Did you hear the one about the guy who went ice fishing and came back with 50 lbs. of ice?
Well, if you found yourself here you are at least one step ahead of this fella, that is unless you intended to bring home some ice.
Ice fishing is actually a very simple sport but must be practiced with some caution.
WHAT you say?
Seriously before you set out to catch any fish on “hard” water there are a couple of things you should be concerned about. Firstly, make sure you are equipped with the proper attire. Setting out from home on a nice sunny day is fine but once you approach your destination things may have drastically changed or may change without notice. This would also be a good time to check the weather channel or newspaper for the up-to-date weather forecast.
Secondly, remember to check the ice conditions wherever you go, there are local ice hut operators or locals who are willing to help make your trip safe.
A friend of mine told me once, “You can always take it off, but its pretty hard to put it on if you haven’t got it!”
My advice, purchase a good floatation suit. They are warm and if you happen to break thru the ice it will probably save your life.
A warm dry set of gloves, preferably without fingers is a must. This way all the fingers share the warmth. A full-face balaclava is also required as well as sunglasses. A scarf can help but be cautionary of the vehicle you are using to get you out to your favorite spot. You don’t want to have it get tangled up in a chain or track.
Several layers of clothes are a benefit just for the luxury of taking them off. Another good idea is to have a fishing buddy. They are not only there to enjoy the day with you and help make the fishing story a real tale but if an emergency arises they are the only support you’ve got.
We still have a few small things to do before setting out. Make sure your transportation is trustworthy, a general maintenance check will do, tell someone where you’re going and how long you expect to be gone, and last but not least, a simple thing like a compass, so you don’t get lost.
Okay, are we having fun yet. Now that we have got all the scary stuff done, it’s time to leave, right …. WRONG!
You forgot the gear.
A general rule of thumb regarding gear is to choose the equipment you will need to match the fish you are seeking (e.g. the larger the fish, the heavier the tackle).
Of course, you won’t be able to get to them if you don’t have a hole. So depending on the ice and your wallet or both, you are going to need an ice spud or ice auger. You can purchase both but if you just happen to have a friend who welds you can get him to make the spud up for you out of a 6′ x 2″ piece of flat steel and round bar.
Don’t forget to weld a “T” on the top and grind the flat bar down to a chisel point.
If you are in good shape and have the time the hand auger is great but if you intend to fish several spots and don’t want to tire yourself out making holes get a gas auger. Look for an auger with at least a 6″ cut just so you can get the big ones thru the hole.
Next, you’ll need an ice skimmer. I suggest the aluminum one because if you are in a hut with a stove just warm it up a little and touch it to the hole and voila … instant skim! Also, tie a light chain or rope on it just in case it falls down the hole.
Well, you’re almost there. You can’t catch anything without some type of jigging rod. They come in all types, sizes, and styles but look for one with which you will be comfortable. This may take a few outings to discover, so see if you have a buddy who will lend you his or hers. Another general rule of thumb, is a light rod for perch and panfish using a 2 to 4 lb. test, medium action for trout, walleye, whitefish, etc., and 6 to 10 lb. test.
If you are energetic and have a second hole you can also use a tip-up. They range in price from several dollars to around twenty-five bucks. Well, this should get you started. The rest you can learn from patience and experience. Good Luck and Good Fishing!
P.S. One last thing… remember to take a light lunch with you, just in case they decide not to bite or your fishing technique is off for the day. I can remember a few times when we had to have “fish lip soup”, it wasn’t very filling.
Well, seeing as you have made it this far. I guess an obvious question would be “When is the best time to go ice fishing ?” Everyone I know wants to get out there as soon as possible. It is probably because the fishing seems to be a little better or more likely they just want to be the first one to haul one out of the hole.
It is true that the fish are relaxed and in the best feeding spots because they haven’t been hassled for several months. Trout in particular spawn in the fall and can be found in deep water at this time. You can find them on bars, shoals, rocks, and fingers. Perch, pike, and walleye tend to look for shallow, weedy lakes because the oxygen level tends to be a lot higher.
