Ice Fishing Basics, How to get started

Ice Fishing Basics, how to get started.

This article, ice fishing basics, how to get started, will cover everything the angler needs to know to take his or her new equipment out on the ice and catch fish! Ice fishing is really not all that different from open water fishing. The main consideration is that anglers only have the opportunity to use a vertical presentation.

Anglers can read all about the ice fishing tackle and gear that they need in this article.

Understanding fish migrations when ice fishing

Anglers ice fishing must first decide where they are going to fish. Those that have a “home Lake” that they fish exclusively have that decision already made for them. Other anglers have a wide choice of bodies of water from which to choose. Fishing reports from local bait shops and online forums are a good resource to use for novice anglers getting started. Bait and tackle bought at local shops is money well spent as the advice you will get from these businesses is invaluable!

ice fishing gear

While ice certainly hinders anglers from using boats, it does not at all change the migration patterns of fish below. The winter patterns are very similar to summer, except in reverse. Early in the ice fishing season, which is fall, fish are likely to be found quite shallow. As midwinter approaches, and the water gets even colder, fish will migrate to deeper holes, points, and main lake channels. The pattern will reverse itself as spring approaches.

Drilling ice fishing holes

One good strategy for novice ice anglers is to drill a dozen or so holes 10 feet apart. Ideally, these holes will be in multiple depths over quality, fish holding structure. Points are excellent spots to take this approach. This is especially true if they drop off into the main river channel. Drilling multiple holes like this allows anglers to cover a lot of water. They can also set up tip ups or tip downs in the holes that they are not actively fishing.

Holes will need to be cleaned out occasionally. This is where the skimmer comes into play. This will make fishing easier. One tip veteran ice anglers use is to keep some slush in the hole when fishing shallow. This can make a big difference when the fish are wary.

Ice fishing strategies

Early in the ice fishing season, weed beds and other structure in 10 to 15 feet of water are a good place to start. Anglers should drill the first couple holes there, then work out deeper. This is especially effective on a sloping flat or point. Holes should not be drilled at the same depth. Determining the depth at which fish are feeding at is a crucial aspect of ice fishing!

Successful ice fishing anglers do a lot of the work before the lake freezes. The same spots that produce in late spring and summer will produce in the winter as well. Anglers can use a hand held GPS unit to mark underwater structure such as drop-offs, bends in the channel, rock piles, weed beds, and more. The combination of cover and structure usually results in a productive fishing spot.

GPS units are not only for finding fish. They are important safety equipment as well. This is not really an issue on smaller lakes. However, on large bodies of water it is easy for anglers to get turned around in bad weather. Also, if a medical issue arises, help will know where to go.

Structure is physical changes in the lake or river bottom. These include river channel edges and bends, points, flats, and drop-offs. These are things that pretty much do not change. Fish use structure as underwater roads on which they migrate. Cover consists of things such as fallen timber, rock piles, reefs, and weed beds. Fish use structure to migrate but cover to hide in and ambush prey.

Effects of weather when ice fishing

It surprises many anglers new to ice fishing that fish under the ice respond very similar to fish in open water. Early and late in the day are the best times to fish. Fish have fixed pupils. That means they can’t adjust to changing light conditions. They see best in low light conditions. That is why, generally speaking, fish bite better early, late, and on cloudy days.

Pressure systems greatly affect fish activity as well, just as in open water fishing. Fish will bite best as a cold front approaches. As the pressure starts to drop, fish will feed actively and aggressively. When it drops further, they will slow down. As the front moves through and the pressure rises up high, fish will often shut down. Those “post cold front” trips can be tough!

Wind and weather changes will also affect the current under the ice. This can drastically affect the bite! Only experience will help anglers understand how the wind direction and speed will affect fish habits in each body of water.

Ice fishing techniques

Now that the body of water has been chosen in the holes have been drilled, it is time to go fishing! One nice thing about ice fishing is that the actual fishing gear is really fairly simple. Anglers can choose to fish with live bait, artificial lures, or a combination of the two. This latter choice is often times the best as it combines the best of both worlds; the flash and movement of and artificial lure with the feel and taste of live bait.

ice fishing for yellow perch

Ice fishing with jigs

For most anglers ice fishing, a jig is the best choice when getting started. Quality jig heads are very light, brightly colored, with a very sharp hook. One of the best jigs to use are VMC Neon Moon Eye jig heads. They are manufactured with a very thin shank. They also have a bait holder. These two factors combine to help both live and artificial baits stay on the hook. Live bait will also remain lively for a longer period of time.

ice fishing basics

 

The VMC Neon Moon Eye jig has a couple other advantages as well. It’s slender design cuts through the water, making it a great choice when fishing in current. Finally, the glowing head helps game fish find the bait. This is especially helpful in low light conditions when fish bite best!

It is important to match the jig to the species being sought after. Tiny jigs are best used for panfish. Conversely, larger baits will produce walleye and pike. Jigs are very effective and many anglers prefer them over live bait for both the convenience and productivity. The latest grubs are extremely realistic with their 3-D technology.

Fishing the jig

The technique used for fishing a jig under the ice is fairly simple. The angler opens the bail and the jig is allowed to fall through the water column to the bottom. Subtle movements are used to hop the jig very gently up off of the bottom. In this frigid water, the fishes metabolism has slowed.

A fast-moving, erratic action will not produce in most cases. The old saying “if you think you’re moving it slow enough, cut your speed in half, and you’re probably just about right” is a good philosophy.

After the jig has been worked right on the bottom for a fair amount of time, It can be slowly worked up through the water column. Tapping the jig gently on the bottom will help game fish find the lure. This is especially true for anglers seeking walleye.

Many fish will be found suspended in the water column, not just right on the bottom. This is a situation where a fish finder can be invaluable. Anglers can actually see the jig working and then see fish rise up to take. It is kind of like a fishing video game!

Ice fishing with spoons and plugs

northern pike ice fishing

The same approach can be used for anglers using other artificial lures as well. Small especially designed hard baits such as the Rapala Jigging Rap will produce fish. Often times these lures will attract larger game fish. Spoons can also be fished in a similar manner. They come in a wide variety of sizes from tiny are designed for panfish to larger spoons which will fool a big walleye or northern pike.

Anglers can read more about ice fishing with lures in this article.

Ice fishing with live bait

Live bait is certainly quite productive when chasing fish under the ice. The most commonly used live baits are waxies, maggots, grubs, nightcrawlers, and minnows. In areas where ice fishing is popular, these are readily available at local shops. With the exception of minnows, most live bait is easy to store and keep alive.

ice fishing gear

Anglers ice fishing with live bait can fish them on a bear hook or a jig head. As mentioned above, the jig head is a very convenient device for presenting live bait as it has the weight in the hook all in one unit. Anglers can use a hook and a tiny split shot as well. At times a float is used to suspend the live bait at a determined depth.

Commercial baits produce as well

There are also many prepared baits that are available. The main advantage to these baits is the convenience. In some respects, this goes for fishing with artificial lures as well. The GULP line of baits kind of bridges the two. They are artificial lures but are heavily scented as well.

Often times, once a depth that the fish are feeding at is found, that pattern will produce fish and other spots as well. Most fish species tend to school up fairly tightly in the winter. This means that anglers will have to move around quite a bit in search of fish at times. However, once a school of fish is located, the action can be fantastic.

Fish finders are useful ice fishing tools

Fish finders are another excellent tool that anglers can use to increase their success. Often times patient anglers can use the fish finder to determine how a fish wants the lure or bait. By noticing how fish react, anglers can adjust the presentation to draw a strike. This can take a while, so patience is required.

Panfish are often times easy to locate on the fish finder. They will usually be suspended, often times relating to some type of structure, cover, or break line. Larger predators such as pike will show up as larger marks. Walleye can be tricky as they often hug the bottom.

Ice fishing with tip downs

Tip downs are another piece of equipment that anglers can use when ice fishing. These devices allow a rod and reel or line to be fished unattended. Live bait is normally used. When a fish strikes, the device pivots due to the weight of the fish pulling down. The rod tip will usually dip down into the hole that is being fished. Tip downs allow anglers to fish more holes at one time. This can certainly aid in locating fish.

While it may sound boring, fishing with tip downs is actually a lot a fun! It is a great way to introduce youngsters to the sport of ice fishing. They can play in the snow or chase the dog around while waiting for a fish to strike. When the bite is on and multiple tip downs are going off at once, it can be great fun as everyone scurries around trying to be the first one to get to the bent rod!

Ice fishing with tip ups

Tip ups are similar to tip down in that they can be left alone to “fish” themselves. Tip ups come in many different styles. However, there are two main types; round tip ups and wooden tip ups. Round tip ups cover the hole so it does not freeze up. This works great for anglers that want to do less “supervising” of their hole. For the most part, these anglers are seeking larger fish such as northern pike and lake trout.

Wooden tip ups require tending to much more than the round tip ups do. The hole will freeze up. These rigs have larger spools which are best for deeper water. Live bait is used since the rig fishes unattended. The best approach is to hook the bait behind the dorsal fin. It will be more lively and appear to the game fish to be fleeing. This will trigger more strikes.

In conclusion, this article on ice fishing basics will help novice anglers be more successful when ice fishing!

Ice Fishing with Lures, a Comprehensive Guide

Ice Fishing with lures

This subject of this post is ice fishing with lures. While many anglers ice fishing use live bait, more and more are using lures to catch fish. Artificial lures do have a couple of advantages over live bait. Also, many anglers combine both live bait and lures. This is really the best of both worlds!

ice fishing with lures

The main advantage the anglers ice fishing with lures have over those fishing with live bait is convenience. Bait needs to be purchased and kept alive. Artificial lures sit in the tackle box, ready to fish at any time. While some live baits are pretty easy to keep alive, minnows and other baits require more time and effort.

Lures can also trigger strikes when fish are not feeding. The flash and vibration of a lure may excite a fish that is otherwise reluctant to take a live bait. Anglers do need to be subtle with the action they impart to a lure, as fish do slow down in the cold water. Jigs are the top ice fishing lure, with spoons and plugs being second and third.

Ice fishing tackle when using lures

The same rods and reels that anglers use when ice fishing with live bait work fine when presenting lures. Anglers chasing panfish will do best keeping the line as light as possible. 2 lb test is often used. As the quarry increases in size, so should the line size. However, the water is very clear and anglers should go with the lightest line possible.

Anglers can read an article on ice fishing tackle and gear to get more information.

ice fishing tackle and gear

Lure selection

Ice fishing lures come in several types along with many colors and sizes. Lures designed to catch panfish are tiny! Larger lures are aimed at walleye, northern pike, and other larger game fish. Jigs are by far the most popular lure used by anglers ice fishing. Jig heads are often used plain to present live baits. Spoons are another very popular lure. Plugs are the final lure type used by anglers ice fishing with lures.

ice fishing jigs

Ice fishing jigs

Quality jig heads are very light, brightly colored, with a very sharp hook. Jigs come in a myriad of sizes, shapes, and colors. However, they are basically work the same. The jig head consists of a hook with a heavier head molded in near the eye. Tungsten is often used as it is very dense. The head is often brightly colored. The weight of the head determines how fast it will sink and move in the water. It also gives the lure the action for which it gets its name. A grub body is added to the jig to complete the lure.

ice fishing for bluegill and panfish

Many anglers use a bare jig head in conjunction with live bait. This can be done when seeking bluegill using wax worms on a light jig head. Small pieces of nightcrawler can be used as well. A minnow can be used for crappie and other game fish.

Most anglers ice fishing with lures buy the jig heads and grub bodies separately. Every angler has his or her favorite bait. Some have body shapes that do not resemble anything found in the wild. Yet, they undulate seductively and catch fish! Color combinations are endless, as are jig head and body choices. There are many quality jig manufacturers. Some of the best are small companies found in local shops. Several popular options are listed below.

