Cold Winter Weather Brings Ice Fishing Fun

The ice fishing season is underway and reports from those venturing out to the frozen water say area lakes and ponds are producing great numbers of fish this winter. Scott Stanley, an avid angler, says it’s tough to quit fishing in the winter months, so he ventures out to the ice and has found the experience of ice fishing to be something he truly enjoys.
By Ashley Schable
Freezing temperatures have frozen some area lakes providing anglers with an opportunity for ice fishing fun. Fishing has been reported good. “I’ve had a great ice fishing season so far,” said Scott Stanley, who serves as chairman for the local Fin and Feather, which supports fishing and wildlife enhancement at Lake Panorama. When he’s not fishing he is vice president at Farmers State Bank in Yale.
Stanley jokes his fishing spots are a secret, but shares some success from Lake Panorama, including the pond near the Panorama West Golf Course, as well as some area farm ponds this winter. “The lake has a lot of fish, but they are harder to target as there is not a lot of cover to set up on, but once you find fish, you can catch a bunch,” said Stanley, who on a recent night had non-stop action reeling in bluegills and crappie. He said the Panorama West pond has been producing great numbers of fish. “Quality bluegills and an occasional nice crappie,” he said. 
The ice fishing season is well underway. Jeremy King, area conservation officer with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources,  reports ice between 10 and 14 inches thick in places. “People are able to pull sleds out, there’s plenty of ice,” said King, who himself has made eight trips onto the frozen water this winter, including a couple late nights with Stanley.
King says his success has also been good. “Farm ponds -- with permission -- have been good right now,” King said. “There’s a handful of lakes to venture to.” King said Littlefield Lake near Audubon has been producing giant bluegill and crappie and Lake Anita has also been said to be fairly decent. Badger Creek Lake by Booneville has also been a hot spot, King said. King said there’s four (fishing) sheds out on Lake Panorama, and some fish being snagged there. “I usually meet them on the shore at the Marina to check them,” he said. 
Both King and Stanley say the winter can be a great time to fish. “If you’re an avid angler, it’s tough to quit fishing during the winter months,” Stanley said. The number of people who ice fish are generally fewer compared to those who fish open water. “You have access to the entire body of water and can get to it easily and quietly,” said Stanley, who most of the time ventures out by himself, and oftentimes that means after his wife and two kids go to bed in the evenings. 
“When the fish are biting, it’s not uncommon to be out on the ice until 1 or 2 a.m.,” he said. “I’ve had more luck targeting crappies at night then during the day.” Stanley has caught quite a few trophy fish in three different species this winter, including a 15 1/2 inch crappie, 10 1/4 inch bluegill, and a 13 1/2 inch perch. He’s also caught a bunch of large mouth bass with his biggest weighing in around 3 1/2 pounds. “When I ice fish I’m targeting panfish and walleyes and try to shy away from the bass because that’s all I fish for during the open water season,” he said.
Stanley believes strongly in respecting the fisheries he fishes and therefore uses catch and release, a practice within recreational fishing intended as a technique of conservation. “I practice catch and release on all trophy fish,” he said. “I’ve seen too many places ruined because people keep everything they catch. It takes a long time to produce quality fish, but a short amount of time to deplete fishery.” Stanley said he’s yet to keep any fish through the ice this winter. “I will occasionally keep just enough to feed myself and the family as we love to eat it, but they are more fun to catch,” he said. 
Stanley says, while sitting on the ice can be cold and at times scary, there are definitely advantages to ice fishing. “There’s no bugs or boat traffic to contend with,” he said. “It’s more relaxing especially when I bring the shack out and am fishing in a sweatshirt when the outside temp is 10 degrees.”
Stanley says an ice rod, auger and some bait are all anyone really needs to get started fishing on the ice. “I use mainly plastics, but will occasionally use maggots and minnows,” he said, discussing his bait. Stanley said the more seasoned fishermen, like himself, look to purchase a (electronic) Vexilar, a gas auger, a Mr. Buddy heater, and even a Clam ice house, to keep them out of the elements.” 
Stanley has sparked interest in ice fishing among several others, including a few who tagged along with him, expecting to find it boring. “The next day they went and bought all the ice fishing gear,” he said. Stanley enjoys introducing others to the sport. “It’s more fun going with others as you can cover more water and tell stories when the fish decide not to cooperate,” he said. 
Stanley encourages everyone to give ice fishing a try, and as an organizer for the youth fishing tournament at Lake Panorama during Panora’s annual Panorama Days celebration in August, he loves to see kids with a pole in their hand. “It’s a great pastime,” he said. “You can do it solo, or make it a family outing.” 
John Rutledge, Lake Panorama Association General Manager said the LPA advises extreme caution to those out on the ice this winter, especially considering the periods of warm temperatures forecasted for this coming weekend. Rutledge also reminds ice fisherman to have a state of Iowa fishing license. Those expired on January 10. 
King said there are several options for those wanting to renew their hunting and fishing license for 2017-18 in Guthrie County. You can go to any licensed vendor, which includes  the courthouse, Lake Lumber in Panora and Sparky’s in Guthrie Center. You can also get your license on the internet. If you do, you will need to print it, sign it, and carry it with you when hunting or fishing. You can get your hunting or fishing license when you turn 16, if you are hunting or fishing on your parent’s property then you can wait until you are 18.