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What a fantastic way to cut out the wintertime Ho-Hums. This is a pro-active way to quickly strip away the long monotonous boredom of winter, with intense and wild fun.
Too, anyone can participate, fishin' buddies out and seriously 'goin' for it', or as a family unit - just out to enjoy some of our finest North American heritage.
Many areas offer ice fishing opportunities for perch, sunfishes, walleye, crappie, whitefish, and trout, as potential quests. You'll have to check with your local MNR of wildlife agency to see what is in season and where. This arduous task may even involve a phone call - a small and inconsequential task for some of the finest flavoured fish of the year.
Indeed, fish, when caught from the frigid ice cold water, are at the year's best, with the flesh firm and flaky. It is during the winter that most ardent anglers regard fish as the best tasting, not having any muddy flavour, especially from waters which are quite warm during summer months.
Many fishing 'hot spots' will have ice fishing hut rentals for those so inclined, but those on a budget may wish to go out on the ice with no hut. As well, you'll see many private huts out on waterbodies where ice fishing is drawing participants, and these huts will be of all shapes sizes and descriptions.
Advantages of using an ice hut are many, especially during wickedly cold
weather. An ice hut allows an angler to get out of the elements, of which,
wind is one of the primary concerns. Of course, if the wind is strong,
likely one shouldn't be out on the ice anyway, but even a light breeze
can draw a person's body warmth away. Ice huts also allow one to
stay out fishing longer, just because the people aren't so vulnerable to
the elements, just as wind can be the pits, so can bright blinding sun.
I've even weathered sleet/rain/snowstorms, cosily from within an ice hut.
These inclement weather events are often great times for fishing, and it's
not hard to 'pound on 'em' during such climactic events.
SHADOW likes to go too - but DON'T DO IT -The single, most important deterrent, when considering the use of an ice hut is mobility. This mobility factor is multi facet. Not only must one be able to get the unit out on the ice, but be able to re-locate it occasionally. As well, if the fish you are questing after are nomadic, such as walleye and perch, you may need to travel around to afford yourself the best opportunities at catching decent numbers of fish. Indeed, when I go ice fishing, I may have to bore upwards of 20 holes in a day to find fish. If I have a portable ice hut, once I find fish, I'll set-up right over the most productive hole. But this is the point, I will travel around, 'hunting' fish, then set-up where fishin's the best.
slush and ice will build up between the toes, and they'll find every
bit of thin ice, and fish hook and uncovered auger blade out there!
Do yourself and fido a favor and leave him home!
Some people will locate their hut, and never move it all season, and I believe this approach often limits their catch. As well, on larger lakes/waterbodies, one may have to get their hut off the ice in the event of a winter 'blow' (storm) coming in.
SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS:While not wishing to insult your intelligence, one must be sure of the ice conditions before going ice fishing. Each year hundreds of ice-fisherpeople are stranded somewhere, often because of thin ice. ALWAYS BEAR IN MIND THAT WIND IS ONE OF THE MOST DESTRUCTIVE ELEMENTS ON ICE, AND CONDITIONS. Wind can break-up ice, and often breaks off large chunks of ice, sometimes several miles across, which may 'float away', with hapless ice anglers on it!
The best source of ice information is from seasoned ice-hut operators, and local bait/tackle shops, whom cater to ice fishing buffs. Never go out on the ice without securing the most recent ice conditions possible.
Always tell someone where you are going, and give a 'be back' time - and stick to it - even if you have to leave 'just when the fishin's picking up'.
CONSIDER PURCHASING EITHER MY 'PRO REPORT' ON ICE FISHING, OR 'PRO FACTSHEETS' ON ICE FISHING SUBJECTS - these will help you catch more fish - and the safety items may SAVE YOUR LIFE. As you'll see in my 'Products section' these publications are 'need to know' information, and are incredibly 'cost effective'. As well, they're not your usual 'run of the mill' write-ups.
DRESS WARMLY FOR ICE TRAVEL/FISHINGEnough can't be said about this topic. If you go out on the ice inadequately prepared for ice travel/fishing - your likely to have an absolutely abysmal time, and if this is your first time - you may never want to go back again.
