Ice fishing is a whole lot more than skating or sitting on a bucket waiting for a fish to bite. It can be a social sport for sure, but there are some serious anglers who fish through the ice. Chuck Kashner from Vermont Ice Fishing is an ice fishing guide who has some tips that come from years of guiding experience.
According to Kashner, the most important part is to locate a good spot. “The two fish that I target the most are largemouth bass and pike. In the winter, the bass and pike hold in areas that have two dominant characteristics: edges of weed beds and areas that are 10 feet deep. In the summer I’ll scout for those areas and mark them on a chart and on my GPS so I can visit them when the ice gets thick.
Being mobile is equally important. “Despite the vast amount of scouting some spots just don’t pan out. During the times when I’ve made a mistake I simply correct it by moving to a new spot. If I don’t see a flag fly in about an hour I’ll dig a new hole and move my rigs. In most instances those changes result in finding fish.”
Rigging is critical. “Fish have a long time to study a shiner or a minnow that is suspended,” Kashner said. “I’ll use between two and four pound test when jigging for perch or bluegills. I’ll add a 10-foot leader of 10-pound test on my tip ups for bass and pike. Going thin and invisible is the best way to increase hook ups for fish that have a long time to study my rigs.”
Tip Up Tune Up. Before the season, Kashner overhauls all of his gear. He’ll lubricate the tip up spools so that they are free spinning and clean the flags and the trips so that there are no hitches when a fish runs. “When a fish eats I’ll pause for a moment and let them take the bait. Sometimes it takes a moment or two, and when the fish moves for the second time I’ll strike. I find that rattling the holes keeps the spools and trips from icing over, and sometimes it prompts a strike, too.”
It’s important to fish where the fish are, and marking depths is critical. “I use a sounder which is a big lead sinker that I drop down the hole. When it hits the bottom I’ll raise it up about 12-16 inches and pinch it off. I’ll then measure out the length of line against my tip up line and clip off a bobber at the top length. I’ll then go about my rigging by adding a leader, a sinker, and a minnow and send it down the hole. When my baits are eaten or replaced I’ll know exactly where the sweet spot is because I’ve attached a bobber. I spend more time catching and less time fishing.”