Sandy Pond-“Ice Fishing Blitz”
There is a therapeutic nature to sitting on a 5 gallon bucket and jerking Yellow Perch through the ice! In fact, it’s the perfect way for an all-season sportsman to un-wind after an action packed fishing and hunting season. Recent winters have been extremely cold or extremely warm, so ice fishermen need a fishing spot that is consistent regardless of weather. Sandy Pond (located in northern Oswego County) is just that type of fishing location. The “North Pond” section of Sandy Pond is large and expansive, sporting a sediment bottom which Perch and Walleye love. The region north of Greene Point Marina is a bit shallower but fishing is consistent. Weed growth in this northern section promotes some great Pike and Pickerel fishing but don’t discount the quality Perch fishing that can be found here. Ice fishermen working the shallows at dusk and beyond can also find some extremely good Crappie fishing.
The best part of the Sandy Pond complex is that the ice is generally fishable throughout the entirety of the ice fishing season. When ice fishermen are willing to adjust their techniques, each day can provide a variety of warm water species!
Jigging Techniques for Perch
The bulk of North Pond is 7-12 ft. in depth with a sediment bottom. Sandy Pond’s shallow nature means that any type jigging rod will be applicable. The general rule of thumb is that the deeper the water, the stiffer the spine of the jigging rod. In deep water, the stiffer spine will help anglers with hook sets on monofilament that is prone to stretch. Perch are most fun on ultralight spinning rods in the 24-30 inch length. Since Sandy Pond is uniformly shallow, ultralights are a perfect choice. Graphite rods can become brittle in extremely cold temperatures so we opt for some type of quality glass rod that’s topped with a small but durable spinning reel. The spinning reel should be loaded with some type of monofilament ice line. We prefer using Maxima or Cajun Red on our jigging rods. When Perch are particularly line shy, we will tie droppers using fluorocarbon line which becomes virtually invisible under water.
The simplest method for jigging Yellow Perch is to simply tie a bell sinker directly to the bottom of your fishing line. Above the bell sinker, we locate a pair of ice-ticks at 10”inch intervals. These ticks can be tipped with wax worms, spikes or small minnows. Once the sinker hits bottom, tighten the fishing line and simply jiggle it periodically to provide some movement to the ticks. Since Sandy Pond is primarily a sediment bottom, the sinker can be pounded into the dirt to create dust clouds and call in schools of passing Perch. Fishermen should lift and drop the sinker several times to create a small dust cloud on bottom. This cloud can represent feeding fish to passing schools. The ice ticks are located high enough above the dust cloud that once fish engage, they can easily target the ticks.
The other method of jigging is to place a Swedish Pimple or similar jig spoon on the bottom of the fishing line tipped with a Fathead or Rosie-red minnow. Generally, we will run some type of ice tick or perch bug 10-12 inches above the live bait. This upper jig can be tipped with a spike or mousie to provide extra attraction. There are days when aggressive Perch will consistently take the minnow on the bottom rig. When the minnow bite is on, anglers will have their hands full just keeping rods in the water. When this bite subsides, electronics can come into play. Fishermen using sonar gear like Vexilars or underwater cameras can engage Perch by lifting them off bottom by raising the minnow jig above their heads. Once the Perch are stratified a foot off bottom, the minnow jig is quickly lowered away from them and the mousie tipped ice tick is jiggled right in front of their nose. Perch will find this technique hard to resist and will bite the tick when a larger offering will be ignored. Since the Sandy Pond fishery is so diverse, anglers should expect to get bit periodically by Pike or Pickerel while fishing small jig rods. Pike will sometimes sever the lightweight jigging line but when they don’t, they can provide unbelievable fishing sport!
Tip-Downs, “Tops in Shallow Water Fishing”!
Just 5 years ago, ice fishermen would be hard pressed to find another ice angler using Tip-downs. Today, Tip-downs are commonplace and especially so in shallow water expanses like those at Sandy Pond. Any type of Tip-down will work but we rig them differently depending on the bite. Pike and Pickerel will take Tip-down baits on a regular basis but only the largest Yellow Perch will hit Tip-downs. The biggest examples of Yellow Perch will always come on Tip-downs and it has to do with the way we rig the Tip-down.
