Ice fishing in the past meant grabbing a small ice fishing rod, some jig heads, some slip bobbers, and bait. You would decide where you think a good place to fish was, drill your hole, and start fishing. Then the wait begins, waiting for action, for bites, for any notification that fish were biting. And most would chalk up the lack of action as a bad day of fishing. End of story, right? Not so fast…..
In today’s world, people have access to easy transportation as well as the internet. No longer do you have to rely on some ancient method of ice fishing you have grown accustomed to. Your trip to the bait shop or the sporting goods store can reveal a whole new world to you, as in tips and techniques, as well as new equipment and lures. Researching on the internet can increase your odds on the ice also, with forums such as Northwest Iowa Outdoors providing information on what bait or jigging technique is working, or what spots seem to be on fire. The internet can also provide you with new product reviews, tips on how to get stubborn fish to bite, or even something as simple as t-boning your waxie on the hook for better results on the area lake. Even tips from your fishing buddies can be a useful tool in putting fish on the ice. But nothing can be more helpful that seeing these tips in action, as well as fishing in packs to help find out what the fish are biting on by each trying different lures and techniques.
Last weekend, I went ice fishing with 3 great friends on some farm ponds in rural Anthon/Moville Iowa area. Our mission was to put our limit of panfish on the ice, as well as having a good time of course. Blake Van Puersum of Sioux City, Iowa, Dave Isom of Sioux City, Iowa, and Tim Clark of Kingsley, Iowa, were my partners to help achieve the plan. None of us would be considered tournament fishermen by any means, but that doesn’t mean we have to dream smaller in our goals.
We all have caught fish on the ice before, we all have learned a few tricks over the years, but not all had invested in equipment that would prove to be helpful in the success of our goal. This weekend the panfish bite was fast but very light, and if you were not geared up for this style of ice fishing, your day would be slow and uneventful. Sounds silly, but one of our crew can swear by it now.
Tim was used to the old school technique of baiting your jig, setting your slip bobber for a foot above bottom, and waiting for the action to happen. He had 2 medium sticks in the water, different bait on each stick, 6# & 8# lines respectively, and jigged each in turns, waiting for that bite to come to him. Meanwhile, the rest of us were only each using 1 ultra lite rod with spring bobber, 2# & 4# lines, and electronic underwater sonars (also known as flashers). We could see the fish under us, we could see our lures in relation to those fish, and we could see what jigging techniques would draw them in.
But electronics only gets you so far in ice fishing, mainly it helps you from fishing a dead hole. Sharing my Marcum LX-5 flasher with Tim still didn’t provide the results he was after. That day the real key to success was the ultra lite rod with spring bobber. The blue gills and crappie and bass were biting so lite, that it was very tough to even feel it with the spring bobber. Sometimes you just had to feel it in the jigging, feeling any resistance meant to set the hook immediately. Luckily Dave had a spare ultra lite setup with him, and as soon as he loaned the setup to Tim, his results improved instantly. Dave and I showed Tim how to read the flasher, what the bite was feeling like on our rods, and how we were getting the fish to commit to the bite. And Tim’s day went from zero to hero once he learned the new school tricks on the ice!