Catch ‘em when others can’t

Fishing the Midwest

— Submitted photo Bright skies can make for tough fishing, but Steve Weisman and a couple of friends got away from the crowd and were able to catch fish even though it was a day with lots of sunshine.

When you’re ice-fishing, just like when you’re open water fishing, there are days when the fish get finicky. They might be finicky due to weather conditions, or it could be fishing pressure that has them closed-mouthed. Whatever the reason, just like in open water, there are some things you can do to get fish under the ice to bite even when they need some coaxing. Following are some of those things.

When the fish are being selective due to fishing pressure, there are a couple of things that you can do. The best option, if possible, is to get away from the pressure. If the body of water that you’re on has a lot of people fishing the same area, get away from that area. You can move to the edge of the activity, or you can find another spot all to yourself. Most lakes have secondary areas that maybe aren’t quite as appealing to numbers of fish, but the fish that are there will be more willing to bite. Move around.

If you can, find another lake or pond to fish. Some lakes get more pressure than others. Fishing reports get out, and when the word is spread that a particular lake is hot, everyone goes to that lake. After a few days, the action there slows.

If moving to another lake is not an option, use a different bait. Fish become conditioned to baits that they’ve seen a lot of. They might get conditioned to a bait in an hour, a day, or a week, but even the most productive bait will lose its effectiveness eventually. But remember, the bait that was hot but isn’t now will probably become effective again. When the fish quit eating the hot bait, try something else. Don’t fish memories.

Weather affects fish under the ice just like it does in open water. As in open water fishing, a slower presentation will be better under adverse weather conditions. Smaller might be better also.

When the bite is fast, we move around a lot on the ice. We might only fish a hole for a couple of minutes. If nothing happens, we move on.

When the bite is slow, we still move around a lot, but we also spend more time at each hole. This is when a good portable shelter really comes into play. Here’s why. When the weather is tough for fishing, we want to give the fish plenty of bait options. Many of the most experienced ice anglers will employ two lines when the fish don’t want to eat. They drill two holes and put a spoon down one hole and a minnow on a hook under a bobber down the other hole. Much of the time the spoon gets the fish’s attention, but the minnow under the bobber is what they eat. On days when the weather has the fish finicky, a simple presentation is what gets them.

A portable shelter is a big benefit when the bite is slow. That’s because we’re going to be covering a large area with a lot of equipment. We’ll have an auger, sonar, rods, reels, and lures. Probably a minnow bucket also. You need the ability to get a lot of gear into your shelter so you can cover that area effectively.

There are times, more than we wish, when the fish get a little harder to catch than usual. If you remember some of the ideas just mentioned, you’ll be headed in the right direction for making those times fewer.


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