VMC Neon Moon Eye jigs

VMC Neon Moon Eye jig heads are excellent ice fishing lures. They are manufactured with a very thin shank. Moon Eye jigs also have a bait holder tab. These two factors combine to help both live and artificial baits stay on the hook. Live bait will also remain lively for a longer period of time.

The VMC Neon Moon Eye jig has a couple other advantages over some other jigs as well. It has a slender design which cuts through the water. This makes it a great choice when fishing in current. The glowing head helps game fish find the bait, this is especially helpful in low light conditions when fish bite best!

Clam jigs

Clam manufactures several very productive ice fishing jigs. Their lures are made of Tungsten, which is very dense. They sink quickly despite having a small profile. The Clam XL and XXL are good examples of this. These Clam jigs hang at a 45 degree angle with larger than average hooks. The larger hooks result in better hook up ratios when using larger soft plastics or live baits. They are available in a wide range of sizes and colors.

The Clam Drop Kick was designed by Dave Genz. It has a unique and tantalizing action that pan fish in particular can not resist. It also has a flat top, making it easier to see on a fish finder. The Drop Kick has a large hook with a 90 degree eye. This results in most fish being hooked and landed.

Marmooska jigs

The Marmooska jig is a great all round jig, especially for pan fish. It has an offset designed head that gives anglers great control while also producing a great fish-catching action. The Marmooska jig pivots, which increases hook-ups and landed fish. The hook is very light wire. It is available in multiple sizes and colors.

Bro Bug jigs

The Bro Bug jig is another extremely effective pan fish and bluegill jig. It has a long shank and a barbless wire bait collar. This makes it an excellent choice when presenting live bait like wax worms. It is available in tiny sizes, starting at 1/72 of an ounce! They can make a difference when the bite is tough. The Bro Bug was designed to mimic larvae that hatches on the bottom, something bluegill and other species feed on under the ice.

Ice fishing spoons

Ice fishing spoons have been around for a long time. They continue to be effective to this day. Spoons come in a variety of sizes. While tiny spoons do catch pan fish, most anglers use spoons when chasing larger game fish species. Spoons flutter as they slowly sink, producing flash and vibration.

walleye fishing

Spoons will catch fish throughout the water column. Most bites occur as the bait falls, seemingly helpless. Fish will take the bait right on the bottom as well, particularly walleye. Spoons are easy to see on a fish finder. Anglers should work the bait just above any fish marked on the machine. Silver and gold are the most popular finishes, though painted spoons are popular as well.

Spoons can be used with live bait as well. In most cases, anglers ice fishing with lures will use a small piece of nightcrawler, wax worm, or meal worm to sweeten up the hook a but. One underutilized technique is to use a small strip of cut bait on a spoon. This can be extremely effective for pike and other large game fish. Dead minnows can be used as well. Some top spoons are listed below.

Sweedish Pimple spoon

The Sweedish Pimple is a classic ice fishing spoon. It is particularly known to be effective on walleye and trout. For many anglers ice fishing with lures, the conversation starts, and ends, with this spoon. The design is time-proven and has not changed much. However, it is now offered in many different sizes and finishes. They are even available with rattles.

Kastmaster spoon

The Kastmaster by Acme is another old school ice fishing spoon that has fooled countless fish over the years. Silver, gold, and prism tape spoons are the most productive, though many other colors are available as well. 1/12 ounce to 3/8 ounce Kastmaster spoons will catch just about every species available to anglers ice fishing with lures.

Clam Leech Flutter Spoon

The Clam Leech Flutter Spoon is a heavy, fast sinking bait with a lot of action. It gets it’s name as it resembles a leech. It is an excellent spoon when fish are aggressive and works well both plain and tipped. Walleye and yellow perch in particular fall prey to this lure. It is available in a dozen different finishes.

Ice fishing plugs

Anglers also use plugs when ice fishing. While plugs in open water are generally not used in a vertical presentation, specially designed ice fishing plugs will produce fish. These lures have the line tie in the center and when jigged up fall in a circular, swimming manner. They do imitate a wounded bait fish.

ice fishing for walleye

Ice fishing plugs come in a wide range of sizes. The smallest versions will catch panfish. However, most anglers use plugs when trying to catch larger game fish species. Some of the best ice fishing plugs are listed below.

Rapala Jigging Rap

The conversation about ice fishing plugs starts with the Rapala Jigging Rap. It is a long time favorite that has been producing fish for many decades. The center tie and rear lip result in an erratic, circular swimming action when jigged. Smaller #2 and #3 sized Jigging Raps will fool perch. Anglers seeking larger game will do better using the #7 size Rapala Jigging Rap.

Chubby Darter

The Chubby Darter is another ice-fishing legend. Anglers will find it to be an effective vertical ice fishing lure. The Darter has a slow sink rate in the water. The unique shape of the lure results in a tantalizing swimming action that draws strikes. The Chubby Darter is a favorite among ice anglers, being effective for catching walleye, perch, bass, crappie, and pike. The Chubby Darter is available in 1 3/8- and 1 ¾-inch models and 6 patterns.

Rattletrap

The Bill Lewis Rattletrap is an often overlooked ice fishing lure. Well known to open water anglers, the smaller versions such as the Tiny Trap can be very effective under the ice. They are an aggressive lure and work best when fish are active and willing to chase a bait.

Tips for ice fishing with lures

If there is one mistake anglers ice fishing with lures make it is to be too aggressive in the presentation. Fish metabolism slows greatly in the frigid water. They will be spooked off of a drastically gyrating lure! Subtle, gentle movements produce the best results. There are times that no action works best. This is referred to as “dead sticking” and is a tactic used by veteran ice anglers. It often works best with a piece of bait on the lure.

walleye fishing

Anglers should use the lightest line possible. Many will go as low as 2 lb test when chasing pan fish in gin clear water. Serious ice fishing anglers opt for flourocarbon line. It is expensive, but sinks and in virtually invisible in the water. Flourocarbon line also stretches less than monofilament, resulting in better hook ups and more fish landed.

Anglers should adjust the size of the lure to the fish being sought. While larger fish can be taken on tiny lures, the larger sized lures will fool larger game fish. Conversely, bluegill and panfish anglers will do best with the tiniest of lures.

Using lures with live bait when ice fishing

Many anglers combine live bait and artificial lures. This can be an extremely effective presentation! It is best to go conservative when adding live bait to artificial lures. All that is really needed is just a little taste. Anglers fishing with live bait on a bare jig head can be more generous.

In conclusion, this article on ice fishing with lures will help anglers catch more fish on artificial baits through the ice!

Ice Fishing with Live Bait, Tips and Techniques

Ice Fishing With Live Bait

In this post we will cover ice fishing with live bait. In cold water, the metabolism of fish slows down dramatically. Most do not need to feed as often and do not feed as aggressively. Cold water species such as trout do remain quite active. While artificial lures will catch plenty of fish under the ice, many anglers have more confidence fishing with live bait.

ice fishing with live bait

There are obvious reasons why live bait produces for anglers ice fishing. Why try to duplicate the real thing when you can use the real thing? One of the great advantages of artificial lures is that anglers can cover more water. This really is not an issue when ice fishing. Anglers can not cast over water, since they are fishing through a hole in the ice.

However, one common and very productive technique is to combine both live bait and artificial lures when ice fishing. The most popular ice fishing lure is the jig. Anglers can use a bare jig head to use with live bait. They can also “tip” a jig, spoon, or plug with live bait to increase its effectiveness.

ice fishing with live bait

Tackle and rigging for ice fishing with live bait

The same basic rods and reels that anglers have been using when ice fishing for decades work fine when ice fishing with live bait. Anglers will do best by using the lightest line possible given the situation they are fishing and the species being pursued. Many anglers go as light as 2 pound test line when chasing bluegill and other pan fish under the ice.

Anglers can read more about ice fishing tackle in this article.

ice fishing for crappie

Probably the most popular method of live bait fishing under the ice is using a jig head with live bait. Jig heads combine the hook and weight in one tidy little unit. Most ice fishing jig heads are quite brightly colored, which serves to help attract the fish as well. Anglers can also attach a soft plastic grub body to the jig head and then tip the lure. The same approach will apply to other artificial lures as well.

There are times when anglers will do best fishing a standard live bait hook. This is generally done when fish are finicky. Sometimes the bait fluttering down into the water column in a natural manner is the presentation required to draw strike. A small selection of hooks, split shot, and floats should be in every ice fishing tackle box.

ice fishing for yellpow perch

Best live baits for ice fishing

Anglers have quite a few choices when it comes to ice fishing with live bait. The top ice fishing baits include wax worms, minnows, nightcrawlers, mealworms, and leeches. While there are some other exotic live baits, these are the most popular ones that are the easiest to obtain and have proven to be productive.

Waxworms

Wax worms are perhaps the most popular live bait for anglers ice fishing. This is particularly true for those pursuing bluegill and other pan fish. However, wax worms will catch just about every species. These are very popular baits and most tackle shops that cater to anglers ice fishing will keep a good supply on hand. They are also available at pet shops and can be purchased online.

ice fishing for crappie

Wax worms are the larval form of a bee moth. The average three quarters of an inch to 1 inch long. They are usually white. Wax worms hold up quite well in cold weather. When not fishing, angler should store them at room temperature. They can be kept alive for a month or two if handled in this manner. However, they can die if exposed to freezing temperatures for very long.

Wax worms are not a natural forage for fish. However, for whatever reason, fish cannot resist them! While panfish are usually the main quarry of ice anglers, other species will hit them as well. Larger species such as walleye and trout in particular will fall prey to a well presented wax worm.

ice fishing for bluegill and panfish

Wax worms are most often presented on a tiny jig head. This just seems to be the combination that fish like best. Tiny jigs as light as 1/64 of an ounce was small hooks will fool yellow perch, bluegill, and other pan fish. They can be used to tip a jig and grub combo as well as spoons and other lures. Wax worms can be fished on a bare hook, though this is not done very often.

Nightcrawlers

Nightcrawlers are a terrific and productive freshwater fishing bait for just about every species that swims. They are just as productive for anglers ice fishing as they are when used during the open water. Walleye, trout, bass, pan fish and more will delightfully take a nice lively nightcrawler!

ice fishing for northern pike

Nightcrawlers are easily obtained most bait shops. They can be purchased online as well. In the warmer months, anglers can catch their own. Nightcrawlers will stay alive a long time at room temperature or a little below. They will die if exposed to temperatures that are too cold or too hot. Nightcrawlers are usually kept in a bed of top soil or dirt.

Nightcrawlers can be fished on a live bait hook as well as on a jig. Often times, allowing the nightcrawler to slowly descend through the water column on a hook with no weight or a tiny split shot is the best presentation. Those pursuing walleye will do well to fish them on a jig head right on the bottom, which is where they feed. Anglers chasing tasty pan fish will do best pitching off a small piece of nightcrawler. Anglers do not need to use a very large piece of bait in this situation. Finally, a small piece of nightcrawler can be used to tip artificial lures.

Minnows

Big fish eat little fish, it is a basic fishing fact. This is true for anglers ice fishing with live bait as well. A helpless minnow that is struggling on the hook will attract a variety of game fish. Minnows are the favored bait of crappie anglers. Northern pike, walleye, lake trout, and bass will also take a well presented live minnow.

northern pike ice fishing

Live minnows are available at most tackle shops that cater to anglers that are ice fishing. Shiners, suckers, and fathead minnows are the most popular. Minnows are a bit more difficult to keep alive then are some of the other live baits. Special bait bucket with aerators will keep them frisky all day. Dead minnows will produce, at times even better than live bait. However, generally speaking, healthy and active live baits are the best choice.

Small minnows are best for anglers chasing crappie and trout. The minnow should be between one and 2 inches long. Anglers chasing larger game fish can’t step up the size of the bait. A northern pike will take a minnow as long as 6 inches! It is important to match the hook to the size of the bait as well. A light wire #6 hook is a good choice for anglers crappie fishing.

ice fishing for brook trout

Some anglers will use a float to suspend the live minnow at the desired depth. The resistance of the float can also cause the minnow to swim frantically. This will often times trigger a strike. Anglers can go up in size from there with the size of the bait being used.

