It wasn’t much to go on. The reports I had heard about respectable sunfish on this lake left us a little skeptical. Still, a person doesn’t learn uncharted territory without a little effort.

This was the mentality of ice fishing partner, Charlie Simkins, and I as we loaded up the four wheeler and prepared to explore a new lake. We figured that if there was nothing ventured, there would definitely be nothing gained.

As we arrived at the lake, it was clear we did not need the ATV for access or exploration. There was one trail out from the landing and it was no secret where people were fishing.

Once Simkins and I had parked the truck out of the way, we began snooping around with our Vexilars. There were a few old holes we could kick open and check for depth and fish. In other locations, we poured water onto frozen holes and took a reading through the ice with our electronics.

It wasn’t long before we found an area that showed a few suspended fish just off of the bottom. It was time to get to work.

This lake was known for stunted bluegills. It was not known for respectable gills in the eight to nine inch range. When we popped a few nice ones, our opinion of this water changed quickly.

Exploring new lakes is always a risky endeavor. It seems like most of the time, new lakes are more of a wild goose chase than anything else. Still, there are times when the effort pays off.

For the most part, I start learning a new lake by going to the area everyone else is fishing. It may not be the most productive spot on a lake, but it gets me started.

By searching out panfish in a heavily fished region, I can find out about the depth anglers are targeting. Many times, I can pop enough fish out of the honey hole to determine if the lake is worth more effort.

Occasionally, I find enough fish in someone else’s hotspot that I don’t have to do much exploring. And then, sometimes, it is merely a matter of returning at a better time of the day to pick up active fish.

I have also found that most anglers typically aren’t as fussy as Simkins and I are about equipment and presentation. Many times, by using quality rods and ultra-thin two-pound-test Berkley Micro Ice, we can catch fish that others can’t.

Once information is gathered, we can make a determination as to whether or not the lake needs to be explored further or crossed off the list. If more exploration is needed, a good map is essential for duplicating areas others are fishing.

Listening to reports about success on the ice is important to me. I can usually check out a new body of water rather quickly and determine if it is worth a second look.

There are no guarantees when exploring new water. However, it is important to remember that most of our honey holes were new water to us as some point in time.

Occasionally, new lake exploration does pay off.