Wear heavy felt-pack boots, or the new family of winter wear products, and ditto for gloves and warm coat. Long-johns are a must, as is a toque!
Sunglasses should be worn out on the ice, even on relatively dull days.
Glare from the ice and snow can produce 'snow blindness' which can be a
very painful and serious condition.
TACKLE:Ice fishing tackle can be frugal indeed! I've done well, using only a willow twig to hold my line, so it wouldn't touch the sides of the hole. As well, this will allow enough sensitivity to see a fish if it happens to take the bait. But this simplistic outfit is only adequate for use in very shallow water. I prefer to use the most sensitive ice rod I can find at tackle shops, and use an ultra light open faced spinning reel. Some ice fishing rods come with rod/line/reel as a combo, which the reel may be a simple wire line holding clip/device. Again, these are fine, if you aren't fishing in water much deeper than about ten to twelve feet of water.
Any tackle shop owner will be able to help you choose an adequate rod/reel set-up for the water you are going to fish. As a rule of thumb though, ice fishing tackle is relatively inexpensive as compared to regular fishing gear. All of my gear, including the ice auger wouldn't be worth more than several hundred dollars - at most. If you have a 'bud' that has an ice auger, rod, reel and an assortment of tackle shouldn't cost you more than seventy five bucks.
THE HOLE:When ice fishing, we must deal with the hole you're going to need, determined largely by the fish species you'd like to catch.
Generally, if you are going to use an ice auger, which I recommend, a four inch hole is usually adequate for perch (only). For sunfish, pike, small crappie, and speckled trout, the minimum size should be a six inch hole. For larger fish, large crappie, trouts such as rainbow & lakers, pike etc., you'll need a ten inch hole.
My Pro Reports & Factsheets, available from the Products Section
of this homepage, have much detail about al of these ice fishing and hole
boring aspects in detail - and just as importantly - the 'don't-do-its'
associated with this pastime.
BAIT:More fish have been taken during the winter months ice fishing by fisherfolk using minnows, than any other bait. But don't discount maggots, wax worms and the like too, especially if fishing for panfish. Live minnows are undisputedly the best, but I've used home/frozen minnows to good effect as well.
Perch, when you're into a solid school of fish, can be duped by the use of a perch eye, but I prefer using an attractor hook, or ice fishing lure at most other times.
FISHING STRATEGY:Fish are cold blooded critters, and don't need to feed as extensively in the cold months, but they do feed. They often won't be as aggressive biting, so 'feel' is important with ice fishing. If you happen to 'tear into' a major school of jumbo/jack perch, action can be intense - to say the least, but generally, fish caught through the ice don't bite aggressively. This is especially true for sunfish and crappie. Pike are still aggressive 'hitters' as are walleye, but you've got to be quick & ready for panfish.
I like to keep my bait moving all the time. There are special 'thrumming' rods available, but I prefer to impart my own action.
Gently allow your bait to go right to the bottom, and allow it to stay there for several minutes. After several minutes, 'trigger' your line, then after a few minutes, if nothing is happening, raise your line up to a new depth, about four feet higher than where it was. Repeat this process until the bait is right up, nearly into the hole. I've caught decent fish right under the ice - not a foot below the hole!
Try this whole procedure a couple of times in any given location. If you catch fish at a 'given' depth, try to return your bait back to this same depth - as this is where the fish are. They often 'suspend' at a given depth, and may not be above, or below this 'given' depth.
If there is nothing doing in an area, go elsewhere to bore a hole. Once you've found fish - sty there! I may have to drill ten - fifteen holes, fishing each hole about fifteen minutes, before finally hitting 'good fish'. If you've drilled a number of holes, and can return to any of them, re-try some of the holes a bit later. Fish may have 'moved in' or the act of boring the hole may have spooked fish away, and this re-fish/try may be what's needed to locate fish, especially if other anglers in the same area are catching fish.
Just as in most fishing - if the wind is from the east - 'fishing's the least', I don't bother to go ice fishing if there is an east wind blowing.
If you want more in-depth ice fishing info, please refer to my product section of this homepage, where I offer 'Pro Reports', and 'Pro Factsheets' on ice fishing strategies and techniques.
Copyright © 1998 John A Vance. . .