The ice season can be some of the most exciting times to get out there and go after your fish of choice. Sometimes, you may even stumble across a school of fish you weren’t expecting to find. That’s what happened to ANGLR Expert, Gus Glasgow up on Lake Arthur in Western Pennsylvania a few years back. He was out targeting crappies and ran into a school of smallmouth bass ice fishing. The best part? they seem to have taken up residence in that spot, year after year.
Glasgow has been fishing since he was a little kid. His uncle was a passionate fishermen, and got him hooked on ice fishing. He took Glasgow out for the first time around the age of six, and he loved it. His mom wasn’t so keen on the idea since there wasn’t really any emphasis on safety back then.
“If you saw water squirting up, you just took a bigger step over the hole,” Glasgow shared.
The Premier Western PA Ice Fishing Destination
While Glasgow resides not too far from Presque Isle, Lake Erie, he favors the more popular Lake Arthur for ice fishing. “Presque Isle is so iffy on the ice, more people go to Lake Arthur.” It’s like the ultimate ice fishing destination spot for all of Western PA.
Anglers make the trek up from Pittsburgh, Ohio, and even West Virginia to get some ice time. It’s usually the first lake with ice, the lake with the most ice, and the lake with the safest ice.
“Due to the geological location and the surrounding hills, it’s the best and safest place to go,” You can’t beat that!
How To Find the Fish You’re Not Looking For
He ice fishes almost exclusively for panfish these days but stumbled upon a little secret a few years back while going after crappie. “It’s a really rare thing to catch smallmouth bass ice fishing. The only reason I even came across them was because I happened upon a spot that apparently the bass wintered in.” He was on the upper end of Lake Arthur along one of the three main fingers where ice fishing is generally practiced: Muddy Creek, the Propagation Finger, and Shannon’s. That’s where the majority of anglers go after panfish, Muskie, and Pike.
Earlier in the season, you’re more likely to catch crappie in the shallower ends of the lake near brush piles, rock piles, and weed edges.. As the season goes on and more fish have been caught, their numbers start to dwindle and they head further out to deeper water. Glasgow thought he was following those crappie as they headed closer to the main body of water, looking at some brush piles and rock piles over open water near main lake points. He started finding groups of wintering smallmouth in about 10-12 feet of water in a brush pile near two rocks.
“It’s rare to catch smallmouth at Lake Arthur, period. It’s very rare to catch them through the ice, and extremely rare to have a spot that produces high numbers. It’s a real oddity, but they fight just as hard through the ice as they do through the summertime.”
Thinking this was just a fluke, he’s actually stumbled across another location on the same lake, finding similar groups of smallmouth. He’s able to catch them in these locations over and over again. Both locations are very similar in that they consist of a brush pile near rock structure over a hard bottom. “But it’s really only those two locations on Lake Arthur where I’ve found those conditions, but I can go out and consistently catch six to ten in a short period of time, which is an oddity when it comes to bass.”
Smallmouth Bass Ice Fishing Gear
When he had happened upon the surprise bass, Glasgow had been using microplastics, Fiskas tungsten jigs tipped with a maggot, and a dead-stick minnow, all with 32” ice noodle rods with 2-3 pound Gamma fluorocarbon ice line, in his effort to chase panfish when he caught a surprise, instead.
“I caught them on a jig, and I wasn’t paying attention to my deadstick rod. I looked over, and it was sliding across the ice about to go down the hole,” he reminisced.
Smallmouth have a tremendous amount of fight when compared to largemouth bass.
“They fight extremely hard in the wintertime.” Once he noticed that he was consistently able to get into these bass ice fishing, he took a friend along. “I warned him, ‘do not leave your rod near the hole unattended because these smallmouth are nuts.’ He didn’t believe me. His rod took off within seconds and he lost it down the hole.” He jokes about the fish’s wintertime fight. “If they could jump, they would. A couple of times I’ve felt like they’ve probably jumped and smacked the ice.”
Now that he knows he’s going to go for these smallmouth, Glasgow still uses the same rigging as he does for the panfish. Occasionally he’ll grab a Northland Forage Minnow spoon, though he’s still using his four and five-millimeter Fiskas jigs.
Ice Fishing Technology
This seasoned angler laments the lack of technology that affordably pairs fish-finding technology and tracking with GPS, making it difficult to readily track your catches, but he believes that the ANGLR Bullseye could easily bridge that gap in the future. Glasgow uses the Bullseye with the ANGLR App when ice fishing and likes the fact that you can easily share your catches, your story, and your map.
If you want to make your catches public, you can, but you can also keep all of your data completely private! You can share where you were, how you caught them. “Before you just had a pen and paper at home your wrote these things in like a diary,” he reminisces. “Most people don’t want to do that.”
Glasgow ponders on why he keeps finding the bass ice fishing where he does. “I think there’s an abundance of crawfish there, which they’re still feeding on in the wintertime. They’re also ambushing minnows when they have the option, so they’re relating near the brush, but the hard bottom is what keeps them there. He noticed that the second spot was almost exactly the same as the first. He happened upon it the same way, too. It was also an area he had historically had a lot of luck with crappie.
“They have almost the same structure; a rock shoreline with a lot of rock bottom with a brush pile on top of it. They just hang out in that brush pile on top of the rocks.”
So it seems it’s probably a good modus operandi to take a lesson from the Boy Scouts. Be Prepared. You never know what you’re going to run into and how much fun you’ll have on the ice!