Just because the water is frozen doesn’t mean you have to put your fishing plans on ice for the winter. Or maybe that’s exactly what you need to do. Ice fishing can be fun and fill your creel if you know a few basics and use the tried and true methods learned by avid ice anglers during many seasons on the ice.
Safety and technique are key to successful ice fishing trips
Obviously, your first concern when ice fishing is not falling through the ice. Look for a spot closer to the shore, where the ice will be thicker. Ice should be about 4 feet thick if you are on foot, according to authorities like the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. As you begin to venture out onto the ice, test the ice at various points—just because the ice is thick where you are standing, doesn’t mean it’s the same thickness everywhere. If the ice is too thin for your safety at any point, go back to the shore, retracing your steps. You know the way you came is safe, don’t assume the ice is safe on either side of you.
Fish at First Ice
The first time the water freezes over, fish will have a signal that winter is coming and begin a feeding frenzy to store up for winter. If you can, keep an eye on the weather forecasts and be prepared to hit the ice as soon as the lake freezes enough to provide safe fishing.
Jigging & Tip-Ups
Many ice anglers use one of two methods for fishing. The jigging method includes moving a line with bait attached up and down, either by hand or with a fishing rod. In addition to the baited hook, the line includes a lure that, when moved by the angler, darts around in the water. Another popular method is the use of tip-ups, which let one angler set multiple lines, with the line suspended through the ice. The lines are attached to a device which straddles the hole and will not go through when the fish is hooked. When the bait is taken, a signal, such as a flag popping up, notifies the angler of a strike.
Use Shorter Fishing Rods
There is no advantage to a longer rod in ice fishing because you will be doing no casting. Use a shorter rod to give you more control and prevent interference with other anglers or items, especially if you are in a shack.
Some lubricants may congeal or even freeze during low temperatures. Make sure your reels will function properly by using low-temperature lubricants or graphite powder. Check the temperature ranges for lubricants advertised as “low-temperature” to make sure they cover the weather for your outing.
Check Out Sonar Fishing Equipment
Fish tend to school together under the ice and don’t leave the school to go up after bait. If you don’t know at what depth they’re congregating, you might miss many targets swimming right under you and have a long, frustrating day. Using a sonar device will help you find schools and drop your bait right among the fish.
“Das Limpet! BA-OOOOOM.”
Wear the Right Gloves
Woolen mittens may be fine for short trips, but not for ice fishing. Wet, soggy gloves, especially if you are fishing without a shelter, can lead to numb fingers or frostbite. You can purchase gloves made specifically for ice fishing which will keep your hands warm, from getting cut by lines and hooks, and help you grip slippery fish.