Making the most of your day on the ice
Ice fishing is not for everyone. There is no getting around the fact that it will be cold. Plus, it often requires a sizable trek from shore to the best fishing spots all while lugging far more equipment than the fair weather angler. But, if you can handle the negatives, ice fishing has the potential for being one of the most productive seasons available. Of course there are some tips and tricks which can help ensure this is the case.
1. Know your lake – blind ice fishing, that which is done on a new water without scouting or local knowledge, is difficult at best. The thick covering of ice makes it impossible to determine land features, likely gathering spots or even water depth. Your best chance at a full creel is to either fish a lake you already know or learn as much as possible about a new lake before heading out.
2. Drill, drill, drill – obviously drilling holes is a main aspect of ice fishing, but one of the biggest mistakes new anglers make is not drilling enough holes. What I mean is they either start out with too few holes or fail to move and drill new holes as the day progresses. Know what your state’s limit is on the number of rods you may use and drill at least 2x as many holes to begin the day, all in the general area where you think fish may be. If you see fishing biting in a particular area focus your activity there, even drilling new holes if needed. When the area dries up move – winter fish are general schooled and once they are gone you need to follow them.
3. Have plenty of bait on hand – make sure you have plenty of bait and an assortment of lures on hand – a good combination of variety is needed but so is an adequate supply of each because you never know what will be hot that day. Start off with different baits in different holes to explore and switch to whatever is hot once you start catching fish. If things start to die off try another color or type of bait/lure.
4. Fish the water column – many ice anglers will simply drop their bait through the hole letting it sink to where they think the fish are. While this many produce in the majority of situations there are times when the fish are not where you think they are and may have moved higher on the water column. Catch these fish by slowly lowering your bait to desired depth, giving those fish suspended higher to see and potentially take your bait.
5. Be equipped for the long haul – ice fishing is not a “1/2 hr. after work” type of trip, it often involves hours on the ice. Make sure you are dressed for the longer stay, have the equipment you might need with you rather than in the truck and consider bringing a snack or even a thermos of hot beverage to help you through the long day.
If you plan on ice fishing repeatedly over the season consider obtaining a pop up shelter and a gear sled. Both will make the experience a bit more tolerable and allow you to stick it out when others are running for the truck.
Good luck, good fishing!