Early Ice Ice-Fishing

By Bob Jensen

I woke up this morning to a fairly heavy snowfall. That got me thinking about ice-fishing. If it’s snowing, ice on the lakes and ponds isn’t far behind. Following are some ideas for taking advantage of early ice ice-fishing.

First and foremost: Make sure the ice is safe. Enough said on that topic.

Next, fish with a friend, and keep a rope in your bucket. If you thought the ice was safe but it wasn’t, your friend and the rope can pull you to safe ice.

Now for the fishing part of our early ice ice-fishing adventure. Keep in mind that the ice will be thin, there probably won’t be much if any snow cover, and that you might be fishing shallow water. You’ll be directly above the fish, so they’ll be able to easily hear or see you. It’s important to get on your spot and get holes drilled before the bite starts. It often takes the fish a few minutes to calm down after you drill holes and get set up. If you know you’re on a good spot, keep your moving around from hole to hole at a minimum.

If there is some snow cover, and if it’s on a good spot, drill your holes on the snow. The snow will muffle the noise a bit and will camouflage your movements.

Starting early in the season and going through the entire season, determine your lure size by the fish you’re going after. You might want to catch some panfish, but different panfish have different lure preferences. Take a look at a bluegill’s mouth, then compare it to a crappie’s mouth. The ‘gill has a smaller mouth and will respond better to smaller baits. Really tiny baits on light line can be the difference between a few ‘gills and a bunch of ‘gills.

Early in the season you can often see fish with your eyes, especially panfish, as they look at your bait. Much of the time they’ll come in and look your bait over quite a bit before eating it, or before not eating it and moving on. If they’re doing a lot of looking but not much eating, you need to do something different. I’ve seen plenty of times when the fish wanted the bait held as still as possible. There have been other times when color or shape was the difference between catching and not catching. If they’re looking but not eating, give them something else to look at.

One last early ice ice-fishing idea: Do it! It’s a good time, if you work it right you’ll get a few, and it will teach you lots about fishing year ‘round. The opportunity to watch fish up close as they look at your bait will help you realize that they’re doing the same thing in open water and will teach an angler the importance of paying attention to small details in your lure presentation.

As soon as the ice is ready, get on it and get bit. We’ll see you out there.