First Ice PanfishBy Bob Jensen - November 13, 2019
We're going to be walking to our spots, so you'll want to keep equipment to a minimum. Early ice is one of the times when anglers really appreciate the new generation of ice-augers. Augers such as the K-Drill are powered by an electric drill. These are so much lighter that traditional drills, and the new batteries will enable you to drill as many holes as you need. One small box of jigs and some waxworms or spikes, one rod/reel and maybe a backup combo are about all you need for early ice panfish.
Look for panfish in areas where you caught them in the fall. Weedbeds can be very good, but shallow rushes can be outstanding also.
Get on your starting spot early. Remember, we're fishing just a short distance from the fish. They're straight under us, and they're going to be spooky. Drill a few holes, then let the area calm down a bit. Oftentimes it will take a little while before fish in shallow water will start biting after you've popped some holes.
If bluegills or yellow bass or the like are the target, go with tiny baits. Panfish such as bluegills and sunfish like smaller baits because they have small mouths. Northland has tungsten jigs in several different configurations that are outstanding for panfish. Tungsten jigs are tiny, but heavy for their physical size. That means they look small, which the fish like, but fish heavy, which an angler likes.
If crappies are what you're after, go with a bigger bait. Usually a sixteenth ounce presentation will do the job. Crappies often prefer a bait tipped with a small minnow.
Small baits fish better on small diameter line. Three pound test Floroice is strong and easy to handle, and the fish can't see it very well.
When you're convinced that it's time to get on the ice, keep these ideas in mind and you'll increase your chances for success on early ice panfish.