Ice fishing with open water ideas
Fishing the Midwest
Ice-fishing and open water fishing are certainly two very different things, but in some ways they’re very similar. Following are some fishing ideas that will help an angler be more successful at catching fish from open water or through the ice.
A very basic rule for fishing success is so basic, but so important. If you want to catch fish, you’ve got to find them. In open water we do this mostly by trolling or casting. In the winter, we drill a good number of holes in the ice and keep moving until we find them. Once we find them in the summer, we might drop anchor and fish the area thoroughly until action slows. If we don’t get bit in ten or fifteen minutes, we keep moving.
In the winter, we’re usually not that patient. We’ll “anchor” on a hole maybe two or three minutes. If nothing is caught, and no life is revealed on the sonar, we “troll” over to the next hole and repeat the process.
Fish become conditioned to lures or lure presentations. I’ve seen this lots of times in open water. We’ll be fishing a school of fish with good success. Eventually the bite slows or stops. We probably didn’t catch all the fish, but they got conditioned to what they were being caught on. If you were using an orange jig, try a chartreuse jig. Same thing with crankbaits: Try a different shape, color, or size. If the fish are in a very small area, throw a slip-bobber out there with a leech. Give them something different to look at.
Now how about conditioned fish through the ice? It’s actually easier to get an idea if fish below an ice-hole are being choosy because you can see them on the sonar. If you see fish come up and look at your bait but not eat your bait, try something else. It usually works best to go smaller and slower when they’re looking but not eating.
Baits that glow are sometimes the ticket to success. I’ve seen this too many times to discount the value of a glowing bait. Glow baits are usually best in stained water or in low light conditions.
We can’t always choose the time of day that we go fishing. A very good idea here is to go whenever you can: Don’t stay home just because the timing isn’t optimal. However, sometimes we can decide when we hit the water or ice, and much of the time early or late in the day will be the best: The first three hours of the day or the last three hours of the day. Not always, and weather can certainly have an impact on this timing, but winter or summer, early and late in the day can be the best times much of the time.
Last thing, and this is a big one. Be curious. Experiment with lures and presentations when you go fishing. The best time to do this is when the fish are biting really good and when they’re not biting at all. When they’re biting good, try a different technique. I’ve done this many times. Sometimes I caught the fish better with the new technique, which gave me confidence in that new technique. Sometimes they didn’t bite as good with the new technique. That doesn’t help much. Regardless of season, try different things to increase your fishing success.
Fishing can be a learning experience every time out. Try the things we just talked about and your fishing knowledge and catching success will increase.