Once you have started to ice fish the mystery of the search and the thrill of the catch tends to get in your blood. Yet to catch more fish you need a little more knowledge of what is going on below the ice. Here are a few ice fishing tips I recommend:
- Get a map of the lake: A quick method to learn what the fish are doing is pick a local lake that you can go to a number of times. Purchase a map of the lake or download a lake map app onto your phone.
- Locate the Community Hole: When you get to the lake, look for the largest concentration of fishermen and fish houses, even if you don’t speak with them, you can gather some ice fishing tips. (In fishing terms you would say, “you have located the community hole”, an area in the lake that consistently holds or attracts fish). Look at the lake map to determine what depth they are fishing in and other features like a contour line that provides a roadway for fish to go to shallow water and weeds or out to deeper water. Once you see the features that attract fish look at the map to find other areas of the lake that provide the same features so you can move away from the community hole to fish that are less pressured and more likely to bite.
- Get close to the other anglers, but not too close: Drill a hole close by the community hole. Use a flasher or sonar to see if there are any fish in the area AND to figure out how hard the bottom of the lake is in that area. Is it a hard sand/gravel, soft muck or a sticky mud bottom? You are looking for a sticky bottom as that type of bottom holds more food and fish are all about food.
- Test the bottom with a weight: Without a flasher you can still determine bottom content by adding a lead weight referred to as a depth bomb onto your jig. Open the bail on your reel and let the depth bomb free fall to the bottom. Then tighten the line up and watch how much your rod bends before the weight pops out of the bottom. The more bend the stickier the bottom. If the rod bends very little it is a hard or a muck bottom of which neither hold food.
- Test a fish’s reaction to bait: How the fish react to your bait and presentation makes all the difference in the world. One of the easiest ice fishing tips I can give you in terms of learning what the fish think of your jigging motion is through sight fishing. Looking down the hole and watching how the fish react to what you are doing. You either need a clear water lake where you can see deep enough to see your jig or an underwater camera. If the fish come up to your jig and do not bite you need to change your presentation. Speed of jigging, size, color type of bait are all things that you can adjust until you find the right combination.
- Enter a fishing tournament: Another easy way to gain ice fishing tips and knowledge is to enter a fishing tournament like the NAIFC. The NAIFC offers Friday Night Seminars and Kids Ice Camps where Pro-staff demonstrate and explain fishing techniques from basics to advanced. There is no faster way to learn ice fishing than NAIFC’s education and tournament series.
These ice fishing tips by Jack Baker, Tournament Director for NAIFC.