Ice Fishing Reminders
By Bob Jensen
First there’s ice, then there isn’t. I promise, ice is on the way. When it gets here, if you keep the following reminders in mind, you’ll catch more fish through the ice.
On early ice, it’s very important to keep quiet, and also to keep movement to a minimum. Early ice will be thin, it will be clear, and there probably won’t be much snow on it. This is especially important when fishing in shallow water. You’re fishing straight down, so the fish will be within just a few feet of you. Fish in shallow water don’t like movement from above, and they don’t like noise. Get to your spot, drill a few holes, and hunker down. Drilling will probably spook the fish for a little while, but they’ll come back. You need to sit on a spot long enough to let the fish settle down, forget about the noise you made, and get ready to eat again. Different anglers have different ideas of how long “long enough” is, but give a hole at least fifteen minutes before you quietly move to another hole that has already been drilled.
If you’re fishing early ice, and there is some scattered snow on the ice, fish the area that has some snow. The snow will hide your movements and muffle any noise that you might make. If, for instance, you’re fishing panfish on a large weedbed, and the ice over the part of the weedbed is snow-covered and part of it isn’t, fish the snow-covered area.
Pay attention to your depth-finder and do what it “tells” you to do. Today’s sonar units that are made for ice-fishing are remarkably sensitive and will enable you to catch more fish. If you see fish coming in and looking at your bait but not eating it, do something else. Maybe move it slower or faster. Try a different color or size. Go to an entirely different bait. Go from tipping your bait with plastic to live, or go from live to plastic. If none of that works, try a different area: Sometimes the fish just don’t want to get caught. However, if they’re willing to take a look at your bait, they’re usually willing to eat it if everything meets their approval.
Keep your bait above the fish. This is another depth-finder function. Keep an eye on your bait via the sonar as it goes toward the bottom. Stop the bait several feet above the bottom: You don’t want it to go all the way down. If the water is twenty feet deep, stop your bait at the fifteen foot level. See if any fish come up to it. It works better to have them come up to your bait: That’s the sign of aggressive fish. Catch the aggressive ones. When they quit coming up to it, lower it closer to the bottom and catch the ones that aren’t so willing to get caught. When you quit seeing them, move to a different hole. Vexilar is the pioneer and leader in sonar technology and makes a unit that is just right for any ice-angler, novice to expert.
Last thing: Not liking the cold is no longer a valid excuse for not going ice-fishing. Today’s outerwear and footwear make it possible for anyone to spend at least several hours on the ice and stay warm. Cold feet in particular can lead to a short day on the ice. Cabela’s has created a boot called the Inferno that will keep your feet warm, but are also surprisingly lightweight.
Ice is coming to more areas of the Midwest: If you keep these ice-fishing reminders in mind, you’ll be more successful when it gets here.