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Ice Fishing Ideas

By Bob Jensen - December 1, 2012
Just as in open water fishing, there are a few really good guidelines for ice-fishing success. Keep these ideas in mind and you'll be more successful on the ice in the early, mid, and late ice-fishing seasons. Here we go!

Location: In any type of fishing, you need to fish where the fish are. In open water, we troll or keep moving while we cast. When you're ice-fishing, you need to keep moving also. The electronics used while ice-fishing are remarkably sensitive. They'll show you if there's a fish down there. If nothing looks at your bait in a couple of minutes, it's time to move to another hole.

With that said, we'll sit on a hole a little longer if we're fishing shallow water. Shallow water fish are usually spookier than deep water fish just because they're so close to the angler.

It usually works well to pop a few holes right away: Different anglers have different definitions of what a "few holes" means. Some will drill three or four holes, others will make fifteen or twenty holes. Whatever is your style, get those holes drilled right away, then let the area settle down.

When you're fishing shallow water or on clear ice, if possible, drill your holes where snow covers the ice. The snow will muffle angler noise a bit, and will also camouflage angler movements. A little detail, but it can pay big dividends.

When dealing with shallow water fish, fish from a shelter if you have one. If you pull the shelter over you, it will hide your movements. The fish will see a dark blob(the shelter) above them, but they won't be able to see you moving in it. Frabill shelters are black, so they really hide your movements.

Now let's get a line in the water. Another idea that applies to open water as well as ice-fishing: If the fish aren't eating what you're offering, offer them something else. If you see them on your sonar come in and look but not eat a couple of times, you need to do something different. Go to a larger or smaller bait, or a different color, or give your bait a different action... do something different.

Some fish can be very color sensitive. If you know that you're using a bait that the fish specie you're after likes, try a different color. The newer plastic baits are becoming the go-to bait for a lot of ice-anglers because they give you lots of color options. Also, some of the new plastics are very tasty to the fish, as they will hold on to them a lot longer than earlier generations of plastic. Many of the Impulse line of plastics are the perfect shape and size for ice-fishing, and the fish hold on to them a lot longer, giving the angler more time to set the hook.

Last thing about ice-fishing enjoyment: You've got to be comfortable. Cabela's Guidewear bibs are appreciated because you can kneel down right on the ice or in slush and stay dry. Frabill also makes an outstanding selection of outerwear that will keep the chill off. If you're not comfortable, you're not going to enjoy your time on the ice, and with today's clothing options, there's no reason to be cold. And, if you keep these ideas for ice-fishing success in mind, there's no reason not to catch a few fish. All you have to do is get out there.

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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