Hooking the minnow properly is crucial to success

Many anglers ice fishing with minnows hook them incorrectly. Hooking minnows through the lips works well in open water fishing. However, it will quickly kill the bait when ice fishing. Also, since it is a vertical presentation, the minnow will appear unnatural. The best choice is to hook the minnow in the back halfway between the tail and the dorsal fin. This will keep the bait frisky and alive. It will also cause the bait to swim away, putting out distress signals. This will often trigger a bite.

ice fishing for lake trout

Minnows can also be used in conjunction with an artificial lure. When using a jig, the minnow can be hooked through the back and lowered to the bottom. This can be a productive method to take walleye. Minnows can also be used to tip a spoon as well. Most bait shops have a selection of minnows. Anglers should choose the minnow that matches the area being fished as well as the species being sought. Fat head minnows are best for river mouths. Emerald and golden shiners are usually best for deeper waters in lakes.

Minnows are often the the bait of choice for anglers using tip ups and tip downs. Since this method of fishing does not require the angler to attend to the whole, the bait needs to supply the action. Minnows do that quite well. Also, most anglers using tip ups and tip downs are in pursuit of larger game fish such as pike, walleye, lake trout, and more. A large, live minnow is often the best bait in this application.

Mealworms

Mealworms are another excellent live bait used by anglers ice fishing. They are the larval stage of a darkling beetle. They are generally short and fat, rarely exceeding 1 inch in length. Mealworms are favored especially by pan fish anglers. However, trout will greedily devour them as well. Due to their size, mealworms are perfect for tipping a jig or other artificial lure.

ice fishing for panfish

Mealworms are bit more difficult to keep alive in the cold. For that reason, they tend to be more popular towards the end of the ice fishing season. They are available at local tackle shops and can also be purchased online. Some pet shops also keep them in stock. They should be kept at room temperature and will die if exposed to freezing temperatures.

Leeches

Leeches are not used very often by anglers ice fishing with live bait. The primary reason for this is that they tend to curl up in a ball and cold water. However, anglers have learned a little trick. By keeping the leeches and a refrigerator for a period of time, they can acclimate to the cold and then be used as live bait under the ice. This does take a little more time and effort, but the results can be worth it.

Other ice fishing baits

There are a few other choices for anglers ice fishing with live bait. These include salmon eggs, cut bait, and commercially prepared baits such as Berkeley power bait and GULP. Salmon eggs are particularly effective on trout and white fish. Anglers can fish them on a weighted hook or and artificial lure. Sometimes color does make a difference, angler should keep experimenting until a productive pattern emerges.

ice fishing for rainbow trout

Cut bait is often overlooked by anglers ice fishing. There are often times when lethargic fish would rather not chase a live bait. In these instances, a freshly dead minnow or fresh piece of cut bait can be much more productive. The best approach is to fish the piece of bait right on the bottom with no action. Artificial lures can be tipped with a piece of cut bait as well.

There are numerous commercially available prepared baits as well. The main advantage of these baits is the convenience. While not technically live bait, they are fish the same way and can be as productive at times. These include the Berkeley power bait, ice nuggets, and more. They can be stored in the tackle box for a very long time.

Ice fishing techniques when using live bait

Ice fishing with live bait is fairly basic. However, as with any other type of fishing, there are nuances that will spell the difference between success and failure. If there is one mistake anglers make when ice fishing with live bait, it is giving the bait too much action. As mentioned above, the metabolism of fish in cold water is very slow. They will not be in a mood to chase down a bait. Also, it is just not natural looking in that cold water.

Anglers fishing live bait on a jig head will do well to let the bait slowly float to the bottom with the bail open. If at any point the line stops moving, speeds up or even twitches, the angler should close the bail and quickly reel until tight. If no strike occurs on the fall, the bait should be left to sit on the bottom. Gently tapping the jig head up and down on the bottom will often times draw a walleye or other fish to the bait. Patience can be required as it can take 10 minutes or more for the fish to commit to the bait.

Artificial lures such as spoons and jigs can also be tipped with live bait. The same basic approach applies. Anglers should let the spoon or plug flutter down to the bottom naturally. Suspended fish will often hit the bait on the way down. If anglers are marking fish on a fish finder, it is best to work the lore slightly above the fish. Most fish feed up as opposed to down. A subtle jigging motion will generally be more productive than an aggressive one.

In conclusion, this article on ice fishing with live bait should help anglers catch more fish through the hard water!

Ice Fishing for Northern Pike, Tips to Succeed

Ice Fishing for Northern Pike

The subject of this article will be ice fishing for northern pike. Northern pike are one of the most popular freshwater species pursued by ice fishermen for several reasons. One, they grow very large and are one of the heaviest fish that can be taken through the ice. Two, they are a true coldwater species. This means that they remain active under the ice. Finally, they are much more aggressive than many other species that anglers catch through the ice.

Northern pike can be taken by anglers ice fishing with both artificial lures and live and frozen bait. Since pike generally prefer a larger meal, bigger baits such as jigs, spoons, and jigging plugs are the best choice for anglers who prefer to fish with artificial lures. These are generally worked more aggressively than when fishing for other species as walleye. Pike are usually more active and comfortable in the cold water.

Live and frozen minnows work very well for pike as well. These include but are not limited to suckers, shiners, and where legal panfish. Experienced anglers will often freeze their leftover live minnows and uses bait on the next trip. During very cold water when pike tend to slow down a bit, frozen baits can often be more productive as the pike does not have to chase them down.

Ice fishing for northern pike; tackle and equipment

Many anglers ice fishing for northern pike do so with the rod and reel. Those that do need to beef the tackle up a bit as these fish grow quite large. Most anglers opt for 20 pound braided line when fishing in shelters. Many opt for 8 pound to 10 pound monofilament line when fishing in exposed weather as the line is just easier to manage.

Anglers can read more about ice fishing tackle and gear in the link to that article.

A leader of some sort is usually used. It can be either steel or fluorocarbon, depending on angler preference and conditions. Most anglers have gone away from steel leaders when fishing with lures as they have found that this results in more strikes. Some lures will be lost, but the trade-off is usually worth it. Anglers fishing tip ups with live or frozen bait will often stick with a wire leader.

Many anglers ice fishing for northern pike used tip ups. In fact, more northern pike are landed by anglers using tip ups than all other species combined. Larger live and dead baits are usually the most productive baits for catching pike. This makes it a natural to use tip ups when pursuing them.

ice fishing for northern pike

Locating northern pike under the ice

Once located, northern pike are not all that difficult to get to bite in most instances. This is especially true early and late in the season when they are quite aggressive. The key to anglers ice fishing for northern pike having success is locating fish. This may sound obvious. However, understanding their migrations and movements is more important with pike than some other species.

ice fishing gear

Pike will be found very shallow early in the ice fishing season. As soon as there is enough safe ice to fish, anglers can find them in shallow water. Large weedy coves are excellent spots to try. It cannot be stressed enough however, that anglers need to put safety first and not venture out into ice that is too thin!

Forage species will still be present in shallow water early in the ice fishing season. This is the reason that northern pike will still be found there. Pike will feed on bluegill and other panfish, suckers, shiners, and other small fish. This bite will last until the water gets too cold and the bait fish move off into deeper water.

Weed edges where shallow grass beds drop off into deeper water are prime spots early in the ice fishing season. The same spots that produce northern pike for anglers fishing the open water just before the freeze should produce once the ice thickens up as well

Mid winter northern pike tactics

Many anglers ice fishing for northern pike choose to stop fishing for them mid winter when the bite slows down. However, persistent anglers will often find that this is when the largest fish are to be caught. It is more difficult to locate them and anglers must move around in search of northern pike.

Structure and depth changes are the key to locating large northern pike in midwinter. Main river channels and sloping points with significant drop-offs are prime spots. This is especially true if some type of cover such as boulders or fallen timber is present.

Deep holes are another prime spot for anglers ice fishing for northern pike. Deep holes will concentrate insect larvae. This will attract minnows which of course in turn will bring in the game fish species. Deep holes that have adjacent cover such as boulders and fallen timber are most certainly prime spots to ice fish for northern pike in the middle of winter.

While pike found in shallow water will often be caught in the middle of the water column, pike in deeper water are more likely to hug the bottom. The primary reason for this is that the structure is located there. Seldom will anglers fine weed beds in water this deep. Therefore, pike will be relating to structure on the bottom.

Strategies for drilling holes

Successful anglers ice fishing for northern pike generally have a strategy in mind before heading out to the lake. Many do their homework on the lake before it freezes and use a quality GPS unit to mark likely ice fishing spots. Modern apps and websites can also provide anglers a wealth of knowledge and information.

ice fishing

The best approach is usually to drill holes in a grid or zigzag pattern, concentrating on depth changes and submerged cover such as weed beds, rock piles, and submerged timber. Once a productive depth is found, pike will normally be found in a similar depth throughout the lake. Anglers can then concentrate on that depth to maximize their results.

Choosing the best pike waters to fish

Anglers ice fishing for northern pike have a choice to make when choosing a lake. Some lakes are better when it comes to numbers in action, while others are known for producing trophy northern pike. Ideally, there is a lake that offers both. However, this is usually not the case. Experience, DNR reports, and information from local bait shops and anglers are great sources of information.

Northern pike are the ultimate ambush predator. This is one reason why weed beds are so productive. The northern pike’s camouflage allows them to easily blend in to submerged vegetation. However, this habit continues in deeper water as well. Seldom will northern pike be found in open water. They will almost always relate to some type of structure, be it a channel edge, drop off, deep weed bed, or submerged rock pile.

Steeply sloping points are natural spots for anglers ice fishing for northern pike. Anglers can cover several different steps and drop-offs with a minimal amount of holes. This obviously saves time and makes for more efficient fishing.

Ice fishing for northern pike; techniques

The two basic techniques that anglers use when ice fishing for northern pike are jigging with spoons and plugs and using tip ups. Tip ups give anglers the advantage of fishing multiple holes at one time. However, most areas do have laws limiting the number of tip ups per angler. Also, there can be limitations as to how far they are spaced apart. Many anglers still prefer to catch northern pike on a conventional ice fishing rod and an artificial lure.

Jigging for pike

Jigs, spoons, and plugs will all produce northern pike through the ice. As mentioned earlier, northern pike do prefer a larger meal. Therefore, baits in the 3 inch to 4 inch range generally work best. These are generally worked more aggressively as pike are quite active even in the cold water.

The best set up for using artificial lures for pike is a medium ice fishing spinning rod with 10 pound monofilament or fluorocarbon line or 20 pound braided line. In both cases a snap swivel is tied to the end of the line. Anglers using braided line will need a 3 feet piece of 20 pound fluorocarbon leader. A steel leader may also be used.

Once set up and ready to go, the angler drops the lure to the desired depth and begins jigging it sharply in 1 foot increments. This is done multiple times at a certain depth. Then, the lure is dropped another foot or so and the process repeated all the way to the bottom. Often times, especially in deep water, allowing the lure to sit on the bottom for a few moments before jigging again will draw strike. Pike will often watch the lure as it sits there motionless.

Many anglers also tip their artificial lures with a head, tail, or strip of dead bait. This can work very well when fish are less active. Jigs, spoons, and plugs can all be tipped with a piece of bait.

Best lures when ice fishing for northern pike

The list of top lures for anglers ice fishing for northern pike include jigs, spoons, and plugs. The Rapala Jigging Rap is the go to lure for anglers ice fishing with plugs. This legendary lure has been around a long time and still catches plenty of fish. Other productive plugs include the Chubby Darter and Live Target Golden Shiner.

Spoons are very effective lures for anglers ice fishing for northern pike. They are heavy which means they will get down in deep water quickly. Spoons also put off a lot of flash and vibration. Top spoons include the Kastmaster, Flutter Spoon, and Swedish Pimple, though there are plenty of other productive spoons out there as well. Anglers should choose spoons and plugs that resemble local forage. Yellow perch patterns are a good choice in many applications.

