Of all the types of fishing, perhaps the most neglected, yet most fun is ice fishing. Few people are willing to venture out onto a frozen lake searching for the big one, but those who do will find plenty of fish waiting for them. Ice fishing requires a minimum of equipment and is very accessible as no boat or large amounts of tackle and gear are necessary.
Once the ice has reached a safe thickness to travel on (which means at least a solid 6″ for people, 8″ for snowmobiles or ATV’s, 12″ for cars) begin your trek, looking for narrow channels or open and deep areas of water. Snow shoes or skates will help make the trekking easier but a good pair of waterproof warm boots is the most important item that you will require. Wear winter clothing that will block the wind and keep you dry. Don’t forget your gloves, winter hat, and sunglasses.
Using binoculars, inspect your route out over the ice before heading out, looking for any areas where the ice may be thin or have dangerous cracks in it. If you see any places where the ice thickness may be suspect, avoid these areas by taking a wide berth around them. Always carry ice picks in an outer pocket of your coat so if you do break through you can grab them quickly to help pull you from the icy water. Typically, ice will freeze thick enough to walk on after a week of temperatures constantly below 0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
When you have find your preferred location, drill a few holes to test water depth. Most fish will be found at water depths of 30′ to 50′ during the winter. A portable sonar/fish finder will help to determine what’s going on below. An 8″ diameter handheld ice auger is all that is necessary to drill through the ice. In areas with more than 18″ or more of ice, a gasoline powered ice auger is helpful yet noisy way to speed things up. Using an ice scoop, remove any slush from the hole.
Some fishermen use portable tent-like ice huts over the hole to break the wind and keep warm. Others install semi-permanent ice huts made from wood that at resemble a small shed while others are the equivalent of small apartments with bunk beds, furniture and stoves inside. Check your local regulations as to what date these structures need to be removed from the ice before the spring thaw begins.
Ice fishing is accomplished using a jigging technique. Jigging rods are short, usually about 24″ long. They enable the fisherman to drop a line directly down the hole and once it settles, to gently lift the lure about 3′ and then let it drop gently back down, giving the lure a natural settling motion. Often a bait-cast reel is used to hold the line, but the accessibility of a spin-cast is very useful should the line start to freeze up. Fishing line size of around 10lb test is sufficient.
There are many different lures and baits that can be used when ice fishing. Live minnows are very popular, as are silver jigging lures such as the Swedish Pimple, Williams Warblers, or Mepp’s Spinners. Rapala makes several styles and colours of jigging lures. The standard Red Devil and Five of Diamonds patterns can also be successful.
Adjust the bait size to the fish and depth you are going after. The deeper the bait is floating, the greater the size of the lure that is required. The more flash and action the bait has, the greater the attraction to fish. Most of the same fish that people chase after in the summer can be caught through the ice. Trout, Walleye, Pike, Perch and other panfish are all easy to catch. Check your local regulations for specific open seasons and license requirements in your region.
Ice fishing is a fun and different way to keep you and your family fishing all year long.
Copyright 2016 Mike Wilson