Dealing with Ice-Out Turnover

Ice-Out turnover is not a new phenomena, but depending on where you live, maybe you are just noticing it. Simply put, the turnover, or mixing of the water column from bottom to top happens immediately after ice-out (when a body of water no longer is covered in ice).

Unlike most liquids, water is actually less dense as a solid than as a liquid. The result is that ice floats, and the densest cold water sinks. This leads to lakes becoming layered — capped with ice on top, and the water below stratified by density. This stratification is actually weaker in winter than in summer, but the ice cap keeps water layers from mixing. In the spring, when the ice cap melts and the surface heats up, mixing (or turn over) occurs. This turn over is vital to the health and well being of aquatic life in the lake, since the upper layers become infused with oxygen by the air and, upon mixing, bring oxygenated water down to the lower layers. The lower layers, in turn, bring sediment- and nutrient-laden waters up toward the surface.

What to Look For…

The brightest, greenest water is going to come from a place that had the most vegetation sediment (those areas that experience the heaviest weed growth). Generally, areas that are flatter.

If things look unusually green and “nasty” then its time to move. But where to? You have two options

  • moving water that will provide a bit more mixing
  • areas that are not dominated by flat bottom structures and therefore have an over abundance of vegetation sediment coming off the bottom
Finding “cleaner” water is relative. It still may not look good, but simply better.

Once you find better water, then standard pre-spawn strategies will work…

Focus on steeping breaking structure/contours

Finding steeping contours is the most important and most basic of pre-spawn tactics. Remember, “shallow” and “deep” are relative terms and in and of themselves don’t mean a whole lot. You are looking for the quickest transition from shallow to deep, whether that is 2 to 8 foot transition or 5 to 15 foot transition.

Next step – Locate the Best Cover

After you find the proper structure (steepest contours), look for the best cover on that structure.

When willows are the dominant cover, combine it with the proper contours, breaks and water clarity and you are most of the way there.
Beaver huts, especially submerged ones, are key cover pieces as well.

Baits and Techniques

If you find water that is close to “normal”, whatever that may be for where you are fishing, then you can stick to standard colors and vibrations

The more normal the water clarity to more you can “match the hatch” This is a Dirty Jigs No Jack Swim Jig that has been doctored for added durability and includes a special-colored Keitech Swing Impact Fat as a trailer.

The more you find yourself in darker, dirtier water (from what is normal) the more you want to veer towards the bolder, more solid colors like blacks.

Solid, dark colors, like the old standby of black and blue need to tied on and ready to go. This color combination works in many water clarity situations including dark/dirty.

Baits that offer good vibration or water displacement are also a good choice.

Chatterbait 3/4 oz. Jack Hammer with a Yamamoto Zako trailer

Notice I’m talking about baits and techniques towards the end, because that should be your priority as well. Too many times, I’ve tried to make a bad water quality situation better with a “magic” bait or color, when the thing I should have started with was finding better water.

Move from this…
…to this.

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