Many anglers ice fishing associate jigs with panfish and walleye. However, jigs will certainly produce northern pike as well. Anglers should go with larger sizes that are around 3 inches to 4 inches long. Top jigs include the Marmooska Jig and Bro Bug Jig.

Using tip ups for northern pike

A 4 inch to six-inch sucker on a treble hooks fished on a tip up rig has probably produced more northern pike than all other methods combined. It is simple, yet extremely effective. Pike are active and like larger, live baits. Tip ups allow anglers to fish multiple holes at one time, increasing their chances of success.

Anglers should have their tip ups rigged with a good coated line that is freeze resistant. This is most often quite heavy line. The line then goes through a 1/2 ounce sliding egg sinker, followed by a good snap swivel. The swivel stops the sinker and allows for easy leader changes. A 3 foot long 20 pound fluorocarbon leader and a #2/0 to #5/0 hook completes the rig. Anglers can use a wire leader, however it is a bit more cumbersome.

Live bait fish are most often used under tip ups. Suckers, fathead minnows, and shiners are the most common. However, local bait shops that cater to ice fishermen will offer other baits as well. Dead and frozen baits will certainly produce northern pike, too. Dead and cut baits can be productive when fish are bit lethargic and seemingly unwilling to chase down a larger, lively bait. Frozen herring and even mackerel are good dead baits for pike as well.

Combine tip ups and jigging for pike fishing success

One excellent strategy is to use both tip ups and artificial lures at once. Anglers will place a tip up rig with a lively minnow set a few feet off the bottom in a likely spot. If legal, another tip up or even several can be set. Then, anglers can proceed to use jigging rods at other holes to help locate pike.

Tip ups can be a great option for anglers with families and for novice ice fishermen. Kids can for around and play and then when they fly goes off the race is on to see who gets to the whole first! Also, more people usually means more tip ups that anglers are allowed to fish at one time.

In conclusion, this article on ice fishing for northern pike will help anglers catch more of these fantastic game fish!

 

Ice Fishing with Tip Ups and Tip Downs

Ice Fishing with Tip Ups and Tip Downs

This article will focus on ice fishing with tip ups and tip downs. The main advantage of these techniques is that anglers do not need to actively monitor the hole. Therefore, several holes can be fished at one time, increasing the odds of success. The rig is set and the fish do the rest. Live bait is normally used, since the hole is not being actively fished. Cut bait can be used as well.

ice fishing with tip ups and tip downs

Tip ups and tip downs are similar, but there are differences as well. Tip downs are a device that uses a regular ice fishing rod and reel. They are mostly used for anglers chasing panfish through the ice. Tip ups use heavier line and have a spool as part of the unit. They are generally used when pursuing larger species. It is important to check local fishing regulations! They will vary greatly regarding hooks, baits, and number of lines allowed.

While this can be an easy method of ice fishing, successful anglers usually put in more effort. Constantly checking baits and adjusting depths will usually result in more fish. Also, this is a great way to get youngsters involved in ice fishing. They can play while waiting for a bite as opposed to intently watching a rod tip. When a rod goes off or a flag pops up, it is a mad dash to see who can get to the line first!

ice fishing basics

Ice fishing hole placement

As mentioned previously, the primary advantage to ice fishing with tip ups and tip downs is that several different spots can be fished at one time. Therefore, hole location is critical to optimizing the pattern of rigs. The best approach is to drill holes that fish several depths and if possible, types of cover. Anglers use GPS and sonar to pin point proven spots. Organized holes in a grid pattern will efficiently cover an area.

ice fishing tip down

While covering water is the goal, anglers do not want the rigs spread too far apart. Baits will need to be monitored and changed at least every hour or so. Also, when a flag pops or a rod goes off, anglers need to be able to reach them in a reasonable amount of time. Keeping the holes to a one hundred yard radius is a good rule of thumb.

Successful anglers ice fishing with tip ups and tip downs do their homework before arriving on the ice. Studying charts and reviewing data from open water fishing will help anglers identify the top spots. Local bait shops can be great sources of information regarding best baits, depths, and bodies of water that are producing fish. Finally, online forms and groups can be a wealth of local information as well.

Best baits for ice fishing with tip ups and tip downs

Anglers ice fishing with tip ups and tip downs almost always use live or cut bait. The reason is simple; since the hole is not being actively fished, the bait must attract the fish on it’s own. Anglers using tip ups almost always opt for a live minnow. Most of time, tips ups are used on larger fish such as walleye, pike, and larger trout. These fish prefer a substantial meal.

ice fishing with tip down

Anglers using tip downs are usually after panfish and smaller species. Live minnows are still a top bait, especially for those chasing crappie and yellow perch. Tiny jigs tipped with waxworms, dead minnows, meal worms, and nightcrawlers will fool plenty of perch and panfish.

While live bait is most often preferred, successful ice fishing anglers should not overlook using dead or cut bait. In fact, there are some locations where live minnows are not allowed to be used as bait. Fresh minnows that die can be effective baits an angler should not simply toss them away. Larger pieces of cut bait from freshly caught fish can produce some large pike and trout.

Ice fishing with tip downs

Tip downs are great because they allow anglers to fish multiple holes while still catching them on a regular ice fishing rod and reel. This is kind of the best of both worlds! Anglers ice fishing with tip downs are normally pursuing pan fish, crappie, and other smaller game fish species. These fish are better suited for tip downs as they generally don’t strike hard enough to pop the clip on a tip up.

Tip downs are excellent for anglers learning a new body of water. They allow multiple baits to be presented at different depths and locations. This will help anglers learn much more quickly the types of structure and depth that which fish are feeding. Tip downs are also very conducive to family fishing. Children can be distracted and play a bit in between bites.

Tip down options

Tip downs are lightweight devices that are usually made of wood. They are very portable and set up quite quickly. As mentioned above, they use a conventional ice fishing rod and reel. Once set, the rod is either horizontal or a bit above. Many sit at 45 degrees. When a fish strikes, the unit pivots and the rod tip dips down towards the hole. Thus the name “tip down”!

There are a wide variety of tip down units available to ice fishing anglers. Most opt for the type where any rod and reel can be used. This way, anglers can use the outfits that they already own. Sullivan is an industry leader and makes some excellent tip downs that use any rod and reel combination. Some tip downs come with flags as well. However, it is very easy to tell when a fish takes a bait.

Setting up an ice fishing tip down

Once the hole is drilled, the tip down is set at that location. Anglers can use a live minnow or nightcrawler on a small hook with a split shot to get it down in the water column. This works well for crappie and yellow perch as well as a variety of other game fish species. Micro jigs with a meal worm or wax worm are best for anglers chasing bluegill and panfish.

ice fishing for bluegill and panfish

While the bait should be placed close to the bottom, anglers should vary the depth that they are fishing with the various set ups. This way, anglers can quickly identify the depth that which fish are holding and feeding. It is important to keep an eye on your tip downs! It is not unusual for a fish to take the bait off of the hook unnoticed by the angler. Fishing a hook with no bait defeats the purpose of covering a lot of water!

There are several other nuances which will help anglers ice fishing with tip downs be more successful. It is very important to keep the hole clear of ice. Most often, very light line is used in this application. Sharp pieces of ice will quickly cut this very thin line.

Also, wind can be an issue when fishing with tip downs. The best approach is usually two point the tip of the rod right into the wind. This results in the best line management when dealing with a stiff breeze. Also, it is often a good idea to pack some snow around the base of the tip down when the wind is blowing.

Ice fishing with tip ups

Tips ups have been around a long time. Many anglers use them exclusively when ice fishing. Most often, they are used to catch larger fish such as pike, walleye, lake trout and more. Panfish bite very lightly, so tip ups do not work as well for them. The tip up allows anglers to present a live or cut bait at a desired depth, without having to sit at the hole and actively fish it.

The unit consists of a frame, usually wood, a spool of line, and a flag that signals when a fish strikes. The spool is usually filled with stout braided line, 50 lb is a good strength. A leader is then attached to the end of the braid using a snap swivel. This allows for an easy change of leaders, depending on the conditions. Some anglers add a pinch on weight just above the snap swivel. This helps it hang straight down. In strong current or very deep water, a sliding egg sinker can be used.

ice fishing for lake trout

Some anglers prefer round, plastic tip ups. These are very convenient as they fit right inside the hole. This eliminates the need to constantly keep the whole free a floating ice. These units are a bit more expensive, but many anglers consider them worth the cost.

Setting and using the ice fishing tip up

Once the hole is drilled, the tip up rig is set up. The hook is boated and lowered down to the preferred depth. Anglers should vary depths at each hole to determine where the fish are feeding that day. The line is then set in the clip and the angler moves on to set up the next hole.

ice fishing basics

When a flag pops up, the angler dashes over to the hole. The spool will usually be spinning as a fish runs with the bait. The tip up is removed out of the way. Once the run slows, the anglers takes up the slack and then sharply sets the hook by hand. After the fish is hooked, it is patiently brought back in using a hand over hand motion. The head of the fish is raised up through the ice, then the rest of it is pulled through.

Tip up ice fishing rigs

Anglers fishing with tip ups have several options when it comes to rigs for their live or cut bait. Once again, anglers need to check local fishing regulations to make sure they are fishing in compliance with game laws and restrictions.

ice fishing for northern pike

Walleye rig

The best rig for fishing for walleye with a tip down is to use a jig and live minnow. A 4 foot long fluorocarbon leader is preferred. Most anglers use 8 pound test to 10 pound test line. The jig provides both weight and a hook. Anglers can fish a similar rig using a #4 live bait hook and a small split shot or two. With either rig, the minnow should be hooked in the back between the dorsal fin in the tail. This will keep it swimming down and away which signals distress to walleye in the area.

Trout rig

Lake trout and larger rainbow and brown trout are highly prized species that anglers pursue through the ice. Once again, a 4 foot long fluorocarbon leader testing 8 to 10 pounds works well. Live minnows are most often used. Where legal, a small treble results in a good hookup ratio. Anglers who like to practice catch and release fishing and in areas were treble hooks are not allowed will do fine with a light wire live bait hook.

Pike rig

Northern pike have very sharp teeth. Many anglers who ice fish for them use steel leaders. However, fluorocarbon leaders will often draw more strikes. Anglers will just have to determine if the risk is worth. Many anglers use a quick strike rig when pursuing northern pike through the ice. This rig consists of two hooks and a swivel. The bait is then hooked through the head and through the tail, increasing the odds of a hook up.

In conclusion, this article on ice fishing with tip ups and tip downs will help anglers catch more fish through the hard water!

 

Ice Fishing for Walleye, Proven Techniques

Ice fishing for Walleye, Pro Tips

Many anglers enjoy ice fishing for walleye. Walleye are one of the most popular freshwater game fish for anglers fishing northern waters. This certainly is true when lakes and rivers freeze over as well. This article will cover the tackle, lures and baits, locations, and techniques to help anglers be more successful when chasing walleye through the ice!

Special thanks to Rick DeGagné who owns The Hook ‘n’ Cook Inn, Victoria Beach, Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. While not a guide, Rick is an expert at ice fishing for walleye. While Lake Winnipeg will be discussed, the tips, tackle, and baits shared will work on hard water walleye anywhere!

Ice fishing tackle and gear

Ice fishing requires some specialized gear and equipment. Some of this is not inexpensive. The rods, reels, lines, and terminal tackle are reasonably affordable. However, ice augers, fish finders, apparel, shelters, GPS units, and even specialized vehicles do get pricey. Most of these items have safety ramifications and anglers should not skimp in these areas. Ice fishing is great fun, but must be done with angler safety in mind. Anglers can read more about ice fishing tackle and gear in this article.

Ice fishing rods and reels

Ice anglers will do well using shorter rods ranging from 24” to 36” and sometimes 42”. Although it is much easier to use a shorter rod, Rick prefers to use a Med/heavy 36” rod with 6lb line when ripping lipless rattle baits like the Live Target. For other lures especially when dead sticking, Rick suggests using shorter 28” rods. However, there is no “wrong” choice, it really is a matter of preference.

