By: Dustin Slinker
Early ice season in South Central Alaska was tougher than normal due to erratic weather patterns. However, as winter winds down conditions are improving and we are now on solid ice. With more than 20 inches of good ice on the majority of the lakes we’ve been on the fishing opportunities are only increasing. We have found trout and char fishing to be productive across the region. Opportunities are abundant in Anchorage, the Mat-Su Valley, along the Seward Highway and anywhere our road system stands.
Being in South Central Alaska and along the road system we have access and availability to many stocked lakes in the Alaska Department of Fish & Game stocking program. The majority of these lakes are stocked with landlocked salmon, rainbow trout and arctic char. These lakes are stocked usually twice a year and have fish from catchable size up to brood stock size.
There’s an endless amount of lakes and ponds to ice fish in the region. If you live in the Anchorage area the ADFG heavily stocks Jewel Lake to provide ample opportunities for local anglers during the winter. The same can be said for places like Finger Lake in the Mat-Su Valley. These are two of an endless number of waters the state does a great job at stocking. The entire list can be found online at www.adfg.alaska.gov.
We are still focusing on targeting the best winter feeding times. This means it’s important to be on the ice at first light and again just before sunset. Oftentimes, the midday bite can be slow. During those slower periods when the sun is high and the bite is slow we take advantage of that time to explore new parts of the lake and use our underwater cameras to hunt for transition zones. If you can find these zones where the lake may go from weed beds to gravel or big rocks to a flat sandy open bottom you may have a little more luck finding where the fish are. We also like to look for sharp drop offs and shelves where fish could be suspended in the water column during the daytime.
While on the ice I generally dead stick one of my rods with a small piece Fire Brine shrimp tipped on a jig. Here in Alaska we are allowed to only fish two ice fishing rods at the same time. Once I have my dead stick set I begin to use spoons or tube jigs tipped with shrimp and vertical jig hoping to draw some curious fish into the area. When using jigs I’m tipping the shrimp on a one-inch to four-inch tube jig fished on a 1/16 to quarter ounce round colored jig head. I go through bags of shrimp during ice fishing season and brine them all with Pink, Blue, Red, Chartreuse and Orange Fire Brine, in fact I use Natural Fire Brine, too. The key is having an assortment of colors as the fish often prefer a different color each day or change the color they want throughout the day.
Editor’s Note: Dustin Slinker operates The Bait Shack in Anchorage, Alaska. For more info on his guide services please visit https://www.facebook.com/thebaitshack.