Ice fishing is in full swing (or getting into full swing) across the Midwest. Although you still have to be careful out there, anglers are on the ice and they’re getting bites. The following are some ideas on how to improve your bites on the ice this winter.
On early ice, it’s a good idea not to move around too much. The ice is thin and often there’s not much snow on it. The fish are right below, and oftentimes they’re not too deep. Because of this, they can detect us much easier, and when they know we’re there they sometimes get spooked.
That all changes as we get farther into the season, though. The ice is thicker, there’s usually snow cover, and the fish are deeper. There’s also the possibility that the fish have become conditioned to noise and movement directly overhead. Now is when you want to be mobile. It works well to pop a bunch of holes in an area and move from hole to hole. Let your depth-finder determine how long you fish a hole. If your sonar reveals fish, stay in one spot awhile. If it doesn’t, keep moving. If you don’t see activity within five minutes, move to the next hole. Lots of experienced ice anglers won’t even wait five minutes.
If you see fish, but they won’t eat, you have two options. You can move to another hole in search of biters, or you can try to make them bite. Usually if the fish are just looking, it works well to try a different size or a different color lure, or employ a different action. My all-time favorite ice fishing lure for walleyes or perch is a Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon, but even this bait doesn’t produce all the time. That’s when you start experimenting with other baits; maybe something quiet that doesn’t rattle, something like a Forage Minnow spoon, or maybe a plain hook/split-shot/minnow under a slip bobber. Try different stuff when you know the fish are down there but they won’t bite.
The Impulse plastics are extremely productive under the ice and are making it easier to try different looks for your baits. Be sure to check out the Impulse Minnow Heads for walleyes and perch and the Mini Smelt for perch and crappies. The Mini Smelt was very productive during my last ice fishing season.
Lastly, ice fishing is not as much fun if you’re cold. With the wide range of clothing and footwear available today, there is no reason to be uncomfortable on the ice. You can be warm and also be able to move normally if you dress wisely. Start off with a base layer of Cabela’s Polartec underwear. This stuff wicks moisture away from your body, as it’s the moisture that will make you cold. After that, layer your clothing so you can adjust to weather conditions during the day.
Now all you have to do is get on the ice. Ice fishing is just starting, and there are lots of fish to catch. Keep the things we just talked about in mind and you’ll catch some of those fish.
Image courtesy Bob Jensen