Many of my buddies think that I am crazy to go ice fishing. Why freeze to catch a fish? These same friends may have been ice fishing, but usually got skunked.
Catching fish, when you are ice fishing, is a whole different sport.
First ice is the best ice! Usually, high mountain lakes freeze first. Since I am a Big Boy, I will not venture onto the ice until it is 5-6 inches thick. Last year, local high mountain lakes around Bozeman iced up by late November. Georgetown Lake is often the first major lake in the area to freeze up.
Ice fishing was HOT from first ice until the first week of February. After that, fishing slowed, and lines went slack. Catching early ice will help you have success. Later in the season, ice becomes covered with snow and is colder. Fish go into estivation and hibernate. The bite is gone’ and you end up freezing your butt off for nothing.
I only keep fish during Ice fishing season. There may be a few instances where I keep some fish for dinner but… Ice caught fish are the best! Once caught, they go into instant deep freeze. No spoilage. If you put fast frozen fish into a bucket of water, they often start swimming again!
Now is the time to gather your ice fishing gear. If you wait until the last minute, you will not find what you want. Local fishing stores order one batch of gear a year. When it’s gone, it’s gone until next year.
If you plan to upgrade your auger, sled, tent, gear, or tackle, fish finders, underwater cameras, begin doing so now. You can order it and have it in a few weeks. Local marketplaces online or on ice fishing groups offer great deals.
This year I upgraded my fish finder to more modern gear. I sold my old Fishing Buddy fish finder for almost as much as I paid for it a decade ago. You may want a better and more reliable auger. Unless you have arms like Popeye the Sailor, you may prefer an auger that ais run with propane, gas, or batteries. I went with batteries and will never go back. Older gas or propane units are great for beginners.
Become a student of the sport! www.iceshanty.com is an excellent group to keep you in touch with other icemen. They offer local and national information, advice, tips, and information. You Tube videos also are great teaching tools.
Despite all my great advice and suggestions, I rarely see ice fishermen catching fish. Most folks go through the motions but fail to catch on. If you are happy fishing and not catching, fine. If you want to have more success, pay attention, and ask questions.
If you want to have Hot fishing, hit the ice!