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Waking Up The Northern Ontario Neighourhood

When Jeff and Jason Matity visited Northern Ontario last week, every single crappie they caught was on a rod affixed with a clacker. • Credit: Gord Pyzer
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Waking Up The Northern Ontario Neighourhood

Making the most of the ice fishing season

The best ice fishing of the season is rapidly arriving and it is only going to get better across all of Northern Ontario, from now until the warm days of spring honeycomb the ice and cause it to pull away from shore.

But that is still several weeks away.

So, if you've set your sights on catching the biggest lake trout, walleye, northern pike, whitefish, black crappie or yellow perch, now is the time to do it.

And the best way is to wake up the neighbourhood -0° literally.

As a matter of fact, I recently hosted Jeff and Jason Matity, of Matity Outdoors, on a three-day Northwestern Ontario multi-species slug-fest and the fishing was outrageous.

The key was making noise -- lots of noise.

I've mentioned often that I believe the next frontier in fishing, both during the open water season as well as when we are fishing through a hole in the ice, is better understanding the role that sound and vibration play in first, attracting fish to our lures and then, triggering them to bite.

The scenario played out perfectly when the Matity boys were here in Sunset Country.

It started the first day, under a gloriously warm, sunny spring day when we were targeting black crappies. We could see the occasional fish on our sonar screens but it quickly became apparent that the crappies were spread out over a wide expanse of the lake, rather than bunched up and concentrated. It is a pattern I've often encountered at this time of the year and I think it reflects the fact that the fish have consolidated well into their winter homes and are taking life easy as they wait for the ice to melt when they'll school up once again and move toward the shallows to spawn.

If you’ve set your sights on catching the biggest fish of the winter, now is the time to do it, and as Gord Pyzer explains, the best way is to wake up the neighbourhood. (Photo credit: Gordy Pyzer)

One good way to triumph over fish when they're outstretched this way is to hole hop. But it is a particularly good strategy at this time of the year, and let me tell you, we drilled plenty of holes. Constantly moving from hole to hole spaced out about 15 to 20 feet apart, let us cherry-pick big beautiful slab crappies.

But, we were also able to call the fish over to our baits by adding a noisy clacker a foot or so above our small jigs. For those unfamiliar with the noisemakers, clackers (the best are made by ReelBait) consist of a cylindrical brass weight, with a hole in the centre, sandwiched between two glass beads that slide up and down a 6-inch length of thin wire.

I should mention, too, that an added bonus is that the clacker weighs as much as 3/8- to 1/2-ounce in weight, so you can drop down a tiny, light 1/32- to 1/16-ounce jig without taking up half the day for it to get to the bottom and the fish.

The real key, though, is that when your lure has settled, lift it up smartly enough that the brass weight and glass beads on the clacker slide up and down the wire, shaking and banging together to make a ruckus.

If you're a Doubting Thomas about the effectiveness of the strategy, let me simply say that when we put it into practice last week, every single fish that we caught came on the noisemaker. And trust me, we had multiple rods rigged with silent presentations, but we did not catch crappie -- not one -- on a rod rigged without the clacker.

And crappies aren't the only fish you can wake up at this time of the year. Nor, are clackers your only source of the sound.

My good friend and In-Fisherman Television host, Doug Stange, loves to join up with me in Northern Ontario to catch gargantuan northern pike in March and April when we use large dead baits (foot-long suckers, ciscoes and anchovies) pinned to quick-strike rigs positioned beneath tip-ups. Doug is a pioneer with the technique, having learned so many clever, cunning and subtle nuances from European anglers who have perfected the presentation.

But, he wasn't sure what to make of my noise-making habit of hopping onto my 4x4 quad every half hour or so and then driving it around the holes where we had our tip-ups set. I've been doing this for years and I am certain the noise of the machine rumbling over the heads of the pike in shallow water, stirs them up and gets them moving until they eventually spot one of our dead baits suspended in the water column.

I won't spill the beans entirely on how we did on our last Northern Ontario pike safari, but I will encourage you to watch the following short video clip that we filmed. It is one of the biggest northern pike ever landed live on television and when we calculated the weight of the 53-inch monster after we set her free, it computed out to be over 34 pounds.

So it pays to wake up the neighbourhood!

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