Hole Hopping

By Dave Duwe - January 1, 2010
How can I catch more fish? This question has haunted some ice fishermen for years. The answer is really very simple, hole hopping. Hole hopping is aggressively moving from ice fishing hole to hole searching for the active, feeding fish.

My favorite fish to ice fish for are bluegills. In most lakes, they tend to stay in shallow weeds (4-8 ft of water). The shallow water has everything that bluegill require, food and cover from predators. In years past, I have employed a hole hopping technique however only in the recent years have I had the proper equipment to make this technique deadly.

The two most important pieces of equipment is a long pole (42"-48") and a long handle skimmer. The beauty of the longer pole is that you never have to bend down or sit while fishing. You fish standing up making mobility a snap, you have no shanty, fish finder, bucket or heater to move with you. The poles reel is spooled with 1 lb test, the line run through the center of the pole. A sensitive spring bobber is on the tip of the pole. Attached to the line is an ice jig. I like a heavier jig like a Bait Rigs Panfish Cobra. With the heavier weighted jig, there isn't a need to add an additional split shot to the line. The heavier jig also allows the jig to take the line down the hole in windy conditions.

The preferred bait has always been waxworms or spikes. These two baits seem to produce the most fish. I will use one waxworm or two spikes most of the time on the ice jig.

Long pole fishing is the easiest in the 4-8 ft depth range. When catching the fish, you can simply lift the rod upward and pull the fish out. When fighting fish on a long pole with light line, you do need to use caution lifting the fish out of the hole, the line can break easily.

I will set the depth of my line so the tip of the spring bobber touches the top of the water, when the jig is resting on bottom. This way you will always know how deep you are fishing. For example, if your rod tip is a foot off the water in your hole, the jig will be a foot off the bottom. Most of the time, the water depth in the weed flats is pretty consistent. I rarely need to check my depth more than once or twice. If you find a hole your line won't go down, there is likely excessive weeds so you need to move to another.

When I arrive to the area I intend to fish, I will drill anywhere from ten to fifteen holes to move to and from. In shallow weed flats, there are typically a lot of people fishing so I won't spread the holes too far apart. I understand if occasionally someone fishes a hole that I drilled. I tend to only fish a hole 2 or 3 minutes if I don't catch anything, it's time to move on to the next. It seems that fish will consistently bite the first time the bait goes down the hole if they are there.

The only factor that is out of your control while fishing this technique is the weather. Since there is no heater or shanty, you need to try this method when the weather is favorable.

Some of my favorite bluegill hot spots in Southeastern Wisconsin are Delavan Lake, Delavan, WI, Monona Bay, Madison, WI, and Pike Lake near Hartford ,WI.

Give hole hopping a try this winter and you make have found the answer to the all important question, how can I catch more fish?

Author Dave Duwe
Dave Duwe
Full-time guide Dave Duwe owns and operates Dave Duwe's Guide Service, featuring the lakes of Walworth County, WI. Dave has been guiding for over 20 years and is one of Southeastern Wisconsin's best multi-species anglers. Dave is an accomplished outdoor writer and seminar speaker. He is a member of the Great Lakes Outdoor Writers Association and Walworth County Visitor Bureau. Sponsors include: Lund Boats(Jerry's Sport Service Inc.), Mercury Marine, Arkie Jigs, and Vexilar Marine Electronics, a pro-staff member of Minn-Kota trolling motors,Hummingbird graphs, Cannon downriggers, Lindy, Pure Fishing and All Terrain Tackle. For more information, please check out Dave's website www.fishlakegeneva.com .