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Mid-Season Ice Fishing

By Bob Jensen - January 1, 2014
The middle part of the ice-fishing season will soon be here. There are things we do in the middle of the season that we don't do earlier in the year. For more fishing success in the next few weeks, keep these ideas in mind.

I was fishing for perch through the ice last year in South Dakota with Blake and Taylor Anderson. These guys are as sharp as it gets when it comes to ice-fishing. The perch seemed to be kind of spooky at mid-day. We could see numbers of perch on the bottom with our sonar, and we were catching them regularly, but Blake and Taylor were catching them more regularly than I was. Here's why,,we think. We weren't keeping any perch that day, we were releasing them right away, or at least I was. That was my mistake.

When Blake or Taylor caught a perch, and there were other ones down there, before releasing the perch, they would drop their bait down the hole and let it get close to the bottom. Then they would release the perch. It seemed like the perch on the bottom paid attention to the bait and not the perch that had just been released. That kept them from spooking. Is this giving the fish too much credit for being smart? I don't know: I do know that when I started putting my bait down the hole before letting the perch go my catching improved.

If they're not eating the bait you're showing them, show them something else. However, showing them something else doesn't necessarily mean you need to change baits, you just might need to change the way you're showing them the bait.

For instance, let's say you're fishing walleyes and you have a Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon down there. You can see on your depth finder that fish are coming in and looking at the bait, but they're not eating it. Buck-Shot Rattle Spoons are about as good a bait as you can use for walleyes and perch. For many anglers, this spoon is their "go-to" bait for walleyes and perch.

But sometimes the fish want the bait presented in a certain way. Sometimes they want it fished very slowly, with just slight jiggles.

Other times they want it moved more aggressively. So, if they won't eat it the way you're moving it, move it differently.

If you try different jigging actions and nothing works, it's time for more drastic measures. If they were looking at the spoon, that's at least an indication they're interested. Try a similar spoon in a different color or size. Often times when the fish are being selective, a different color or size will get them to eat. Usually it works best to go to a smaller size for finicky fish.

If that doesn't work, a complete overhaul is called for. Maybe a plain hook and splitshot under a slip-bobber will get the job done. This is a pretty bare-bones presentation, and sometimes that's what it takes to get the fish to eat.

If you keep these ice-fishing ideas in mind, you're going to catch more fish through the ice.

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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