We all know how disappointing it is when the fishing season comes to an end. For some of us this is imposed by regulations, and for others it happens when winter sets in and it is harder to get out there either because of the weather or less free time. Well, for those who can't stand it when this happens, they have assuredly thought about trying or have tried going ice fishing.
Turning your winter into a new fishing season might be the best decision you ever make, but you will quickly learn that it is not the same as the fishing you are used to. Besides the obvious difference, the fact that the lake is frozen, there are quite a few ice fishing tips that you have to know. The type of fish you go after and the equipment you use are very important things to consider, but another key thing to think about is the hole you are going to drill in the ice. We've got some tips to offer to help you know where you need to cut into the ice in order to have the best chance of bringing in a big catch.
Know the structure of the lake
Since the lake is frozen and the effort needed to move around with the fish is much greater when ice fishing, it is important that you know how the way the lake is shaped in order to get a better idea of where the fish are. If you don't already know the lake where you are going to fish, look for a map that will tell you about the lake structure. Some things to look for:
Points - This type of structure is just like the name sounds. A piece of land that juts to a point.
Breaks - A big change in depth or a drop-off that fish tend to inhabit.
Saddles - A deeper part of the water that leads up to a shallow part
Humps - sometimes called underwater islands because they are small areas of dirt or sand that form a small mound underwater meaning they are shallowest at the top and deepest near the bottom.
Inside and Outside weed lines - a weed line is simply an area where they is heavy vegetation. An inside weed line refers to the shallower side of the weed line and an outside weed line refers to the deeper side.
Rock piles - no real explanation needed here. Look for piles of rocks and you know there is a decent chance there will be fish congregating there.
Find out what the structure of the lake is that you are planning to fish and then cut your hole in and around that structure. Fish are less active in the winter so if you are fishing a particular structure for a while and aren't getting any activity, it might be a good idea to move on to another part of the lake.
Vary where you fish throughout the season
Winter is just as cold and difficult for fish as it is for us so as the season progresses and gets colder, they adapt to their environment. This means if you hope to catch something, you need to adapt as well. Follow these tips based on the part of the season.
Early season - fish tend to stay in the shallower parts of the water in the beginning and at the end of the season. This means try to fish the following structure in late fall/early winter and late winter/early fall:
Inside weed lines
Mid-season - as winter goes along and the lake freezes more, fish tend to go to the deeper parts of the lake where the water has more oxygen. So for the parts of the year where it is coldest and the lake is most frozen, fish these structures:
Outside weed lines
Knowing this information will help you make the best decision as to where you decide to cut into the ice, which will in turn be a big factor into whether or not you have a successful day out on the lake.
Cut multiple holes
Now that you have learned what the lake looks like underneath the ice, it is time to cut. The typical idea of ice fishing is to dig one hole and then to sit and wait for the fish to come. This is a somewhat outdated and rather ineffective way of trying to catch fish. Think about it; if you were fishing on your boat wouldn't you move around, trying new places to see if you could find what you were looking for? Well for ice fishing it is exactly the same idea. Once you narrow down which structure you would like to fish, drill a few holes and monitor them to see if you have any luck. If not, move on to the next structure. Here are some tips for how to use multiple holes:
Jig hole - drop your bait down to the bottom and do some slight jigging. Be careful not to jig too much because in winter fish move quite slow and will be unwilling to go after something moving too fast
Sonar hole - If you have a sonar or fish finder it could be a good idea to put it in this hole to have an idea of what it going on underneath the ice
Chum hole - in another hole you are using drop some bait down that isn't moving or put some chum in the hole. This will help attract fish to the area and give you a better chance of catching something.
Remember to cover over the holes you cut since fish are frightened by the light and will avoid the area where you are fishing.
Get on out there
Now that you have a better idea of where exactly to drill you hole (or holes) when you go out ice fishing, it's time to grab your gear and head out there. Have you used any of these techniques? Do you do anything that we haven't mentioned? Let us know and, happy fishing!