No, I am not writing a manual on how to move table to table in search of the perfect mate. I would, however, like to provide some tips to help you be more efficient while searching for the perfect spot for a date with a pod of hungry fish.
Ice fishing has evolved from the days of sitting in a shanty all day, adding wood to the fire, and drowning a couple of lonely minnows. It’s all about speed; gathering information from each location as fast as you can process it. It’s also about finding fish, instead of waiting for them to find you. Much like the old adage in dating, “you’re not going to find someone sitting on the couch.” Once you decide that you’re going to go fishing, you might as well decide that you’re going to find and catch fish while you’re at it.
Dress for success
If you’re going to be looking for love outside, you’re going to want to dress appropriately. Ice Armor has a wide array of suits for any season. Safety is very important in this day and age, and the new Lift Suit from Ice Armor not only keeps you warm and dry, but it could save your life if you find yourself in a dangerous ice situation. Ice Armor also has gloves and boots to keep you dry and warm. Since I’m not much of a glove guy, I have to talk about the sleek and effective pocket accessory from Zippo Outdoor known simply as the Hand Warmer. This slick device provides up to 12 hours of odorless, flameless, and safe heat in your pocket or hand muffs.
A fly ride
The increasing number of ATVs and snowmobiles in the sport of ice fishing has helped anglers reach new levels of greatness. Arctic Cat no longer means trail riding and saddlebags, it means ice fishing, custom racks, and built-in Vexilar flashers. While your feet will get you where you need to go, and are not expensive to use, a sled or ATV is going to get you places 10 times faster while using 10 times less energy. Any sled or ATV will work, but you owe it to yourself as an ice angler to research some modifications that will aid you in being faster, and more efficient. Arctic Cat has a distinct advantage over the competition with their Speed Rack system on their ATVs.
Tackle has also evolved over the years. While many people are going smaller and smaller, I tend to upsize while searching for fish, and I like to use a lot of glitter and flash. Big baits like the Salmo Chubby Darter or Clam Pro Tackle Psycho Shad are great lures that have some bulk, allowing them to be fished very quickly. A hard bait can be dropped to the bottom quickly while bouncing from hole to hole, and with some fast ripping of the baits, you can easily rule out areas of immediate activity by watching your Vexilar. If fish are showing up, whether they’re hitting or not, you know you’re over a pod of curious or active fish. If they won’t commit to the hard bait, you can always slow down and go smaller to try to finesse them in to biting. The initial goal is finding them and getting their attention. Consider making them bite a second date.
All of the most successful ice anglers across the ice belt have one thing in common: they’re antsy. They refuse to sit still. They fish fast, and they work hard. Table to table, fast conversations, and extra attention to the right candidates. Fishing is like speed dating, and if you can learn to gather the most information in the fastest amount of time, you’re going to find a match.
Matthew Breuer owns and operates Northcountry Guide Service in Bemidji, Minnesota. They offer fully guided ice excursions via ATV or snowmobile, as well as fish house rentals in the Bemidji area.
Image courtesy Matthew Breuer/Ice Team