Halfway through the ice-fishing season
Fishing the Midwest
Although it seems like it just started, in many areas across the ice-fishing belt, the ice fishing season is already at the midway point. In many places it’s been much warmer than usual, so travel on the ice has been limited. Despite that, there are lots of anglers on the ice, and numerous reports indicate that the fish have been cooperative. I don’t know what Mother Nature has planned for the next few weeks. Maybe she’ll send cold weather and more ice, or maybe she won’t. I do know there are things ice anglers can do to increase their chances for getting bit as the season starts to wind down. Following are some of those things.
Many anglers, me included, enjoy fishing through the ice during the latter parts of the season. We can usually access different areas easier, and that’s a big advantage. At this time of year it’s not unusual to drill dozens of holes in the ice in our attempts to find fish. In most years the ice is thicker and there’s more snow on it, so the fish aren’t as easily spooked. And, although truck traffic will still spook fish this time of year, it’s probably not as noticeable as it was earlier in the season.
The weather also gets more pleasant as the season progresses, and that makes us more likely to get out and move around. It works well to put an auger, a sonar unit, a couple rod/reel combinations and some baits in a portable shelter and start exploring. Ice fishing is an interesting thing: Lots of ice anglers like to arrive at the lake as a group and fish the same general area, but once that general area has been determined, they tend to move a little bit away from each other. They can cover more area by doing so, and by covering more area, they can locate the fish quicker. Usually. Portable shelters enable these anglers to move around but still have all the needed equipment. They also provide a comfortable fishing position and protection from the elements, especially wind. Clam’s Kenai Pro Thermal is an example of a one angler unit that performs very well.
Sonar is such an important part of successful ice-fishing. Most of the time but especially from now until the ice leaves, it’s unusual to sit on a hole for more than 5 minutes if fish aren’t detected. Other than catching a fish, sonar is the only way to tell if you’re on a fishy spot. Vexilar has created a large number of sonar units. Some have more features than others, but they’ll all let you know if there’s a fish down there, and they do it in real-time. That means that when you see a fish take your bait, you can set the hook almost immediately. Some sonar units display what happened, real-time sonar shows what is happening. Real-time is a very important feature.
Most years by now, the fish have experienced a lot of fishing pressure. They’ve seen a variety of baits so they get a little or a lot finicky. And there are fewer fish because some have been caught and taken home. Now is the time to visit new areas that haven’t seen as much fishing pressure. Try a different area of the lake, or maybe try a different lake. Because of warmer weather this year, some good areas have been inaccessible due to unsafe ice. As the ice gets safer on those areas, they should be good later than usual.
If the fish are playing hard-to-catch, and trying a different area isn’t an option, keep trying different bait types, colors, and move them faster or slower. Giving the fish a different look will usually get them to bite.
The days are getting longer, the weather will warm up, and the fish will be willing to bite somewhere on something. The opportunity to get outside and catch a few fish is an outstanding reason to go ice fishing. Keep moving, keep experimenting, and you’ll find ice fishing success.