Our standard Tip-down rig has a bell sinker on the bottom with two droppers located above the sinker tied with fluorocarbon leader. A #4 Aberdeen hook is located at the end of each dropper. We use Aberdeen hooks because of their long shank which protects the fishing line on Pike and Pickerel bites. The long shank will also make double hooking large Perch bait much easier. The double hooking of bait is critical when fishing for large Perch. When selecting bait for Tip-downs, anglers should use the very largest of their Fathead minnows or purchase Walleye/Bass sized shiners. The Aberdeen hook should be run through the minnow just behind the gills. The hook is then rotated and run back through the minnow just below the spine and in the mid-section of the minnow. This type of hooking will generally kill the bait but the static nature is irresistible to Perch. Yellow Perch will work the minnows but will be unable to free them from the Aberdeen hooks. Small Perch will not be able to ingest the over-sized minnows but the largest examples of Perch will be able to take the bait in. Action begets action when fishing Tip-downs and anglers shouldn’t be surprised when they take doubles on Tip-down rigs.
When Yellow Perch are aggressive, we use the double hook rig with the bell sinker on the bottom. When Perch try to pick up the bait and swim with it, the sinker drags on the bottom. Aggressive fish will not be bothered by the resistance but fish that are on a fickle bite will drop the bait as the sinker starts to drag. When the bite is fickle, we use a different type of set-up on the Tip-down. When fishing for light biting Perch, we rig a single Aberdeen hook at the bottom of the fishing line. 12” inches above the Aberdeen hook, we tie a tiny Spro swivel in-line with an Indiana or Colorado blade threaded through the fishing line above the swivel. The swivel prevents the blade from falling but it will spin above the bait in the slightest of current. Sometimes, anglers can use a tiny weighted/color coded steelhead beads above the swivel to help get the bait down and into position. Fish that are on a more fickle bite can pick up the bottom hook and swim off to the side of the hole with virtually no resistance. There is no chance of a double with the single hook set-up but on days when the bite is light, this rig will keep you catching fish. Anglers should also remember to set the drags lightly on Tip-downs. Big Pike and Pickerel have been known to drag more than one Tip-down through the fishing hole!
Each season, some really big Pike will come from the waters of Sandy Pond. Anglers targeting big Pike should set-up just outside of known weed lines where Pike can stalk prey from cover. Most anglers will fish heavier set-ups utilizing Tip-ups and treble hooks for these bigger fish. Tip-ups are simple to rig but attractors can be added to bring fish in from a distance. The Hard Water Ice Guides also employ a system of 2 smaller trebles pre-loaded on light gauge fishing wire which can be attached directly to the end of the Tip-up line. These set-ups are known as Quick Strike Rigs and will help anglers hook Pike and Pickerel more quickly. We highly recommend these rigs for Sandy Pond fishing because some smaller Pike and Pickerel will be encountered on a daily basis. When a flag goes up, fishermen can immediately set the hook promoting hook ups in the mouth or corner of the jaw. When single trebles are used, Pike should be allowed to run with the bait. When this occurs the bait can get ingested, killing smaller fish that would otherwise be released. When anglers want Perch and Pike action, they should set Tip-ups a considerable distance away from their Perch rigs. Pike frequenting Perch rigs will general shut down the action when ice fishing.
Wherever you choose to fish on Sandy Pond, it’s a sure bet that some type of warm water species will be found there. Ice fishermen are a gregarious bunch and it won’t take long to determine where the “Hot Bite” is. Local tackle shops like Woody’s, All Season Sports, Fat Nancy’s and Chaumont Hardware and Bait can all provide ice anglers with up to date information. Get out there this winter—you’ll be glad you did! Sandy Pond is a great place to start your next ice adventure!
Capt. Bill Saiff III owns the Westview Lodge in Henderson Harbor, NY where ice fishermen stay all winter long. For information on his “Hard Water Ice Guides” fishing trips, contact him at 315-771-3514 or visit them online at www.BillSaiffOutdoors.com
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