Ice fishing evolves as the winter weather changes. Early ice is now covered with snow. The warmer days help to create a slushy, layered and messy ice. The bite also changes.
I find that at this time of the year the best fishing changes to early morning or late evening. If you are bold enough, night fishing can be very productive.
It is important to capitalize upon the basic senses of the fish you are after. Basics such as sight, sound, touch, movement and smell are things the observant ice fishermen can capitalize on.
The lack of light under the ice needs to be considered. Use Glow Jigs that can be seen. At night, have a lantern or strong light to “charge” the jig so that it glows brightly. I still prefer chartreuse but try different Glow colors for fun. I also shovel away the slush and snow to allow as much light under the ice as possible.
Try using more flavorful and smelly baits encourage fish to bite. This year I have been a believer in short pieces of worm added to my small jigs. Colored maggots have also been working well. The Berkeley Power Bait Gulp products have helped me to limit out regularly. The Hot Pink Gulp Worms and Green Berkeley Maggots have now earned a place in my tackle box.
Baits that exude smell are the ticket. That is why Gulp products and worms work well. I also use the bottled scents and apply them liberally. When fishing gets slow, add some juice to your jig and bait. The Glow Scents made by Uncle Mike’s add the element of sight to the formula. This product sometimes creates small blobs that float into your hole. Touch the line to the blob and it slides down the line back to the jig! It’s like a moving scentline.
Creating a “Scent Column” is important when attracting fish. I have also found that dropping a large weight or heavy washer to the bottom is a fun trick. When fish are feeding along the bottom, they stir up a silt cloud that attracts other fish. If you bounce the weight up and down on the bottom, you can mimic this feeding stimulus. If you want to take it a step further, attach a small plastic container to your weighted line. I use an old plastic film canister. Drill several small holes into the container. Place a couple cotton balls into it and add some scent. While you are bouncing the weight off the bottom to attract fish, you are also spreading a scent attractant. This will help you to create a Scent Column from the bottom to top.
More movement when jigging is helpful. I try different sequences. Not only does it seem to help induce strikes, it keeps me active and warm. Try lifting your rig as high as you can then drop it back down. Look for the bite at any time. Colored line such as Solar Trilene or Golden Stren help you see the bites. I also use as light of line as I can get away with. 2 to 4 lb. test will hold up well if you remember to use your drag. Walleyes often fall to this trick. When jigging, set the hook on anything different. If you think it is a bite, strike. Be aggressive.
One day at Hegben Lake, I fished with a guy that used an underwater camera. The camera showed trout attacking my jig. My spring bobber never moved. Any movement I did see was slight. When I started to jig more actively, I started to feel resistance and began catching more fish.
Sharpen the “Bejesus” out of your hooks. I use a diamond dust style sharpener and keep the hook point ready for action. Bend the hook slightly sideways and a little upwards. This will also help to get more hookups.
When ice fishing, I expect to be successful. If you are not getting action, try some of the tricks I have discussed. Doing the same things will give you the same results. How many guys have you talked to that get skunked?
Don’t be afraid to change locations “With a Purpose”. Think depth, temperature, structure or look for evidence of other “Honey Holes”.
“The most important things we learn are the things we learn after we already know everything!” This is true in life and ice fishing.