Ice fishing shelters

Shelters are a must, especially on larger bodies of water. Insulated flip-overs or pop-ups heated by propane heaters are the preferred choice. Like many other productive lakes, Lake Winnipeg is considered by many to be a featureless lake and therefore the fish a nomadic and are always on the move chasing bait fish. It is common to have to move on the ice so being portable is the way to go.

For this reason most hard core fishermen wear special ice fishing gear that protects them from the extreme colds and winds. Some are also have floatation features. They consist of bibs and jackets. An example would be Striker Ice Climate jacket and bibs. They come with removable liners so they are very useful in different temperatures. A very good pair of boots is also very important! Cold feet will shorten your time on the ice quickly. A great brand would be Baffin boots. They are made for extreme climates.

Fish finders/sonar

Fish Finders are a must when ice fishing. It can mean the difference between catching 1 fish or catching 10. Flashers are probably more popular with anglers but graphs are starting to gain more popularity as more advanced technology keeps coming out every year. They are well worth the investment for anglers who are serious about ice fishing for walleye.

Ice fishing augers

Ice thickness can get up to 5 feet thick on far north waters, depending on the season. On average it gets to be 3 to 4 feet thick near the end of the season. Gas powered augers are a must on Lake Winnipeg and other lakes with very thick ice. Electric augers will work but performance is limited in extreme cold and very thick ice. I’ve seen every brand of electric augers breakdown when the ice is 4 feet thick and very cold temps. Skimmers or scoops are also a necessity to clear the slush and ice chips left in the hole. Augers also vary in size, but on Lake Winnipeg 8” to 10” augers are most popular.

GPS units

GPS units are essential for locating underwater structure. Most anglers do their “homework” during the open water, marking potential holding spots for winter walleye. Also, GPS units are essential safety gear as well. Weather can turn quickly, reducing visibility. Also, if an anglers gets in trouble and needs medical attention, help will know where to come.

Ice fishing for walleye with lures

walleye fishing

Artificial lures are extremely effective when ice fishing for walleye. They provide weight to sink, flash and vibration, and of course a hook. Many walleye anglers, Rick included, almost always combine live bait with an artificial lure. Ice fishing lures must be presented vertically, as opposed to open water fishing where they can be cast and retrieved. Most ice fishing lures fall into three categories; jigs, spoons, and plugs.

Ice fishing jigs

Jigs are very popular ice fishing lures for walleye and other species. Anglers chasing panfish use tiny versions. Most anglers ice fishing for walleye choice jigs that weigh 1/8 to ½ ounce. Water depth and current will dictate which size is required. Most quality jigs are Tungsten, which a very dense.

Jigs are usually used in conjunction with a soft plastic bait. This is proven combination that catches fish all year long. The jig and grub can be tipped with a live or frozen minnow.

ice fishing with lures

The best approach when ice fishing for walleye is to allow the jig to float down naturally through the water column. Most walleye will be found on or near the bottom. However, a roaming game fish of any species may intercept it on the way down. Once the jig hits the bottom, it should be bounced lightly. The noise may attract a walleye. Anglers need to be patient and use their sonar units!

Ice fishing spoons

Ice fishing spoons work very well for several reasons. Most are heavy and sink quickly. This results in the bait getting down to the bottom quickly when fishing deeper water. They put out both flash and vibration, which will hopefully attract a hungry walleye. The hook up ratio is good with spoons as well.

ice fishing for beginners

Jigging spoons are also fairly easy to fish. The spoon is lowered down to the bottom, then jigged off the bottom using quick movements. As in all fishing, anglers should vary the retrieve until a productive pattern emerges. The same applies to ice fishing spoon sizes and colors, anglers should experiment with various sizes and finishes. Spoons can be tipped with salted frozen minnows as well.

Ice fishing plugs

While many anglers picture plugs being cast out and retrieved, some are effective in a vertical presentation. These really only include specially designed ice fishing plugs as well as lipless crank baits.

The Rapala Jigging Rap is a legendary ice fishing plug. The #7 Jigging Rap is a good size for walleye. Rick like brighter color patterns for these baits. The bait has a fin on the rear which results in a circular swimming motion as the lure falls through the water column.

Live Target Golden Shiner lipless plugs are a favorite of Rick. The lure is dropped down and ripped up. Most bites occur as the lure falls. The Bill Lewis Rattle Trap is another example of this type of lure.

Ice fishing for walleye with live bait

Many anglers choice to fish for walleye through the ice using live bait. There is certainly good reason for this! The most popular bait for walleye fishing is a live minnow. These are readily available at bait shops that cater to anglers ice fishing.

Live minnows can be fished on a bare jig head as well as a hook. Jig heads are the best choice in deeper water. Anglers fishing over weeds or other structure can fish a live minnow under a float. A small split shot will get the bait down. A float can be used to suspend the minnow at a certain depth.

It is very important to hook the minnow correctly. This is especially important when fishing a tip up or down where the rod is not being actively fished. It is fine to hook a minnow through the lips when being jigged on the bottom. However, on the other rigs or when suspended, it is important to hook the minnow near the tail, behind the dorsal fin. This will cause the minnow to swim down, pulling against the line. These struggles will attract hungry walleye to the bait!

ice fishing with live bait

Nightcrawlers are another popular live bait for anglers ice fishing for walleye. Like minnows, they can be fished ob both jig heads and on hooks. Nightcrawlers tend to work better early and late in the season when the walleye are in water that is not as deep.

Best spots to catch walleye under the ice

The same spots and areas that produce walleye in open water fishing will produce under the ice as well. Walleye also exhibit a seasonal migration. It is a bit like summer, but in reverse. Early in the ice fishing season, fish will be found in shallower water. Weed beds, points, creek channel edges, and submerged islands in 15 to 20 feet of water are good spots to start fishing.

As the season progresses, walleye will generally move deeper. Main river channels, deeper reefs, and other spots will often be the most productive. As spring approaches, walleye will again ease in a bit shallower.

Effects of weather when ice fishing for walleye

Weather has a huge effect on fish activity under the ice just as it does in open water. Prime times to fish are early and late in the day. Also, approaching fronts will have the fish feeding. Conversely, post front conditions with a bright, high sky can make for a sluggish bite.

Ice fishing strategies for walleye

Once out on the ice, it is time to go fishing! However, successful anglers have a game plan, based on local information, weather, and experience. The best approach is to drill multiple holes in a crisscross pattern. Ideally, the holes will cover several different depths over cover and some type of structure break.

Minnesota ice fishing

Once the holes are drilled, the sonar unit can be deployed to see what life lurks below. Hopefully, bait and game fish will appear on the screen. Even if there is no action, it is still worth dropping a bait down. A jig and minnow is a good place to start. Spoons are a good second choice.

If fish are seen but they do not seem interested, it is time to try different lures, baits, and presentations. Finicky fish usually respond to slow, subtle movements and smaller baits. However, sometimes ripping a plug will result in a reflex strike.

2 pronged approach for walleye fishing success

There is a technique to fishing on Lake Winnipeg. It works on many other lakes as well. Anglers are allowed to use 2 rods in one hole. The longer rod is used for ripping the Live Target tipped with a minnow/shiner head through the eyes on the back treble and a shorter rod for a dead stick. The dead stick will consist of either a jig head tipped with either a live minnow through the tail or a frozen salted minnow/shiner, a bobber rigged with a live minnow hooked through the tail weighted down with split shot, or a spoon like a Macho Minnow tipped with a frozen salted shiner on the treble hook. The Macho minnow as it has a plastic fin that flutters with the slightest movement that seems to trigger a bite.

fishing for walleye, a beginners guide

Lake Winnipeg, like other lakes, is murky so you need to attract the fish. This is where the Live Target and other lipless baits comes in. You attract the fish by ripping the lure 4 to 5 feet off the bottom. The rattle is quite loud and can easily be heard in your shelter. I keep ripping the lure for a good 5 minutes then let it sit about 2 feet off the bottom for a few more minutes. Then I move to the dead stick and give it very subtle movements.

Teasing the walleye to the lure

This lure is about 1 foot off the bottom. The lure is worked back and forth until a fish appears on the fish finder. They usually come up from the bottom. The goal is to try and get them to chase your lure towards the ice at the right speed. If you reel too fast, you will lose them. If you reel in too slow, the fish will lose interest.  Yes you do catch some as the lure drops towards the bottom but most are caught on the chase towards the ice.

Bites often occur 2 or 3 feet below the ice from fish chasing the lure from the bottom in 20 foot. This is why a fish finder is important. The chase can last a long time with a fish chasing your lure up and down several times before biting the lure to then decide it is more interested in the dead stick. You then switch rods, start jigging the dead stick and start the chase with that lure. It is like playing a video game. Of course you can’t use this approach with a float rig. The live minnow will create it’s own chase with the fish.

Sometimes when the fish a lethargic, the Live Target just acts as a dinner bell and the fish are only interested in the dead stick. A less aggressive approach with the Live Target is best in this situation to not spook the fish.

ice fishing basics

Tip ups and tip downs can be good options as well. Live minnows are the best choice in the situation. However, dead minnows, nightcrawlers, and even cut bait can be effective as well. Sometimes a dead bait sitting motionless on the bottom is what is required to get a walleye to bite!

Walleye fishing on Lake Winnipeg

Lake Winnipeg produces huge Walleye. Many anglers from the U.S. come up here in search of trophy Greenbacks. Some come up 3 or 4 times a season. It is a world renowned sport fishery. Several 30” plus walleye are caught each season. March is the preferred month as the weather gets milder. It is called “March Madness” in the ice fishing world on Lake Winnipeg. All the local hotels and lodging gets booked solid during March.

Temperatures and weather on Lake Winnipeg during ice fishing season can get very extreme. Temperatures can get as cold as -40 degrees Celsius. It also gets very Windy on Lake Winnipeg with gusts at some times reaching 70 km’s per hour. This is why the lake earned the nickname “Big Windy”. On average one can expect temperatures around – 20 Celsius during the winter with winds between 10 to 20 kms per hour.

walleye

Live minnows or frozen salted shiners/minnows is all that is used in winter months on Lake Winnipeg to try and match the forage in the winter. The South Basin of the lake is a sandy bottom with very little structure. The fish are always on the move looking for baitfish who are also always on the move. More people are purchasing nautical on line to pinpoint subtle changes in depths or depth outlines on the bottom as well as a few rock outcroppings that may hold fish. Navionics or the FishSmart app are a couple of examples.

Successful anglers work together

Rick will usually start in the 20 feet of water range and is best to fish in groups as saves a lot of time locating the fish. Groups of 4 to 5 tents can cover a lot of area if each group fishes different depths and work together. The use of walkie talkies is handy in these situations. For example, 1 tent fishes 14 foot, the next 16 foot, and so on. In some locations this could easily span a kilometer or more. In other locations this could span 100 yards. Once a school of fish is located everyone moves into the general area.

Things to also look for are large ice ridges that stick out of the ice. These are caused by the strong winds which usually happen during the early ice freeze. These ridges create structure under the ice for bait fish to hide. Often walleye cruise the ice ridge lines feeding off these bait fish. The ice in these areas is usually quite thick. I usually add a 12” or even 18” extension to my auger to make it through the ice.

Most trophy walleye over 28” are released back into the water as there are pretty much all females full of eggs. They are the future of the fishery on the lake. Having said that, you are allowed to keep 1 Walleye over 28” per season.

Lake Winnipeg  as well as all of Manitoba is barbless so you must secure your bait on the hook or it will fall off. A small rubber stopper will do the trick. There are items on the market that are specifically made for this like the Bait Buttons. They come with a handy dispenser too.

In conclusion, this article on ice fishing for walleye will help anglers catch more fish!

