Ice fishing near other ice anglers. If you are new to a lake and you see a congregation of anglers ice fishing at one end of the lake you can bet there is a reason. I don’t recommend crowding these anglers, but stay back on the fringes of their area and they won’t get upset and you just might catch fish they spook out of their area. This is a great way to take advantage of the noise these anglers are making spooking panfish out to you. You might not get one bite after another, but be patient and you can get a good mess of panfish through the ice.
A fish finder can be a great way to locate panfish through the ice. Late in the season panfish will likely be in the deepest part of the lake but during early ice, they will still be shallow and can be found in the same areas you find them all year long. Whether it be deadfalls, shallow grass or boat docks, panfish through the ice are still fairly active during new ice. Once you locate a likely area that should hold panfish use your fish finder to see if they are down there. You can search the depths with your fish finder without drilling a hole in the ice. While any fish finder will work for ice fishing the Vexilar has become the standard and by adding a little water under the Vexilar transducer on top of smooth ice you can search for panfish through the ice without drilling a hole in the ice and spooking the fish below. This allows you to move around easily and save time in your search. Once you find some fish drill a hole and start the next challenge of getting those fish to bite. Sometimes they can be very aggressive and not much of a challenge, but if those fish are lethargic it can be a tough to get a bite, but with a good fish finder you can at least know when a fish is looking at your presentation.
BAIT & TACKLE FOR PANFISH THROUGH THE ICE
Ice fishing is a huge sport in the North so there is a lot of information out there and many artificial baits have been developed for panfish through the ice. The easiest and most popular baits for us in the southern ranges is live bait. Minnows, worms, wax worms and others dominate the ice down South but there are times when artificial baits outperform live bait. There are many choices of artificial baits for ice fishing and with the cold water panfish through the ice can be very lethargic and sometimes in need a little enticing to get them to bite.
Whether you prefer live bait or artificial, keep it small. The rule of thumb for panfish through the ice is small and subtle. These fish are cold blooded and not only do they move slower they also instinctively seek smaller meals. Keeping it small is crucial for consistent bites and a great combination is a small colored jig-head with a live bait of your choice. This adds a little color and some flavor to your presentation.
You can use ice rods and fancy tip-ups but you can also use regular length rods if you don’t want to invest money in rods you might only use a few times a year. It is difficult to fish inside a blind or ice hut with regular rods but otherwise they work fine. Your rods should be rigged with spinning reels and light line. Light line is vital when fishing for picky panfish through the ice and there is even line made specifically for ice fishing.
GEAR FOR PANFISH THROUGH THE ICE
Ice augers range in price from $500.00 all the way down to $40.00 and you can even get an ice auger attachment for your cordless drill. I have the lowest priced hand auger you can buy and it works great for the few times I chase panfish through the ice. You will also need an ice spoon to remove ice chunks from your hole. You can buy a scoop made just for ice fishing or you can just use a large serving spoon with holes to do the same job.
Safety is very important when ice fishing and your gear should have a few things to make your trip safe and enjoyable. The most inexpensive safety item could also be the most important. Ice picks can save your life if you fall through the ice and at around $10 no one that goes onto the ice should be without them. These picks are made to stick into the ice so you can pull yourself out of a hole if you fall through. Always exit the hole in the direction you were traveling when it broke to ensure solid ice that you know will support you.
Another great part of your safety gear is an ice spud. This is used to probe ahead of you to make sure it is safe. Remember that four inches is safe for walking but it is best to poke your ice spud ahead of you and if the ice is weak it will poke through or crack telling you to back out and find another area to ice fish.
Obviously some heavy duty bibs and parka can make your time on the ice more comfy, but you can get by with some long johns and hooded jacket with gloves especially if you use an ice hut. I use my deer blind with a small heater and it works great. One thing you should have to help you stay longer on the ice is a good heavy pair of boots. It can be tough to keep your feet warm, even with a heater, when they are on ice all day.
Ice fishing is a great way to spend the day and get out of the house. With these tips you can head out to seek your panfish through the ice this season.
The rumor for this winter is colder than last and that means some good ice fishing opportunities throughout not only the common ice fishing areas but possibly some areas that doesn't always get a lot of ice. Ice fishing is a great cure for cabin fever and relaxing after chasing those whitetails for weeks or months. These ice fishing tips can help you get started as the ponds and lakes in your area harden up and offer yet another great way to enjoy the outdoors and extend the outdoor season for those that would rather not be indoors this winter.
First Time. If you have never been ice fishing, it’s a good idea to go with someone who is experienced for safety reasons and besides it’s just more fun with a friend. Ice fishing can be as simple or as complicated as you desire. It takes very little money to get started and this makes it feasible to gear up even for those of us that just get a few days a year to do it. I use my deer blind as an ice shanty and it works great.
Dress Warmly. If you dress in layers you will be able to take some off as the day warms up and put them back on when it gets chilly. Make sure you have a couple pair of warm gloves in case one set gets wet and don’t forget warm boots. Cold toes are always the deal buster for me. Keep them toes warm and you will enjoy your day on the ice even more.
Bring Sunglasses. The sun reflecting off the ice and snow will be very bright and it can damage your eyes. You will be more comfortable if you have protective eyewear on. This is something a lot of fishermen tend to forget since they are getting out on the ice before the sun comes up. So tuck a spare set of sunglasses in your fishing gear so you will always have them.
The Right Gear. For ice fishing you will need more than just a fishing pole. First of all you will need an ice auger so you can cut through the ice. You can choose from a manual auger or a gas powered one. The manual ones cost considerably less, but they can be hard to use especially if the ice is thick or you want to cut more than one hole. You will need something to keep the slush cleared out of your hole. Many fishermen use a metal spoon that is made just for this purpose. Bring a couple of buckets, one for your bait, if you use bait and one for your catch. You can turn one over to sit on as well. If you don't want to sit on a bucket, don't forget to bring some type of chair. Sitting on the ice can be very cold!