slowly pass through the zooplankton with their mouths barely open sucking them in. It was a totally different style of eating that we many times don’t consider.

When you think about it, humans are no different. We don’t eat a big, greasy double cheeseburger deluxe the same way we sip a fruit smoothie and these fish were doing the same thing. This explained why our initial offerings were ignored until we began using baits barely larger than the print on this page. We were matching the hatch, so to speak.

Because they were filtering food, instead of attacking it like they normally do the bite was extremely light and would have been nearly unnoticeable. A spring bobber attached to the end of the rod to detect the slightest of bites was a necessity.

Is it time to give up your standard presentations for ice fishing? Absolutely not. But do pay attention to what is going on around you, even if that world is contained in the small hole at your feet. If you notice tiny larvae moving throughout the water or notice numbers of fish on your electronics that refuse to bite, try downsizing to a white, brown or black colored fly. I am willing to bet this technique will put fish on the ice when other methods leave you scratching your chin.

John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at jmartinooutdoors@att.net.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports columns
  • State Briefs Instructor, student pilot hurt in crash GREENWOOD (AP) -- A flight instructor whose plane crashed while he was giving a lesson has told police the craft had engine problems. Police say 65-year-old Dennis Rumley of Greenwood and 38-year-old student pi

    March 19, 2014

  • de la Bastide, Ken mug ID de la Bastide: Young stars shine in Georgia For the past few years I have had the privilege of watching two up and coming stars in the super late model ranks that are going to make noise in NASCAR. The two drivers scored victories this past weekend at the Champion Racing Association's annual S

    January 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • de la Bastide: IndyCar silly season is heating up

    The start of silly season for 2014 has started in the Izod IndyCar Series with just a handful of races remaining.

    August 14, 2013

  • Emmons, Rohlfing select colleges Preston Emmons enjoyed a breakout season as the catcher on Kokomo's baseball team. He drew college interest at just the right time, and will join Wildkats teammate Eli Grimes at Goshen College, where he will continue his career on the diamond with th

    June 13, 2013

  • Hibbert.jpg GASKINS: Hibbert’s block was thing of beauty

    For the better part of the NBA season, ESPN devoted all kinds of time on SportsCenter episodes to replays of two dunks. Anyone who watches any ESPN at all surely knows the two to which I’m referring: 6-foot-11 DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers posterizing 6-3 Brandon Knight of the Detroit Pistons, and 6-8 LeBron James of the Miami Heat hammering home a dunk over 6-2 Jason Terry of the Boston Celtics.
    Day after day, ESPN commentators lavished endless praise, which quickly grew tiresome. The dunks were strong, but Jordan and James were much taller and heavier than Knight and Terry and the dunkers also caught perfect alley-oop passes with the defenders in poor positions to defend. Still, ESPN commentators loved these plays.
    I kept wondering if a great defensive play would receive the same kind of love.

    May 21, 2013 1 Photo

  • SPL - KT042413 - Art for Bowman.jpg Gas City I-69 Speedway has big show in store

    Weather permitting, the local racing action will kick off this weekend as the Gas City I-69 Speedway will play host to the USAC Amsoil National Sprint Car Series on Friday night.
    Last week’s scheduled opener for the bullring in Grant County fell victim to the heavy rains that besieged large portions of central Indiana.

    April 24, 2013 1 Photo

  • Frederickson.jpg BOWMAN: Frederickson ready for his 20th year of racing

    As hard as it is to believe, when Kokomo’s Jamie Frederickson rolls onto a race track in the coming days, it will mark his 20th year of toiling in a non-wing sprint car.
    Entering this season, Frederickson has high hopes as a result of the previous 19 years honing his craft and bettering his equipment.
    “This year is pretty much like I am every year,” said Frederickson. “My main goal is that I would really like to pick up a feature win at some time this year. I don’t care where it’s at and how I do it, I just want to win a feature before this year is over.”

    April 19, 2013 1 Photo

  • Indiana’s Crean simply fails to inspire confidence

    Survive and advance?
    More like, struggle and aggravate.
    Such is the frustrating reality for Indiana University men’s basketball fans this season. Blessed with roster talent rivaled only by Hoosier teams of lore, coach Tom Crean stumbles his way through game plans, matchups and adjustments; the outcome is occasionally brilliant, but largely inconsistent and underachieving.
     

    March 28, 2013

  • GASKINS: Schultes' deaths hit hard

    Like many others, I am walking around with a pit in my stomach following the senseless deaths of Dennis and Judy Schulte earlier this week in Seattle. The retired Kokomo couple was walking with their daughter-in-law, Karina Schulte, and her 10-day-old son when they were slammed into by a suspected drunk driver.
    Dennis had deep roots in Western athletics. He was a longtime assistant coach in football and wrestling and later the head coach in wrestling. In addition, he was a rock-solid teacher in the math department. Judy worked in education at Northwestern.

    March 28, 2013

  • Hoban had zeal for Tigers

    While Merrill Hoban put his signature on Howard County basketball during a 12-year reign as coach at Northwestern High School, it was his influence and lasting relationships with players, students, colleagues, friends and family that will be remembered most fondly. Hoban, 91, was a teacher at Northwestern for 31 years. He died Wednesday at St. Joseph Hospital.


     

    March 25, 2013

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Raw: First Lady Says `Drink Up' More Water Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City Diplomatic Push Intensifies to End War in Gaza Cat Fans Lap Up Feline Film Festival Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries
Poll
Kelly Lafferty's video on Tom Miller