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Little tricks for bigger ice-fishing catches

Fishing the Midwest

When the fish are finicky, it often works best to go to smaller baits. This nice pike ate a tiny eighth ounce spoon.

Ice has been coming and going so far this year, but it’s for sure that eventually we’re going to have safe ice available to us. When that happens, the following ideas will help you be more successful when it comes to fishing through the ice.

When fishing is slow, get as many lines in the water as possible. Be very sure that you know the rules of where you’re fishing when it comes to the number of lines you can have in the water. Some states in the Midwest allow two lines, others permit more. Know how many you can have and then use that many, at least until the fish reveal the preferred presentation of that day.

When you’re fishing from a shelter, hold a rod in your hand, and have another line with a slip-bobber on it. Work the rod in your hand more aggressively with a spoon or a jig. With the slip-bobber rod, try a minnow, spike, waxworm, or some form of live bait on a small hook or jig. Wiggle it every now and then, but don’t move it as much as you do the spoon. Let the fish show you the presentation they want.

Another thing, and this is critical: Keep the bait above the fish. Most fish see up better than they see down, so if your bait is above them, they have a better chance of seeing it. In clear water, a foot or two above the fish is good. In stained water you’ll want the bait to be closer to the fish. The Vexilar FLX-28 enables an angler to zero in on a small segment of the water column, so you know exactly where the fish and your bait are in relation to the bottom and the surface. Also, if the fish just look at your bait, that’s an indication that you need to go to a different color, or you need to jiggle it probably a little less and maybe go to a smaller lure.

It works well to “pound” the bottom with your bait a couple of times to get the fish’s attention. Bounce your lure off the bottom, then get it up off the bottom. Remember, in areas of rocks, your bait might be on one side of the rock and the fish will be on the other side of the rock. The fish will hear the bait pounding the bottom and get curious, and when you get it off the bottom a bit, they’ll see it.

Don’t get too attached to a particular lure, especially as the year progresses. Fish get conditioned to the same lure that they see day after day. Try different baits, especially if the fish are looking but not eating. Northland’s Glo-Shot Jig is a good example of a bait that the fish haven’t seen much of yet because it’s relatively new to the fishing world.

When fishing pressured fish, less action on your bait is usually better.

Hard-to-see line is also usually better on finicky fish. 3 pound test Flororice is outstanding for panfish, many anglers prefer 6 or 8 pound test for walleyes. Floroice is tough, provides good hooksets, and is very manageable.

When it comes to fishing, there are no guarantees, but if you keep the above ideas in mind, you’ll improve your odds for getting bit through the ice.

To see recent and older episodes of the Fishing the Midwest television, fishing videos and fishing articles from the past, go to fishingthemidwest.com

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