Once the little villages spring up and the anglers take their toll the catches tend to decrease but don’t despair they are still out there. You just have to work a little harder.
So you need a few pointers because you’re just not catching your limit.
Well, what is it that you do in the summertime, whether you are fishing from shore or boat if you’re
not getting the bites ?… You move.
I do it all the time, it’s not hard if you’ve got your own sled, and make sure you’ve got a power auger, you’ll need it. In order to be mobile, you really need to be prepared. This includes a portable shelter, flotation suit, auger, sled or 4×4, fish finder, and GPS. Give yourself about 10 to 20 minutes per hole. That’s enough time to find your depth, scratch the bottom for debris, rocks, sand, etc., set up your fish finder, and locate fish and at what depth. It also allows you to try your technique to see if they are interested. If you happen to have the hydrographic map of the lake or fished it before it helps. Try making calculated moves, such as holes, shoals, and weed beds.
If you can afford it, get yourself several rods and rig them up with different presentations. Not only do you become a quick change artist but it saves tying on different lures when the weather isn’t friendly.
Jigging is really an art form. Not too fast and not too slow, kind of a rhythm thing. Keep in mind it is okay to jig hard at first, you want to attract them, get them interested. Once you’ve done that slow down to a twitch by using only your wrist or trolling from one side of the hole to the other. Alternatively, you can raise the rod tip a few inches and lower. Stir up the bottom a little.
Make sure your rod is short, stiff, and with big eyelets. It’s hard to fish in a hut that’s only 4 x 6 with a 3′ rod. You only get one chance to set the hook, so if it moves you don’t want the rod to bend. Having your line get frozen because of clogged eyelets just isn’t any fun.
No, I’m not trying to wake you up from your daydream but feeling a hit is not the only way to get fish out of the hole. If you see the slightest movement, either side to side or up or down, set your hook! Remember, if you’re sending your lure down and it stops and you are not where you suppose to be, you probably have one on the line.
Now, if you want to get them up the hole you’re going to need to hook ’em, so keep your hooks sharp. The easiest way to test is when you push the point thru the minnow, if the point doesn’t go in easily either sharpen it or replace it. Speaking of hooks, size is important, the smaller the bait the smaller the hook. Also, if you’re using a large hook on small bait you restrict its movements and could possibly even spook your game.
Timing the hook set is crucial when using minnow bait. It is well known that most fish attack from the side, so don’t try to set the hook at the first sign of movement or tug. Allow the fish time to swallow the minnow. Okay, so you lost your patience had him, and lost him. Don’t be in a hurry to change your bait, put the line back down the hole. Remember, he just lost supper and if he’s hungry he’ll be back. Wait a couple of minutes and if you don’t get a response you are welcome to change your bait.
Ice Fishing For The Whole Family
It’s great to fish in the summer when the air is warm and the lake is calm. There are fishermen, though, who can’t wait for winter and the lake to freeze solid. Ice fishing is a sport that many people enjoy, extending the fishing season to year-round pleasure. What’s more, ice fishing is a great family activity.
What makes ice fishing so appealing to families is that the sport isn’t just about catching fish. Getting outdoors and breathing crisp, good air while having fun sums up ice fishing well. Smiles laughs, and playing in the snow are all pretty common occurrences while out on the ice. Those reasons are just some of the few that even people who hate fishing get hooked on this winter activity. If you’d like to try a day of ice fishing with your family, here are some things to keep in mind.
Ice fishing is usually a whole-day activity. Get out on the ice early after breakfast to enjoy the best hours. If you plan on bringing home a bunch of perch for a meal, then being ready with your lines in the water by the time the sun starts to rise is best. Fish tend to bite in the early morning or later in the afternoon, depending on the species. The period in between usually ends up being playtime for families rather than hours spent reeling up the fish.
