Even if you excel at warm water fishing, you will need some tactics to find more fish when the cold seals up the waters. You cannot continuously drill holes when you have no idea about how to find the fish. With this kind of waters, you need to plan out a strategy to help you identify the proper location of the fish. These tips will help you when you are ice fishing.
You’ll find a lot of great general tips below that relate to most species of fish but every species has its own nature and characteristics so follow these links for specific tips and techniques:
Why not check out our guide for the best Ice fishing Shelter comparison here.
Start where you left off in the fall
Identifying the starting point for ice fishing is one of the most points to consider. Usually, the starting point remains the same for most types of fish. If you frequently fished during the fall, you can just continue where you left off. That means you will start from the late fall, open water areas.
If you did not go fishing during the late fall, consider the underwater structure. Look out for sunken reefs, and rocky shoals. These areas are potential fish spots, but you should focus more on the areas closest to the structure. After zeroing in on the areas closest to the structure, find areas with the faster drop into and also look out for the deepest spots. It is essential to focus on these areas because these places are favorite spots where fishes find food and depth. Sometimes, the fishes may perch on the structure instead of the slope. Watch out for these fishes as well.
Look for depressions
Use a detailed contour map to identify depressions in the water. They are often excellent locations to find fishes. These areas provide a conducive environment for fishes during this season. They provide the necessary light, warmth, and food for them. Modern digital maps offer this kind of information better than older maps. They will help you to find the exact spot so that you can drill your holes to find fishes.
Use vibrations to attract the fishes
Using vibration is another strategy to get the attention of the fishes. Move your jig quickly but subtly to cause a vibration. You can achieve this by shaking your wrist while raising and lowering your wrist. Doing this will create the required vibration to attract the fish. The action of your jig will look like a bucking bronco, and the end of the hook will be kicking higher than the head. Fishes such as brass, walleyes, crappies, and perch will think the jig is alive, and that will bring them closer.
When you are fishing in clear waters, start with the vibration technique before you lower the bait. Lower the jig as you continue with the vibration. Move through the zone and then slowly raise the jig. Continue the vibration throughout the process. Be attentive so that when you no longer feel the weight of the jig, you set your hook.
Travel with less gear
You will need to move from place to place in search of fish. It will be difficult to move if you carry a lot of gear. Pack light to make it easier for you to move. After all, you will need to cover a large area to get more fish. When you are packing, pick only essential items. You will definitely need a rod, but you won’t need a lot of them. Carefully choose one or two that are functional in all circumstances. Carry jigs in multiple colors, as well. If you can drive a snowmobile on the ice, you can pack a power auger. But remember that a power auger can get heavy, so if you cannot go with a snowmobile, consider a pull-sled instead.
Stay in the light
The amount of light hitting the waters can also influence the type of fish that is active. During the winter, fishes like crappie, white fish, pike, and perch feed when it sunny. Since they are more active at that time of the day, anglers who go out to fish for them around this period enjoy immense success. Remember that these same light conditions would have been bad for an angler during the open water season.
Look out for muddy bottoms
Fishes such as panfish and bluegill feed on different species of invertebrates during the winter. These species live in the muddy areas, and these fishes follow them there so that they can feed on them. So you will find bluegills and panfishes when you identify these regions.
We have talked about searching the deeper waters for fish. But that is not always the case. When the snow gets really thick and enough light does not penetrate the ice sheets, there will be very little photosynthesis activity in the underwater vegetation. The Oxygen underwater will also reduce with depth, and most of the fishes will move to the upper part of the water for feeding and Oxygen. Keep an eye out for the upper part of the water when you realize that the snow is very deep.
Check the vegetation
Even if you know the water very well and you know where you can find fishes during the hot weather, it may change when it gets cold. When the water gets colder, some vegetation die. The fishes will need to move to live vegetation to survive. When you drilling holes in the ice, perceive the smell of the plants. If you pull out dead and rotten weeds, you should check another place. You will not find fishes there since there is no vegetation for the fishes to survive. Target shallow areas since they usually support vegetation hence plant life throughout the Winter.
Fish smaller lakes first
If you have options with regards to lakes, start the winter fishing season with smaller lakes. They freeze faster, and you will enjoy a more extended fishing period. Many anglers wait for large lakes to freeze before they start fishing, and that will only waste time, and they will experience a short ice fishing season. Another reason why you need to focus on small lakes first is that large lakes have more Oxygen, and the fishes will be active even when the winter is intense, unlike small lakes where you will see less activeness when the winter is more pronounced.
Fishing during the winter can be challenging, but if you study the structure of the lake, approach areas systematically, and pay attention to the feeding areas of the fishes, the process will be easier.