In today’s day and age, it seems as if people are just too dang busy. Shuttling kids off to various activities, long hours at work, and various other obligations seem to take up the bulk of our time. How many times in the last month have you exclaimed, “There just are not enough hours in the day”? To many individuals, their lone solace is those few hours on the weekends where they are able to get out and have a little “me time”. That time may consist of hunting, catching up on television, or for others it means spending some much needed time on the ice. That “me time” is very important since it comes few and far between; so spending that time wisely is imperative. Below, I have outlined some suggestions which should help you utilize your time on the ice more efficiently and create more quality outings.
A successful trip starts long before you even step onto the ice. Two of the worst offenders for wasting time during ice fishing are before you even leave the house. By making sure that you and your buddies have all your gear organized and ready to roll for the next day is vital. Instead of taking twenty to thirty minutes away from fishing time trying to find where you placed your box of jigs, do it the night before. Also, by having all of your gear organized and in its designated place, you do not waste minutes on the ice trying to find it. It seems so simple, but these two items do make up a large portion of time wasted during a trip.
As part of a preparation plan, make sure that all those who are going with you also have their gear and themselves ready at the designated time. Nothing is worse than waiting twenty to thirty minutes for “Joe” to be at your house; or if you pick him up, he’s still trying to find some of his gear when you arrive. If you find one of your fishing buddies to be habitually twenty minutes late, tell them that you intend on leaving twenty minutes earlier so that they are ready on time.
Another suggestion is to make sure that your vehicle and gas auger are already fueled up the day before and that you have any snacks or drinks ready for that day’s excursion. Filing up your vehicle and paying inside a convenience store, takes up more time then you think. Not only does it save time, but I know no better way to turn a good fishing trip into a poor trip, than spilling gasoline all over your hands that morning.
As I alluded to earlier, one of the best approaches to reduce time wasted on the ice is to have a specific place for all your gear. This way, instead of wasting time trying to find your pliers or where your box of jigs went, you are spending that time catching fish. If you fish out of an ice shack, designate each area for each piece of tackle you have and always keep it there. It will become second nature where each item is located, and you will not spend time looking for it in the future.
I also highly suggest incorporating a flasher, like a Vexilar, as part of your ice fishing equipment. This tool, if used properly, will singlehandedly help you catch more fish than any other piece of equipment you own. It is your eyes below the ice and lets you know what is below your feet. It also lets you know roughly how large the fish are and what kind of mood they are in as well. A flasher will undoubtedly help you maximize your time on the ice and will also help you catch more fish. Gone are the days of sitting on a bucket in the freezing cold watching your bobber, just praying that there is a fish below to take your offering. By using a flasher, you always know what is below your feet and you can eliminate a lot of dead water and wasted time.
Another key to having a successful trip is finding the fish and keeping after the active ones. You have waited all week to go ice fishing, you have made sure that all of your gear was packed the night before and you are on the ice bright and early the next morning. By drilling only a couple of holes and fishing just those two holes, you are doing yourself a disservice. There are the days where the sun shines upon you and you do not have to move, but those days are generally few and far between. As a rule of thumb, if you are checking holes and do not see a fish within a minute or two; keep moving. Also, if you have located a group of fish and have caught quite a few but the remaining fish have become skittish; move on. You have caught the active fish out of that school and now you are trying to coerce the neutral fish into biting. You could spend the next thirty minutes trying to catch a couple of fish, or you could move to your next spot and spend the next thirty minutes catching a bunch of fish. When put this way, the decision is quite elementary.
On the similar note, while you do need to drill a fair amount of holes; you need to drill wisely as well. Many guys boast about drilling hundreds of holes per trip and there are occasions where that is necessary; such as locating schools of roaming perch, crappies, or yellow bass. But conversely, drilling numerous holes with no purpose or plan is counterproductive. Have a plan, execute that plan, and reap the rewards; simple as that!
It also helps to designate each location you plan on fishing with a time frame, prior to cutting the first holes. Depending on the size of the structure or area, you let the members of your group know how long you initially plan on fishing this spot. If it is a small brush or rock pile and you have a few guys fishing it, the area can be quickly covered. Conversely, if it is a large flat over a pretty wide expanse; the area takes a little longer to fish. Let everyone in the group know that this location is a “five minute spot” or a “ten minute spot” prior to cutting your first holes; this dictates to the other members whether to fish quickly or whether to set up the shacks and fish for a while. Obviously conditions change and those times can be shortened or lengthened depending on what is present, but it gives the members of your group an expectation prior to arriving.
The Buddy System
Below, I have laid out some other time saving strategies while you are fishing with a larger group of guys. When applied, these protocols make searching for fish much easier and allows each angler more time fishing as compared to finding the fish. The old attaché “Many hands make light work” certainly applies to ice fishing as well. These protocols start before you even hit the ice. By helping each other load and unload your gear from your vehicles saves time as well as a sore back. So be certain to help each other out!
When searching for fish who roam such as a school or crappies, perch, or yellow bass, you are going to be drilling a lot of holes. When you are in search of these roaming fish, the more holes you can cut to locate the fish, the better the chance you will find the school. So if you are fishing with a group of at least three guys, it is best to have two of the three guys running augers and cutting holes. It is also wise to have the angler who is well versed in reading a flasher, follow the guys running the augers. The guy checking the holes with the flasher should be able to quickly determine if there are fish present or not in that hole. There is no need to clean out the holes at this point, as that wastes time, especially if you are not going to be fishing those holes. If there are fish present in the holes, either mark those specific holes or submit those locations to your memory. But after checking dozens of holes, it may become confusing, so I would suggest having a system for marking those holes instead. When working together cooperatively and in unison, a group of three guys can cover a lot of ground quickly and efficiently.
Time is a valuable commodity and what precious time we do have, is best suited doing something we want to do. By following these simple suggestions and protocols, you can maximize your time catching fish and not wasting your time on the ice. The trips we remember the most are those which we had a good time on the ice and caught fish, not the trips we spent all day not catching a thing. So try to incorporate some of these suggestions the next time you are on the ice and see how they work for you. I have a feeling they will be beneficial to your success on the ice!