By Nick Simonson
Just like in summer, staying on the move to find fish is key in winter, especially now as the season settles in and ice thickens up. Some days are more conducive to mobile ice angling than others, but locating roving schools of perch, or finding that perfect point that draws regular visits from resident walleyes takes time and effort to be the most successful. What follows are some tips to help maintain mobility in winter and more importantly, catch fish.
Smaller one- or two-man shacks make for easy pulling when on foot, or branching out from main-like ice roads where things aren’t as easily accessed by truck. Of course, a snowmobile or ATV helps in transport and will make quick work of distance and the weight of pulling gear if that option is available. Having everything necessary, such as rods, tackle, a small heater and sonar tucked into a sled helps with portability and deployment. Keep things light to keep moving.
Mobile ice angling requires a good deal of hole drilling. Be certain that auger blades are in good condition before each trip so that they cut quickly through thick mid-season ice. A new set of blades versus those from last winter can mean up to 15 or 20 seconds shaved from the time it takes to cut each hole, which means more time fishing, which hopefully means more fish. Today’s light but powerful auger options will also eliminate a lot of the hard work of hole drilling and related physical fatigue that can slow an angler down.
Mobile ice angling often requires some outside time on the ice, searching around a set-up house or a permanent one which serves as a basecamp. Dressing appropriately for the weather and the activity level is important. Punching 20 or 30 holes can work up a sweat, especially on those warmer days when temperatures are near freezing. Be able to shed and put on coats and hats with ease for those conditions and to avoid excess sweating which can make things cold again quickly after a flurry of activity. Have the warm clothing needed to deal with the chillier days and outside conditions.
Have a Plan
Mapping out likely spots, and punching a number of holes at each one will help in the location of fish. Going to the usual haunts, favorite places or that spot-on-a-spot from last season will provide a starting point for an on-ice adventure. Have a few back-ups in mind and do a little exploring around each, if the first set of holes doesn’t produce anything. If there’s nothing in a particular area after 20 to 30 minutes of searching, pack up and move on.
The primary rule of ice angling remains: “don’t leave fish to find fish.” Once a hot bite is located, or even a moderate one, make note and stay on it until it subsides, or alter presentations if things slow down. Frequently, anglers are “greener grassed” by the thought that some other spot might be better or perhaps a text or phone call from a friend suggests another place to try, while fish are still biting or regularly coming through the area. Stick with a bite until it dries up. When things slow down, give it a bit and if fish don’t come back, start the search again.
For many, ice fishing is cards around the table in a permanent shack waiting for the rattle reel to sound. For those looking to catch fish, ice fishing is as active as bass fishing is in the summer. Stay on the move, be ready for the conditions, and follow through on a plan with a good deal of holes until fish are found. Take advantage of all the technology, and opportunities to find fish on the multitude of options to be explored…in our outdoors.
(Featured Photo: Grab a rod and sonar unit and hit the holes around a basecamp to cover water and find fish. Simonson Photo)