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Catch' Em When Others Can't

By Bob Jensen - February 1, 2012

When you're ice-fishing, just like when you're open water fishing, there are days when the fish get finicky. They might be finicky due to weather conditions, or it could be fishing pressure that has them closed-mouthed. Whatever the reason, just like in open water, there are some things you can do to get fish under the ice to bite even when they don't want to. Here are some of those things.

When fishing pressure is the cause for the fish to get selective, you have a couple of options. Probably the best option is to get away from the pressure. If the lake you're on has a lot of people fishing the community hole, get away from the community hole. You can move to the edge of the activity, or you can find another spot all to yourself. Most lakes have secondary areas that maybe aren't quite as appealing to numbers of fish, but the fish that are there will be more willing to bite. Move around.

If you can, find another body of water to fish. Some lakes get more pressure than others. Fishing reports get out, and when the word is spread that Lake Big Fish is hot, everyone goes to Lake Big Fish. After a few days, the action on Lake Big Fish slows. If you can, keep ahead of the pack when it comes to following fishing reports.

If you must fish among a crowd, use a different bait. Hot baits come and go: The fish will become conditioned to a bait that was super-productive last week or yesterday. When the fish quit eating the hot bait, try something else. Don't fish memories.

Weather affects the fish under ice just like it affects open water fish. Just like in open water fishing, often a slower presentation will be better under adverse weather conditions. Smaller might be better also.

When the bite is fast, we move around a lot on the ice. We might only fish a hole for a couple of minutes. If nothing happens, we move on.

When the bite is slow, we still move around a lot, but we also spend more time at each hole. This is when a good portable shelter really comes into play. Here's why. When the weather is tough for fishing, we want to give the fish plenty of bait options. Many of the most experienced ice anglers will employ two lines when the fish don't want to eat. They drill two holes and put a spoon down one hole and a minnow on a hook under a bobber down the other hole. Much of the time the spoon gets the fish's attention, but the minnow under the bobber is what catches them. On days when the weather has the fish finicky, a simple presentation is what gets them. The reason the shelter is important is that you're going to be covering a large area with a lot of equipment, so you need the ability to get a lot of gear into your shelter so you can cover that area effectively. Frabill makes several portable units that do the job very nicely. The Commando and Trekker are two favorites. They're comfortable and set up nicely for fishing.

There are times when the fish get selective as to which baits they want to eat. If you keep the above ideas in mind, you'll know what to do when those finicky feeding times occur.

Author Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen is the host of the Fishing the Midwest television series, a series of television fishing shows that highlight fishing locations and techniques throughout the Midwest. He also writes a syndicated fishing column and does fishing seminars throughout the Midwest. He is a former fishing guide and tournament angler. Visit Bob's web site at
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