A primary role of an outdoor writer is to sometimes give advice, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always good advice. I sometimes get skunked like everyone else, which is why I refuse to be the final word on anything. On the other hand, I do have some sensible ideas that will usually be of benefit to fellow ice anglers. Good advice is, perhaps, most important to ice anglers. Who won’t agree that augering or chiseling holes through three-feet of ice is too much of a chore without doing everything you can to put the odds in your favor. So here’s some advice to take or leave.
Often I see anglers clustered together like bees in a hive. They’ll cut holes only a few feet from each other and have several lines dangling over a tiny part of an underwater island, reef, or weed bed. Why not spread out and cover more area? Each angler is allowed two lines, so as few as three people can use six lines to cover a fairly large area. If someone continues to have more action, then you can cluster together over the hot spot.
Let’s say you are fishing an underwater point that drops from 10 feet to 30 feet. Use a depth finder or weighted line to find any “stair steps”, or flat spots, in the drop off. Walleyes and other game fish use these flat spots to cruise along and feed. Also look for any inside turns or small points jutting out from the main structure. Areas where there are rocks mixed with weeds are also good. It is the structure that attracts the fish, but it is these little irregular spots that hold the fish.
Once you’ve found these high percentage spots put lines down on each one. If you can’t find evident irregularities in the drop off, place your lines so you cover all depths. Now you are making the most of your fishing time and the fishing suddenly becomes twice as exciting.
Spreading out becomes much easier if you use tip ups; after all, that is what they were made for. First of all, tip ups usually have a flag-type bite indicator so you can see that you’ve gotten a hit from a distance away. Secondly, most tip ups are constructed so the line holding spool is suspended under water so it doesn’t matter if the hole freezes over, the tip up will still function.
A frequent fishing companion of mine uses another device that allows you to cover a large area. He cuts out the bottom of a plastic pail and attaches an arm that holds a line spool over the pail. The whole thing is placed over the hole. On the spool is a piece of highly visible red reflective tape. He uses a bobber to suspend the minnow over the bottom and turns the spool so the red tape is positioned up. When a fish hits, the spool will unwind. The red tape makes it easy to see the spool revolving from quite a distance.
The only thing this outfit doesn’t do is keep your ice hole from icing over and the line from freezing in. It works very well in warmer weather.
Regardless of what you do, don’t limit your chances of catching fish. Cover as much area as you can in a systematic manner. But remember, you can be 200 feet from a tip-up before a game warden will consider it an unattended line. Just keep it legal and catch more fish.
Posted by Jeff Howard on February 25, 2011
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