Pack a good lunch and some snacks, because the fresh air and activity will stir appetites. Lots of finger foods and plenty of water to drink serve the purpose nicely. It’s a good idea to avoid bringing beer with you, though, as alcohol and cold don’t mix well. Alcohol can lower your body temperature and the chill in the air makes it harder to feel the effects You may end up going overboard without realizing you’ve had one to many to make the safe drive home.
Staying warm while ice fishing is a must. The open-air location will often carry a good breeze, so windproof clothing should be your first consideration. Plenty of layers underneath warm sweaters will trap the heat and keep you feeling toasty. Good boots and mitts of solid construction are best, and even better are those that are waterproof. Ice fishing involves playing in cold water, after all!
Some other accessories you’ll need are a warm hat and sunglasses. Bright sunlight reflects on the white snow and ice, which can be brutal to your eyesight and vision. Many ice anglers who don’t wear sunglasses come home and realize they can’t see well for over half an hour! Since the sun is so strong and the reflection off the snow amplifies its effects, it’s also easy to get sunburned, so apply plenty of sunblock to avoid red cheeks.
If you’re new to ice fishing, choose an outfitter that will provide you with a cabin, a stove, lines, minnows, and a hole-drilling service. These outfitters want to make sure you enjoy your day as much as possible and will set you up with everything you need for hours of fun. The employees will also be more than happy to answer your questions and give you tips on how to fish. Once you’re set-up, respect other people around you. Have a good time, but don’t blast a radio to upset the peace and quiet of other anglers. Don’t throw waste on the ice either and have a care for the environment. Some fishermen pour antifreeze in their holes to prevent ice from forming but antifreeze is toxic and this practice is an irresponsible one. Use the metal spoon provided to keep your holes from freezing over.
In addition, if you aren’t going to eat the fish you catch, handle them gently and practice catch and release. The growth rate and reproduction of fish are quite slow, which means negligent or abusive behaviour can put a dent in fish populations.
Lastly, pack up and head home before you get tired. Being outside for a few hours in cold temperatures will hit you hard once you get into a warm car. By the time you get home, you’ll probably feel exhausted. After a day of ice fishing, ordering a pizza for supper can be a godsend!
Catch and Release
Why practice Catch and Release Fishing? The fish population, and the size of the fish caught, have been on a steady decline for a number of years. This is due to the advancement of ice fishing technologies. Gadgets and advancements to other ice fishing equipment are making it much easier to catch fish in everyday ice fishing spots. However, we are seeing more and more anglers returning the majority of their catch to the water. While no one can deny the fact that a nice hot fish dinner after an ice fishing trip is very rewarding, most fishers are enjoying fishing for the sport, not for the food.
Another common practice used in combination with catch and release is called ‘selective harvest.’ This is the practice of minimizing the waste of fish and providing a diverse opportunity for fishing while preserving fish conservation. The easiest way to do this is to practice catch and release. Only keep what you will definitely use. While catching and keeping the fish as a prize can bring you great joy, so can the release of the fish. This ensures that there will be fish for you to catch in the future. Releasing smaller fish also helps ensure there will be large fish in the water for spawning. Using the catch and release techniques means the fish will be in peak physical condition, and size, when you decide to keep a catch for food in the future.
All fishermen should keep the conservation of fish at the top of their minds. Whether you fish for food, pure recreation, or for sport, when the fish are gone, there’s no more fishing. And with an increasing number of anglers reaching both highly accessible and more remote areas, conservation is becoming increasingly important.
There are also some more exact reasons to practice catch and release. Many water bodies now require you to catch and release. Also, as mentioned, the physical conditions of the fish caught play a role. There is no reason to keep small fish, as these fish will grow, and ultimately produce more fish. There are also regulations in place for catch limits, zero catch limits, and season restrictions which demand the use of catch and release.
Catch and release, and selective harvesting of fish guarantees the continued growth of fish populations and your continued enjoyment of fishing.