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Beat the Mid-Winter Ice Blues

By Eric Brandriet - February 22, 2021
No matter if it is open water or the current ice season, mid-season can be the peak of angler frustration. Hope that the early ice bite will continue fades as the calendar reaches the end of January or early February. Decreased fish metabolism, changes in the food chain and frequent weather fronts, coupled with added fishing pressure, all contribute to the mid-winter blues. Concentrating on finding fish that may eat less or less often and then coercing them to eat will decrease frustration. Paying attention to detail is never more critical than during this mid-winter period. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when beating those mid-winter blues.

Use Electronics wisely

During this time, fish can be found almost anywhere and sometimes in unlikely places. Simply finding fish may be the most time consuming so a methodical approach is best. Scanning water 360 degrees around with a Humminbird Mega 360 Ice will eliminate time and drilling unneeded holes. The Mega 360 not only will uncover fish but also fish holding structure (rocks, vegetation, etc.) Once fish are found, actively searching for similar areas on a Lakemaster Map will lead to the next area to scan.

Downsize your Baits/Line

Inactive fish often rush to investigate only to then leave. During this time, many fish can be coerced by downsizing baits and giving them a more subtle action. Preferences in color and size can change quickly so bringing a variety of rigged rods will add to success. The Northland Tackle Forage Minnow Spoon, EyeBall Spoon and Glo-Shot Fire-Belly Spoon can entice the finickiest of fish because of lack of sounds and fall rate. Lighter 2-4 lb. fluorocarbon/monofilament line can also play a key role presenting a more refined and natural presentation.

Right Rod/Reel Combo

Matching your presentation to rod instead of your rod to species is particularly important in delivering the right presentation. For example, it is difficult to effectively fish a small tungsten jig with a ML rod but matching it to a Quick-Tip rod will allow the angler to produce a more appealing subtle action to fussy perch. Frabill's NEW Ice Hunter Sniper Rod combos come in a variety of actions so baits can be delivered properly to finicky fish and at same time detect the soft mid-winter bites.

Change up arsenal often

Fish metabolism decreases during mid-winter, and they are without a doubt picky. Giving them a variety of choices will prevail. Fish in general are inquisitive and interest is peaked when something new appears. Work baits down the water column to keep fish looking up as the farther we can get them to come off the bottom the more likely they will commit. Have multiple rods rigged and ready with a variety of baits so they can be dropped quickly when fish are found. Many times, simply changing your bait choices (spikes, wax worms, minnow heads, etc) often will also produce more bites. A dead-stick in proximity will often catch neutral fish looking for an easy meal.

The most productive times to be on the ice during this mid-winter period usually are low light conditions (first few hours and the last few hours of the day). Use weather fronts and the barometer to your advantage and be on the ice when the bite is potentially the best. Making mental notes when a fish is caught; how bait was put on, jigging cadence, etc. will allow you to replicate it. Focusing on these ideas and being readily equipped will only add to your chances of finding active fish and limiting those mid-winter blues.

Gear Used

Eric Brandriet
Eric Brandriet, a USCG licensed captain, is part owner/operator of Dakota Prairie Angling LLC, offering year-round guided trips on SD Glacial Lakes and summer trips on Lake Oahe. When not on the water or ice, he enjoys sharing his knowledge through fishing seminars, articles and blogs. Learn more by visiting
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