It's All About Efficiency

By Jerry Carlson - January 1, 2015
The deep water basin that typically holds winter crappies was void of activity. There was not one single house in the area and very few old holes.

As my fishing partner, Charlie Simkins, and I walked through the region taking readings through the ice with our Vexilars, it became evident why this perennial hotspot was being ignored this year. There were simply no suspended fish anywhere in the vicinity.

We didn't waste our time. Once we were convinced it was hopeless, we pointed the four-wheeler towards the landing and left.

Once at the landing, we were loaded and off to a different lake within minutes. Thirty minutes later we were marking fish on new water and drilling holes. There would be fish for supper after all.

Winter fishing has plenty of obstacles associated with it. Fighting the cold, hauling equipment, drilling holes and searching for fish is often labor intensive and time consuming. That is why I try to simplify my efforts and plan efficiency into my routine.

Too many times, I see anglers come onto the ice with their gear, drill a few holes, set up their house and sit there whether there are fish in the vicinity or not.

I have talked to these anglers and am often amazed at how stubborn they are about moving to a better location. What it boils down to is the fact that moving is just too much work.

For me, the efficiency aspect starts before I ever reach the ice. I make sure I only take along the gear that is absolutely necessary. Through planning and experience, I know where everything goes when packing up my four-wheeler.

Once at a potential fishing spot, I do not start drilling holes. First, I pour water on the ice and take readings with my Vexilar right through the ice. This allows me to check depth and search for suspended panfish that might be in the area. If nothing is showing up on my electronics, there is no point in drilling holes.

I also am very careful about using a GPS and lake maps to guide myself to new areas and log locations where I have caught fish in the past. Over the years, this process has paid big dividends time and again.

When I do locate fish, I like to drill out an area around the fishing spot and be done with the auger. Deep basin panfish are real roamers and will come and go throughout the basin. Having a number of holes to work from saves on noise and keeps me from picking up the auger every time a hole empties of fish.

I also have several rods rigged with Berkley two-pound-test Micro Ice ready to go. Some have spring bobbers while others are rigged for tightline jigging. If I need to switch colors or jig size, it is often easier to grab a different rod than to retie. Retying on a cold, windy day is challenging.

Although I always take a Fish Trap Scout along, I don't always use it. When I do, I make sure it is not an obstacle to moving from hole to hole.

Ice fishing is a sport I truly enjoy. I don't like the cold, but I do like the rewards of finding fish and getting them to bite.

For me, the key has been to keep moving and looking until I am successful. This may mean switching locations on a lake or packing up and driving to another body of water.

Either way, the process of searching needs to be simple and efficient. If looking for fish is too much work, I will probably be content to stay where I am and catch little or nothing.

Author Jerry Carlson
Jerry Carlson
Jerry started his outdoor career in 1987 when he began writing for Outdoors Weekly. He currently writes about a 130 articles a year for various publications in the Midwest. In addition to writing and giving numerous hunting and fishing seminars, Jerry does weekly radio shows on two St. Cloud, Minnesota stations; WJON and WWJO. He also authored a book called Details for Locating and Catching Fish. Hunting and fishing photos and articles written by Jerry, along with his email address, can be found at jerrycarlsonoutdoors.com. Jerry fishes all species but prefers crappies in the winter and bass in the summer. He also loves to hunt Canada geese in the fall.