 

 

 

Ice Fishing for Bluegill and panfish

Ice Fishing for Bluegill and panfish

This post will focus on Ice fishing for bluegill and panfish. These diminutive game fish are prized by anglers ice fishing just as they are for those fishing open water. Bluegill and panfish put up a great little fight on ultra light tackle. They can be aggressive in winter, making them a prime target. Finally, and perhaps most important, they are fantastic eating!

ice fishing for bluegill and panfish

Like many other fish species, bluegill and panfish will exhibit a seasonal migration under the ice. Generally, this is a reverse pattern of summer. Early and late in the ice fishing season, bluegill and panfish will be found in fairly shallow water at times. They will generally concentrate over cover, especially weed beds. They may be found in water as shallow as 5 feet deep.

Special thanks to Scott Mackner for help with this article! Scott was born and raised in central Minnesota and still lives in his home town. He grew up fishing, hunting, and trapping and loves everything outdoors. Scott has an excellent YouTube channel with a bunch of helpful videos. He is sponsored by Tuned Up Custom Rods.

In the coldest parts of winter, bluegill and panfish will be found a bit deeper. They will stage up on drop-offs and channel edges. Generally speaking, water between 10 and 25 feet deep is the best place to search for them. They are often concentrated during this time, and it can be difficult locating them. However, once found, a bunch of them can be caught in short order.

ice fishing for panfish

Ice fishing tackle for bluegill and panfish

Ice fishing rods and reels are pretty basic. For the most part, they are smaller versions of ultra light tackle that anglers use when open water fishing. The biggest difference is the length of the rod. Since anglers will be standing close to the hole, a long rod is a disadvantage. Anglers ice fishing for bluegill and panfish generally go with fishing rods between 24 inches and 36 inches long. Anglers can read an article on ice fishing tackle and gear here.

Reels used when ice fishing for bluegill and panfish are the same as those used in other applications. The most part, they are the lightest versions available. A quality ice fishing rod and reel can be purchased for under $50.

Lines are very important when ice fishing. In the cold water, there is very little algae growth. Therefore, the water is very clear. Successful anglers seldom go above 4 pound test, with 2 pound test being preferred. Several manufacturers make line specifically designed for ice fishing. They stay supple even in the very cold weather. Light line will also result in much better action for anglers using artificial lures. Jigs and spoons will have a more lifelike presentation on this lighter line.

ice fishing for panfish

Ice fishing for bluegill and panfish with live bait

Many anglers ice fishing for bluegill and panfish use live bait. The most popular live baits are wax worms, mealworms, nightcrawlers, earthworms, and small minnows. Wax worms and mealworms in particular are favored bluegill and panfish baits. They can be fished alone on a very small hook with a split shot. Most often, they are fished on a tiny jig head. In fact, anglers almost always tip their artificial lures with some type of live bait.

ice fishing for bluegill

For the most part, these baits are easily obtained at most bait and tackle shops that cater to ice fishermen. As long as they are not exposed to the freezing cold, they should remain alive healthy for quite a while. If possible, baits should be kept at room temperature. Many ice fishermen simply keep their waxes in their winter coat pocket. Minnows are bit more troublesome and must be kept alive in an aerated bucket. Live minnows will catch fewer panfish and bluegill, however they will catch some of the larger specimens.

Ice fishing for bluegill and panfish with lures

Bluegill and panfish can most certainly be caught by anglers using artificial lures as well. As mentioned above, most effective technique is often to combine the two. Tiny jigs are by far the most popular artificial lure for panfish and bluegill. These come in a myriad of sizes, shapes, and colors. In most instances, jig heads weighing 1/32 of an ounce that are brightly colored work best. Anglers can go up or down in size as needed given the current fishing conditions. Modern jigs are made of Tungsten, they are very dense. This allows for more weight in a smaller package.

ice fishing for yellow perch

Bluegill and panfish jigs

Anglers can purchase jigs either fully dressed or plain so that they can add their own grub body. The most anglers have gone to the jig and grub design, some still prefer a jig dressed with some type of material. In most cases, this is marabou. Marabou has an incredible lifelike action and the water in response even the slightest movement. This makes it perfect for anglers ice fishing for bluegill and panfish.

ice fishing jigs

Just as with jig heads, the selection of grub body is available to anglers ice fishing for bluegill and panfish is extensive. Some do not resemble anything that swims in the water. However as long as they are brightly colored and have a natural motion in the water, they will catch fish. This set up makes it easy for anglers to quickly and easily change color combinations along with body sizes and shapes.

ice fishing with live bait

Scented soft plastic bodies can give anglers ice fishing for bluegill and panfish a great advantage. The GULP line of baits is a perfect example of this. The 1 inch Gulp Alive Minnow is a terrific bluegill and panfish lure. Not only has the action of a soft plastic bait but the sent of a live bait. It is an excellent and productive combination.

Ice fishing spoons

Spoons are very effective ice fishing lures as well. They are available in the tiniest of sizes, which is well-suited for the small mouths of bluegill and panfish. Gold and silver are the most popular finishes. However, of late brightly colored neon finishes have become popular. As with all fishing, anglers should experiment with colors and sizes until a productive pattern emerges.

ice fishing for crappie

Generally speaking, gold works in low light conditions and silver works better in the bright sun. Therefore, gold is the best choice early and late in the day and on cloudy days. Conversely, silver is the best choice midday and on bright sunny days. The brighter neon colored spoons are a better choice when fishing deeper water.

Techniques to catch bluegill and panfish through the ice

The primary challenge when ice fishing for bluegill and panfish is to locate them. In the wintertime, fish tend to bunch up into larger schools. It is important to take in the current conditions such as time of year, whether, and local fishing reports. Local bait shops are excellent sources of information, especially when anglers purchase bait and equipment there. Online resources such as forms of fishing reports can be helpful as well.

Anglers should drill a dozen or so holes in either a crisscross or grid pattern to get started. Ideally, these holes will cover a variety of depths as well as several types of cover. The primary cover bluegills and panfish we use in the winter is submerged weed beds and fallen timber. They will also relate to breaks such as points, drop-offs, and channel edges.

An electronic fish finder can be a huge advantage in this situation. Anglers can quickly determine if there’s any activity under the the hole. Often times, the fish will be suspended. Knowing the depth that which they are holding is crucial so that anglers can present their baits at the proper depth.It is best to present the bait or lure to the fish a little above where they are holding. Fish almost always feet up, and bluegill and panfish are no exception. Aggressive fish will rise a few feet up to take the lure or bait.

Successful anglers vary the baits and presentation

Often times the smaller fish are initially the most aggressive. If smaller fish become a nuisance, anglers can step up to a larger lure or bait. They can also be a little bit more aggressive or change up the jigging motion. Sometimes that is all it takes to get the larger bluegill and other panfish to bite.

ice fishing basics

Anglers fishing without an electronic fish finder will simply have to cover the entire water column. It is important to have some idea of the depth of the water being fished. An angler can do this by lowering the lure or bait all the way to the bottom. Then it is reeled up about halfway in the jigging process begins. The lure or bait should be lowered in 1 foot increments and given plenty of time to work until it reaches the bottom. If no action occurs, it is time to move onto the next hole.

If no fish rise to the bait, anglers should very slowly lower the bait to the fish a few inches at a time. It is important to be careful and not give the bait too much action as this will spook wary fish. Gentle upper movements of the rod tip of 6 to 10 inches while allowing the bait to flutter down naturally is usually the best approach. If the bait gets down into the school of fish and no strike occurs, it is time to try another lure or bait.

Rigging up for panfish and bluegill

The easiest way to start ice fishing for bluegill and panfish is to simply tie a tiny jig onto the end of the line. 1/32nd ounce is a good place to start and water that is around 15 feet deep. The jig can then be baited with a live waxy or meal worm or a soft plastic bait can be added. This can be tipped with a bait as well. In deeper water, a split shot can be added 18 inches or so above the jig. It is important not to place split shot to close to the jig as it will adversely affect the action.

Another rig that works well for anglers ice fishing for bluegill and panfish is to use a small silver spoon and a dropper. This rig uses a spoon without a hook which is tied to the line. A 12 inch leader is tied to the hook end of the spoon, followed by a small live bait hook. This hook can then be baited with a waxy, meal worm, piece of nightcrawler, or live minnow.

This is similar to what salmon anglers use when trolling in the Great Lakes. The spoon provides weight as well as some flash. Once attracted to the spoon, hopefully the fish takes the baited hook below.

Ice fishing for bluegill and panfish with tip downs

Tip downs are a great option for anglers ice fishing for bluegill and panfish. They allow for multiple holes to be fished at one time, as they do not need attending. A tip down is a device which holds a rod in place over the hole. When a fish bites, the rod tip jerks down, thus the name.

ice fishing with tip ups and tip downs

Since the rod is not being actively fished, this situation requires the use of live bait. The angler baits the hook, drops down to the desired depth, than sets the rod in the tip down. He or she then moves on to the next hole and repeats the procedure. Is important to keep an eye on the rods as they sit in the tip down. Panfish are quick and can strip the bait off the hook. It does not do any good to have a bare hook with no bait on it.

fishing for panfish

Tip downs are excellent for anglers learning a new lake as it allows them to cover a fair amount of water in a short period of time. They are also fantastic when fishing families with young children. The kids do not have to hold the rod are actively fish, they can fool around and play them when a rod goes off there is a chase to see who can be the first one to grab it!

In conclusion, anglers ice fishing for bluegill and panfish will hopefully find this article helpful!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ice Fishing for Yellow Perch, Pro Tips

Ice Fishing for Yellow Perch

This article will focus on ice fishing for yellow perch. Yellow perch are one of the most popular species sought by anglers fishing through the ice, and for good reason! They are a beautiful fish with vibrant colors. Yellow perch are fairly plentiful in most northern waters. Compared to most species, they are more aggressive and easier to catch. Yellow perch put up a spirited battle. Finally, and perhaps most important, they are fantastic eating!

ice fishing for yellow perch

Anglers ice fishing for yellow perch need to be ready to do two things; drill a lot of holes and move around. Perch congregate in large schools in winter. Anglers who locate them may experience fast action. However, this means that there is a lot of water where the fish are not! Dedicated anglers will put in the time and effort to locate and catch them.

Special thanks to Scott Mackner for help with this article! Scott was born and raised in central Minnesota and still lives in his home town. He grew up fishing, hunting, and trapping and loves everything outdoors. Scott has an excellent YouTube channel with a bunch of helpful videos. He is sponsored by Tuned Up Custom Rods.

Yellow perch are fairly aggressive and adapt well in the cold water. They can be caught on most of the traditional ice fishing lures as well as live baits. The large schools result in some competition between the fish. Often times, anglers can get them excited and into a bit of a feeding frenzy. When the bite gets going, anglers rotate in to keep a bait in the fish.

Ice fishing for yellow perch; tackle and equipment

Anglers ice fishing for yellow perch can use their standard light spinning tackle. While many use 2 lb test for ice fishing for panfish, it is fine to bump it up a bit when chasing yellow perch. 4 lb line will be fine in most situations. Tip ups can be utilized, however most anglers prefer to catch them on a rod and reel. Several manufacturers make monofilament and fluorocarbon line specifically designed for ice fishing. Fluorocarbon lines are bit more expensive, but many anglers find them worth the cost.

ice fishing for yellow perch

Anglers can read more about ice fishing tackle and gear in this article.

Anglers can use braided line as well. Braided line does not stretch and is very sensitive. Ten pound test is a good size to use for yellow perch and other panfish. However, with braided line a leader is required. Anglers will tie a swivel or snap swivel to the end of the braid. Then, they will attach a 3 foot long fluorocarbon leader that test between 4 pound and 6 pounds. The swivel can have the added benefit of reducing line twist.

A basic selection of jigs and spoons will get most anglers ice fishing for yellow perch started. The same panfish lures, perhaps one size larger, will do fine for perch. Live bait hooks in size #8 and size #6, split shot, and a few small floats will complete the perch anglers tackle box.

