Catching Pressured Fish Through The IceBy Bob Jensen - March 1, 2006
This is the time of year when fish start to show some of the effects of fishing pressure. Although some lakes across the Midwest haven't seen quite as much ice-fishing pressure as usual this year, the fish in most bodies of water are acting like fish that have been beat up on as much as ever. Here's how you can continue to catch fish through the ice when others can't.
If you've been fishing a community hole, you know, one of those areas that attracts crowds, you're going to need to move. Community holes can be great early in the season, and they'll still produce a fish every now and then this time of year, but you'll do better by moving. There just aren't as many fish in these community holes now, as many of them have been invited to a fish-fry. The remaining ones have seen lots of different lures and lure presentations the past few months and are very finicky about what they eat.
You can move away from the crowds a little just by going to the perimeter of the popular spots, or you can move a long way away to those smaller, harder to find spots. If you know of some areas that haven't seen much fishing pressure, you should check those out. The fish there could be very willing to take your bait.
This time of year the most successful anglers will be covering quite a bit of area. A portable shelter will be a big advantage. The Frabill Rangers are great shelters. They're comfortable to fish out of and can be moved easily. It's amazing how much area an ice-angler can cover in a day. Keep moving, drill a good number of holes, and eventually you'll find an area that is holding fish.
Watch your sonar carefully. If you don't see fish in a short period of time, keep moving.
If you do see fish, but they won't eat, try something different. Try a different color, different lure action, different size, go smaller or larger; just do something different to see if you can get the fish to bite. If they're just looking, often times a smaller lure presented slower will be what it takes to get that fish to open its mouth.
Sometimes lighter line will be the answer to fish not biting. If bluegills are the target, you might need to scale down to two or three pound test, three or four pound test for crappies and perch. Try a fluorocarbon line like Vanish if the bite is really tough. Vanish is nearly invisible and allows an angler to present the bait in a very life-like manner.
If you keep moving and experimenting, you will almost always be able to find a few biters if you're on a good body of water. This is the time of year when you can grow your angling skills. When you can catch pressured fish, you're becoming a better angler, and now is a good time to practice catching pressured fish.