Shamrocks, Hoops and Home Improvement
- March 15, 2023
I guess the first question that many of my friends and acquaintances ask me is, “Why would anybody want to become one of the Frozen Chosen?” Believe it or not, the number of people who opt to walk the hard water in search of fish is actually increasing. Over the past couple of weeks, my
I guess the first question that many of my friends and acquaintances ask me is, “Why would anybody want to become one of the Frozen Chosen?” Believe it or not, the number of people who opt to walk the hard water in search of fish is actually increasing. Over the past couple of weeks, my ice fishing buddies and I have observed up to 80-100 people fishing in the same general area as us. In addition, we have had several people recently request to join our ranks. With this in mind, I have tried to write some pieces that would help the new ice angler break into the activity and have a positive experience.
Having already discussed basic ice safety and some tools of the trade, I think it’s a good idea to take a closer look at the actual fishing techniques. Like any kind of fishing, of course, there are any number of tools and techniques that will take an assortment of fish but for now, let’s zero in on catching panfish. Why panfish? Well, panfish are fun to catch, often they are willing winter feeders, and they taste great. They are also abundant, so you don’t have to feel bad about taking a bunch home on occasion.
Probably the most common and likely the most productive way to take panfish is with a small ice fishing jigging rod. Sure you can use tip-ups, and they can at times be very effective, especially for perch and crappies, but if the fish are active it’s hard to beat a jigging rod or two. There are a number of different ice fishing outfits available, including what look like tiny spinning outfits, and they all probably work. While I have several different types of outfits, I still often find myself using a couple of rods that were made from the broken tips of old spinning outfits. A piece of old broom handle and a cheap $3 plastic reel completed a couple of my favorite jigging rods.
Whatever your choice of rod, it’s important that you don’t get too heavy with the line and other terminal gear. You’re fishing for panfish and some, like bluegills, have small mouths, so it’s important to keep your presentations small as well. While I may have four or six-pound line on the reel I always attach a length of two or three-pound test line at the end — a foot or two is about right. I like fluorocarbon — it’s nearly invisible underwater, so it’s less likely to spook fish. Your lure presentation should be small as well. There are a huge number of tiny ice jigs available with hook sizes in the 14 and 16, range and they come in a variety of colors including the “glow” type jigs. I use a variety of colors including chartreuse and blaze orange. When attaching my jigs, I like to use two on each outfit — one at the terminal end and one where the fluorocarbon joins the line to my reel. With two jigs I can actually fish two different depths at the same time. On a few occasions, I have had fish on both jigs resulting in a double on a single rod.
I highly recommend some kind of bait for ice fishing. I’m not saying you can’t catch fish without it, but I don’t want to be without it. While one of my favorites are wax worms; there are several others that are also good including mousies, mealworms, maggots and even worms from the garden. Almost any live, wiggly bug or critter will probably work. Minnows are also good especially for crappies and perch, but they must be smaller for most bluegills.
My typical set-up includes a fish finder in one hole and two more jigging holes within six inches and in front of the fish locator; I want to be able to see my presentations on the screen along with any fish that may be passing through. I move the lures up and down as necessary. I fish both with a bobber on occasion and often without any type of strike indicator depending entirely on feel. Sometimes it’s not a “hit” but rather a tightening of the line-strike immediately.
Good luck if you are new to the activity and don’t be afraid to ask someone nearby for advice if needed — most ice fishermen are pretty friendly and helpful.
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