Other pieces of equipment obviously include augers, shelters, a sled, scoops, pliers, and a Thermos of coffee or soup. One piece of equipment that will really increase success for anglers ice fishing for yellow perch is a portable sonar unit, or fish finder. Yellow perch school up, locating them is the most important aspect. A sonar unit will save anglers countless hours of fishing unproductive waters.

Yellow perch migrations

As with other species, at first ice anglers will find yellow perch fairly shallow. Submerged weed beds, mud flats that slowly taper off, weed line edges, points, and reefs are all good spots to try. These structures and cover in 10′ to 15′ of water will usually be productive early in the ice fishing season. ANGLERS MUST PUT SAFETY FIRST! It is never worth taking a risk on unsafe ice just to catch fish.

As it gets colder, smaller yellow perch will still be found in the shallower water. However, larger fish will for the most part move out deeper. Channel edges, deeper mud flats, deep points, and submerged rocks and reefs are prime spots to try. Anglers ice fishing for yellow perch in rivers will do best finding deeper tributaries with less current.

ice fishing for yellpow perch

As spring approaches, the pattern reverses itself. Yellow perch spawn in spring. They will move shallow and especially seek tributary creeks. Flats, points, weed beds, and reefs in 10′ of water just off shore of the creek mouths are prime spots for late season perch. Once again, anglers need to put safety first and not fish unsafe ice.

Locating yellow perch

Once out on the lake, anglers ice fishing for yellow perch will need to decide where to drill the holes. The stage of the ice fishing season will pretty much determine where and how deep an angler starts. Experience can not be understated. Reports from local shops are invaluable. Online and social media forums can provide good intel as well. When all else fails, look for a cluster of anglers! Just be courteous and do not crowd them.

ice fishing for yellow perch

Once anglers decide on an area that they want to fish, the best approach is to drill multiple holes. A dozen or so holes in a grid pattern in a 75 yard radius is a good initial plan. These holes should cover multiple depths, structure breaks, submerged cover, and open mud flats. Another benefit of this is that as perch move off anglers can simply jump ahead to the next hole and intercept them at that location.

As mentioned earlier, a portable sonar machine is invaluable in locating yellow perch. Since these fish school up in large numbers in the winter, they will basically all be in one spot. That means that there will be a lot of water with no fish. Instead of manually fishing each hold to determine if there are yellow perch there, a sonar can quickly and efficiently eliminate unproductive water.

Ice fishing for yellow perch; importance of sonar

Just as important, the sonar machine will indicate the depth that which the fish are holding. It is almost always best to present the lore or bait a little above the holding fish. Once again, sonar machine will save many hours of fishing time in determining the depth that fish are holding that particular day.

However, just because no fish are seen on the screen does not mean that hole is not worth a try. A good approach on a hole that is not showing fish is to drop down a spoon or other lure that will attract and draw fish and. A good strategy is to drop the lure and about halfway to the bottom and jig it aggressively. Then, angler should very the depth and repeat the process

Before leaving a hole, it is best to bounce a spoon up and down off the bottom a few times. This will kick up the bottom, sometimes dislodging forage that yellow perch eat. After a few bounces on the bottom, the spoon should be raised up a foot or two, just above the bottom disturbance. If no fish show up, it is time to move on.

ice fishing for yellow perch

10 minutes or so at each hole is plenty of time to determine if it will be productive.

Ice fishing for yellow perch with live bait

Anglers ice fishing for yellow perch can use both live bait and artificial lures. In fact, one of the best approach is is to combine the two. Since yellow perch tend to be a bit more aggressive than some other species, artificial lures can be very productive. On days when the bite is tough, however, tipping the jig or spoon with a minnow or waxie can make the difference between a slow bite and a fast one.

The best live bait for anglers fishing for yellow perch is a small minnow. Just as in open water fishing, yellow perch love minnows. 1 inch to 2 inch minnows, about the same size as would be used for crappie, are perfect when pursuing yellow perch. They can be fished on a jig head as well as a plane hook with a split shot. A bobber can be used to suspend the minnow at the desired depth.

ice fishing basics

Yellow perch will take other baits as well. Nightcrawlers, wax worms, mealworms, and spikes will all catch fish. Wax worms and mealworms are best fished either on a plain jig head or a jig and grub combination. They can also be added to spoons. Nightcrawlers can be fished hole on a hook. Anglers can also pinch off a small piece and tip and artificial lure as well.

Best ice fishing lures for yellow perch

Many anglers ice fishing for yellow perch choose to do so with artificial lures. There are couple reasons for this. Lures will tend to attract and catch more active and aggressive fish. They also allow anglers to cover more water and less amount of time. Finally, lures are just a lot of fun to fish!

Ice fishing jigs

ice fishing jigs

Jigs are undoubtedly the top ice fishing lure. They are affordable, versatile, and extremely effective. Anglers can purchase jigs that are dressed with natural hair such as marabou. Many anglers by bear jig heads and then add on their favorite grub body. This jig and grub combination is very efficient. Anglers can easily change the action, size, and color of the lure with a simple grub body change.

Most quality ice fishing jig heads are made of tungsten these days. This material is extremely dense. That means that the jig will be have a while having a small profile. Most ice fishing jigs are also brightly colored. The flash and color will help draw fish to the lure.

Jigs work very well when yellow perch and other game fish are showing up on the fish finder. 1/16 ounce jigs are a good place to start, though anglers can go up or down in size depending on conditions. Fussy perch may require a drop down to one 32nd or even 1/64 of an ounce. Conversely, larger jigs can be used on active fish.

Ice fishing grub bodies for yellow perch

Grub bodies come in a myriad of styles, shapes, and colors. It would be impossible to cover them all in this article. While every angler has his or her favorite, the reality is that location and presentation are really more important factors. Local bait shops and online fishing reports are good places to get good information on the best grub bodies to use.

The best approach is to lower the jig until it is just above the fish. Then, using subtle jigging motions, the lure is hopped up and down in small increments. It can also be slowly raised and lowered. The idea is to very the retrieve until a productive pattern emerges. Anglers will often see fish rise up out of the school towards the jig, but not take it. At this point, changing up the jigging motion will often draw a strike.

Best ice fishing spoons for yellow perch

Spoons are terrific ice fishing baits for yellow perch and other species. They are heavy, which means they sink quickly. This makes them an excellent choice when fishing deeper water. Spoons also put out flash and vibration. This will hopefully attract the aggressive yellow perch to the lure.

Spoons come in many different sizes, shapes, and finishes. Small 1” spoons in silver and gold are the most popular choices. Gold works best early and late in the day and on days with cloud cover. Conversely, Silvers the best choice when the sun is out and bright.

These are excellent lures to prospect with. They allow anglers ice fishing for yellow perch to cover a fair amount of water quickly and efficiently. At times they also tend to catch larger fish. Anglers can fish them plane when fish are active. However, adding a wax worm, mealworms, minnow or piece of minnow, or a piece of nightcrawler will increase to catch on days when the fish are bit finicky.

Ice fishing plugs

The Rapala Jigging Rap has been around a long time. It is considered the plug when it comes to ice fishing. Jigging Raps are available in many different sizes and finishes. The 1 1/2 inch length bait is a good all-around size for yellow perch and other smaller game fish. The eye of the lure is in the center and there is a plastic thin or tail on the rear. When jerked sharply, the bait falls in a natural circular swimming motion. It mimics a wounded baitfish falling helplessly. It is an excellent lower for yellow perch.

Ice fishing for yellow perch with tip ups

Anglers can use tip ups when ice fishing for yellow perch. Since the whole is not being actively fished, the best choice in this situation is to use a small live minnow. The bait is simply lower down into the hole, set at the desired depth, then the weight begins. Most anglers combine tip ups while actively fishing and jigging holes. Tip ups are a good alternative when fishing with kids and novice anglers as the rig pretty much does all the work.

In conclusion, this article on ice fishing for yellow perch should help anglers fill their cooler with these tasty freshwater panfish!

 

 

Ice Fishing for Lake Trout, Proven Strategies

Ice Fishing for Lake Trout

Many winter anglers enjoy ice fishing for lake trout. And for good reason! Lake trout are one of the largest species available to freshwater anglers. They are apex predators that grow very large. Like most trout, lakers thrive in the cold water. In fact, some anglers believe they actually feed more voraciously in the winter than they do at other times of the year.

ice fishing for lake trout

Lake trout roam about in small packs, not exactly schools. They are found throughout the water column, from a few feet under the ice all the way to the bottom. Basically, they go where the forage goes. The fish that they feed on are usually found near the surface when there is a plankton bloom or down at the bottom where they feed on larvae. The primary forage for lake trout are ciscoes, whitefish, smelt, herring, and perch.

While lake trout can be caught on live and cut bait, there are aggressive nature results in artificial lures being quite effective. Lake trout, especially large ones, are looking for a substantial meal as well. Therefore, the best artificial lures are usually spoons and plugs. Anglers fishing with live bait almost always use a live, frozen, or fresh dead bait fish.

Stout tackle is required when ice fishing for lake trout

Ice fishing for lake trout does take tackle that is different than that used in other types of ice fishing. The ultralight spinning outfits with 4 pound line will not cut it when chasing these large, powerful fish. Anglers can use spinning tackle for lake trout. However, rods need to be 42 inches to 48 inches long and on the heavy side. Many anglers have gone to bait casting outfits. These are particularly desired when fishing water over 50 feet deep.

Anglers can read this article on ice fishing tackle to get more information.

ice fishing tackle

Most anglers ice fishing for lake trout have gone to braided line. Braided line has no stretch while offering incredible sensitivity. The fact that this line does not stretch is very important when setting the hook on lake trout. This is particularly true in deeper water. Monofilament and fluorocarbon line both stretch, Braided line does not. Anglers can get away with 8 pound monofilament or fluorocarbon line when fishing in fairly shallow water for lake trout.

A swivel is tied to the end of the braided line. This eliminates line twist while making a convenient connection for the angler to attach a leader. Most opt for a 3 foot long section of 10 pound fluorocarbon leader. However, when the water is very clear, some anglers extend this to 5 feet or 6 feet long and even drop as light as 6 lb test.

Winter locations for lake trout

Lake trout are seemingly always on the move. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. Unlike fishing for panfish, lake trout will not be found in big schools hovering in one spot. Instead, they cruise in packs of a couple fish to a dozen in search of prey.

ice fishing for lake trout

Fortunately, lake trout do relate to structure. This means that the locations in which they can be found are predictable. Top spots include points, submerged islands, flats, and channel edges that drop off into deeper water. Structure that has cover on it such as boulders and submerged timber only increase the chances of it being a lake trout hot-spot. They use this structure and cover to locate and ambush their prey.

Lake trout will certainly move up shallow to feed as well. While the shallow flats are usually too warm in the summer months, this is not true in the winter. Lakers will move up onto flats to feed on yellow perch and other species. The edges of flats that are 8 to 12 feet deep and drop off quickly into deeper water are prime spots. The secondary drop off, where the bottom drops from 18 feet to 35 or 40 feet can be a very good spot as well.

Proven tactics for ice fishing for lake trout

Locating lake trout is certainly the most difficult part. Generally speaking, anglers ice fishing for lake trout do not have trouble getting them to bite, once they locate them. After all, these fish are cruising and feeding. Wintertime water temperatures are ideal for their comfort level. They are almost always on the move in search of the next meal. These large, cold, deep lakes require the lake trout to search constantly for the areas where forage is present.

lake trout fishing

Working the right depth is very important when ice fishing for lake trout. Normally, lake trout are found anywhere from 10 feet below the ice and as deep as 80 feet. They will at times be found suspending over very deep water. Once again, it is all about the forage and availability of food.

Fish locations and behavior change a bit in midwinter. Thickening ice and snow on the surface blocks sunlight penetration into the water. This results in plankton being found higher in the water column as the sunlight diminishes. Bait fish feed on this plankton and will be found there as well. This mini food chain of course culminates in predators such as lake trout.

It is important to work the entire water column, no matter what lure or bait is being used. Most often, lake trout will not be marked on the sonar unit. Instead, as mentioned above, they will be swimming about in search of food. The bait could be in the mud on the bottom feeding or up near the surface seeking plankton.

Ice fishing for lake trout with lures

The two most productive lures for anglers ice fishing for lake trout are spoons and tube jigs. These two lures account for the vast majority of Lake trout caught by anglers. Both are similar and that they mimic the ciscoes, smelt, herring, and other forage species that support lake trout populations. Vertically worked plugs can be effective as well.

ice fishing for trout

Lake trout are usually quite aggressive. Anglers should take advantage of this trait by giving their lures a very erratic action. Lake trout are attracted to the flash and vibration of a lure, it imitates a wounded bait fish and simulates an easy meal for a hungry lake trout. There are times when the lure can’t be moved fast enough!

It is important though, to develop a bit of a rhythm. In the crystal clear water, lake trout will see the lure from a long way off. When ready, it will make its move. By keeping the jigging pattern the same, anglers stand a better chance of the fish finding the bait. If a strong knock or thump is felt, that is the fish missing the lure. Anglers should continue to work it, the lake trout will usually turn around and finish it off.

Jigs are a top producer

Jig heads with either a tube or soft plastic grub body are extremely effective lures for catching lake trout. White is the most popular color as it matches the silvery type bait fish that lakers feed on. As with jigs everywhere, the vast majority of bites occur as a lure falls. After being jerked up sharply, the seductive fall, seemingly helpless, will trigger the strike. Anglers can add scent or even a strip of cut bait as well.

While erratic aggressive retrieves are generally the most productive, successful anglers very the retrieve until a productive pattern emerges. There are certainly days when the lake trout want the bait a little less active. The same applies when it comes to color, angler should mix it up. This is especially true in shallower water where lake trout feed on yellow perch and other species. Rattles inside the soft plastic bait or tube can also make a difference. Again, some days the fish want them in some days they don’t.

Lake trout love spoons

Spoons are incredibly effective artificial lures for anglers ice fishing for lake trout. They very closely resemble the ciscoes, herring, and other bait fish that they feed on. Spoons are heavy and sink to the bottom quickly, efficiently covering the water column. They also put out a lot of flash and vibration.

The best spoons are those that match the size of the locally available forage. The Mepp’s Cyclops and Williams Whitefish are two very popular spoons for catching lake trout. 1/2 ounce to 3/4 ounce are generally the best sizes. Silver is an excellent all round finish. Copper works very well on cloudy days and when lake trout are shallow feeding on yellow perch.

Many anglers add a belly strip from a sucker or other bait fish to the spoon. The added scent only increases the chance of a lake trout taking it. Some serious anglers will actually remove the treble hook, run it through the middle of the minnow, then reattach the hook. This is a bit more work but does result in a higher hookup ratio.

The legendary Rapala Jigging Rap

The Rapala Jigging Rap is an ice fishing legend that has been around a long time. It catches a wide variety of species, and Lake trout are no exception. The larger #9 and #11 sizes work best as it is the approximate the size of the forage. Chrome is an excellent finish when ciscoes are about. Fire tiger and perch are very productive in shallower water when lake trout are feeding on yellow perch.

The Jigging Rap has the line tie in the center of the lure. It also has a fan or lip at the tail of the bait. These two combine to give the lure a very erratic action when it falls. It tends to spiral down in a circle, seemingly helpless. This motion will trigger strikes from lake trout. The best presentation is a hard upward jerk of about 2 feet, then the lure is allowed to fall down on slack line. As in most lures, most strikes will occur on the fall.

More lake trout ice fishing tips

Current under the ice can play a key role in success or failure when ice fishing for lake trout. Despite a body of water being covered with ice, there are often times current flows beneath it. Anglers can easily detect this by watching the line when the lure or bait is dropped down through the hole. At times the current can be so strong it can make it difficult to present a bait or lure properly. Often times, a change in current flow or strength will either trigger a bite or shut one off. Anglers should be aware of this as it is one more component to factor into solving the puzzle.

Anglers can also “troll” through the ice. This may sound odd, but it is just a variation of the tactic of dragging a lure through the water. The difference is when ice fishing, it is a vertical presentation from the top to the bottom. The lure is lowered down and allowed to rest on the bottom. The angler then walks briskly away from the hole, dragging the lure up through the water column. As with all fishing, angler should experiment with the retrieve. It is surprising how hard a lake trout will hit using this technique and how close to the surface it will do so!

In conclusion, this article on ice fishing for lake trout will help anglers catch more fish!

Ice Fishing for Rainbow Trout, Tips and Techniques

Ice Fishing for Rainbow Trout

The topic of this article is ice fishing for rainbow trout. Rainbow trout are one of the most popular and recognizable fish in the world! They are a beautiful fish that has it all. Rainbow trout are fantastic game fish that takes artificial lures, flies, and live bait. They put up a great battle on light tackle, often leaping high out of the water. Of course, they can’t do this under the ice, but they still put up a terrific fight.

ice fishing for rainbow trout

Ice fishing for rainbow trout is a bit different than many other species. Trout love the cold water. This means that their seasonal migrations are different than many other freshwater fish. While the majority of fish species move deeper as it gets colder, rainbow trout do the opposite. Fish can be found as shallow as 3 or 4 feet.

Another difference for anglers fishing for rainbow trout compared to other species is that successful anglers are more stationary. While mobility is the key when chasing down yellow perch, walleye, and other schooling fish, this tactic often proves unsuccessful when pursuing rainbow trout. They are spooky and the activity will often get them off there bite.

Rainbow trout habits and behaviors

The key to anglers having success is understanding the rainbow’s habits and their forage. Rainbow trout will be most often found in two locations when ice fishing. These are submerged weed beds, particularly the edge of the weeds and open muddy flats. These are the areas where rainbow trout will find food in the winter.

ice fishing for rainbow trout

Rainbow trout mostly feed on nymphs, larvae, leeches, snails, and small bait fish. Nymphs and larvae will almost always be found on mud flats. Therefore, that is where the rainbow trout will look for them as well. Small bait fish are usually found hiding in the weeds or relating to deep structure such as a drop off.

Shallow mud flats and weed beds are best fished early and late in the day. Anglers fishing tiny jigs or live baits very close to the bottom should do well. As the day warms up, a change in tactics is required. Moving to deeper offshore ledges and fishing the mid-depths with spoons and plugs is usually more productive.

Tackle for ice fishing for rainbow trout

Tackle used when ice fishing for rainbow trout is pretty basic. A 30 inch to 36 inch long rod with light to medium light action (depending on the size of the fish in the lake or river) is all that is required. Most anglers spool the reels up with 4 pound test fluorocarbon line. Several manufacturers offer line specifically designed for anglers fishing under the ice. It holds up better in the cold conditions. Anglers can read this article on ice fishing tackle and gear to get more information.

The same artificial lures and baits that produce for anglers when ice fishing will do well for rainbow trout, too. Tiny jigs, small spoons, and very small plugs are the top artificial lures. They can be fished alone or tipped with a wax worm, piece of minnow, or small live minnow. A small selection of hooks ranging from #8 up to #4 and a few split shot will complete the tackle box.

Locating rainbow trout under the ice

Generally speaking, the best spots to find rainbow trout under the ice are large shallow flats and shoals. These expansive areas with muddy bottom and weed beds will have the most forage in the winter time. Areas between 5 feet deep and 10 feet deep are generally best, but every lake is different.

rainbow trout ice fishing

Ideally, the transition from the flat to deep water will be steep. If this occurs in 10 to 20 feet of water, so much the better. Rainbow trout will cruise these edges in search of food. A submerged weed bed in 8 feet of water that drops off sharply to 15 feet of water is an example of an ideal spot to fish. Rainbow trout will cruise both the edge of the weeds and the depth change in search of food.

trout fishing strategies

As mentioned earlier, ice fishing for rainbows is a bit different than other species. The fact that they will often be found very shallow requires a change in tactics. Successful anglers pursuing rainbow trout get out on the water at first light and drill all of their holes early. This allows them to move about as little as possible without making the noise required to drill new holes.

ice fishing for trout

Anglers ice fishing for rainbow trout will start drilling very shallow then move out into deeper water. Once the outside edge of weed beds or the steeper drop off is located, anglers do not need to go any deeper. It is not uncommon to catch rainbow trout in shallow water just a couple feet below the ice.

While fish finders are crucial in some ice fishing applications, they are less important for anglers ice fishing for rainbow trout. This is mostly due to the fact that rainbow trout do not school up and cruise much more than most other game fish in the winter. However, sonar machines can be very useful in locating submerged weed beds as well as the structure breaks.

Rainbow trout ice fishing tactics

A good approach for anglers ice fishing for rainbow trout is to start fishing shallow water early and then work deeper as the sun gets higher in the sky. Like most game fish, rainbow trout are most active early and late in the day and even at night. On cloudy days, the fish may stay shallow all day. By mid day, most fish will be cruising the deeper edges in 15 feet to 20 feet of water. As evening approaches, the pattern will reverse itself and fish will move shallow once again to feed.

ice fishing

While moving around a lot is often the key to success when ice fishing, this is not so much the case when pursuing rainbow trout. Since these fish don’t really school up and do a fair amount of cruising, often times the best approach is to sit patiently in one spot and either lure a fish in or wait for one to cruise by. Running around from hole to hole is generally not productive.

However, this does not mean that an angler ice fishing for rainbow trout should set in one spot all day. As outlined above, starting in 3 feet of water to 5 feet of water early in the day than slowly moving deeper is a good approach. Every day fishing is different and experience is a great teacher. There is no substitute for time out on the water!

Ice fishing for rainbow trout using live bait

The best live baits for anglers ice fishing for rainbow trout are mealworms, wax worms, spikes, and small live minnows. These are all readily available at tackle shops that cater to ice fishermen. Live baits can be presented on a small hook. A small split shot can be used to get the bait down to the desired depth.

rainbow trout fishing

Live bait can also be used in conjunction with artificial lures. This two-pronged approach is often the most effective as it combines the advantages of both. Tiny jigs can be tipped with waxies or mealworms as well as the head or tail of a minnow. A small spoon tipped with a tiny minnow is an extremely effective combination as well.

Ice fishing for rainbow trout with lures

The same basic lures that produce fish for anglers ice fishing for other species will catch rainbow trout as well. Tiny jigs can be very effective when worked just off the bottom or just above the tops of submerged weed beds. Most modern ice fishing jigs are made of tungsten. This material is very dense and results in a very small jig being heavy for its size. Anglers can add a small split shot 18 inches above the jig if needed.

Spoons are very effective lures when ice fishing for rainbow trout. While jigs are the most popular ice fishing lure, spoons are more effective on rainbow trout for a couple of reasons. Rainbow trout are more active than most other species and will respond to a larger bait being work more aggressively. They also often want a larger meal, which the spoon represents

Spoons work very well in the middle periods of the day when rainbow trout are suspended over deeper water. Anglers should start fishing the spoon about 5 feet below the ice. After jigging it aggressively and working it for several minutes, a few feet of line can be let out and the process repeated. Before an angler gives up on a spot, the spoon should be bounced off the bottom several times sharply, then raised a foot or so above. Disturbing the bottom will at times kick up forage and attract rainbow trout to the lure.

Using plugs for rainbow trout

Plugs are also effective lures when ice fishing for rainbow trout. The standard in the industry is the Rapala Jigging Rap. It has been around a very long time and continues to be a productive lure to this day. It has an eyelet in the middle and a fin on the rear which results in an erratic circular swimming motion when jig. Jigging Raps come in a variety of sizes and colors. Anglers should match the locally available forage for best results.

Flies can also be used effectively as long as they can get down to the fish. While conventional fly fishing tackle cannot be used, weighted flies and nymphs can be used to fool rainbow trout. If the fly itself is not heavy enough to reach the bottom, anglers can simply add on a tiny split shot or two.

In conclusion, this article on ice fishing for rainbow trout will help anglers catch more fish under the ice!