Ice Fishing - Catching Fish in Winter
Ice fishing is a great way to fill the freezer with filets during the cold winter. Ice fishing can be done with a minimum of tools and gear or can be done with all the latest in ice fishing technology.
Where to Fish
Like all other styles of fishing, the key is locating the fish. Once located they can be quite easy to catch. Their food supply is scarce so your offerings can look quite appealing to a hungry fish.
Crappie are a schooling fish and will generally be found in 15 to 40 feet of water. You can catch crappie on small jigs and tiny spoons, but there's nothing like a small minnow to tempt a hungry crappie. Minnows in the one to two inch length tend to work the best. On 4 or 6 pound line, use one or more #8 hooks and enough weight to get to the bottom. Don't overdo the weights as it limits the movement of the minnow. Add a bobber to keep the bait at a preferred depth. The bobber should be just big enough to stay afloat so it can be pulled under easily. If the bobber is too big the fish will drop the bait and run when they feel the resistance. A short, flexible ice-fishing pole is ideal for crappies.
Bluegills and other sunfish tend to run in much smaller schools than crappie and tend to stay in a given area longer. They seldom move unless the food supply is depleted in the area. Use a #10 hook on 4lb line on a short, flexible ice-fishing pole. Small minnows, worms, grubs and salmon eggs all work well for sunfish. Look for these sunfish in 10 to 25 feet of water.
Perch, especially jumbo perch make a tasty fish fry. Like crappies they run in schools and tend to migrate around the lake. The good news is that when you find them, they are relatively easy to catch. The bad news is that they can often be difficult to find. Early in the season look for them on the flats. Later in the season they tend to migrate along channels and move deeper. Expect to find perch in 5 to 50 feet of water with 20 to 25 feet the most common. They typically spend most of their time on the bottom and cover is always a bonus when looking for perch.
Trout tend to run deeper than most fish for ice fishing. Be prepared to fish from 20 to 100 feet deep, sometimes deeper for big lake trout. Heavy line is a must depending on the size fish you are likely to catch. Use up to 30 pound line for deep lake trout. The deeper fish tend to be more active during the day and shallower trout are more active early in the day and again late in the day.
Walleyes and sauger can be caught by jigging. Jigs, spoons and live minnows work well. Experiment with jigging action until you find the right amount of movement for today. It will probably require a different action tomorrow. Use 6 or 8 pound line with a No. 6 hook and bobber. Look for likely holding areas nearby summer, shallow feeding areas. Walleye can be found from 5 feet deep to more than 50 feet, sometimes suspended but generally near the bottom. Fishing is likely to be better early in the day and again late in the day.
These northern pike are predators. They come in all sizes and will take virtually any type of bait you offer. So use heavy line and steel leaders. Their sharp teeth will cut through fishing line with ease. You can find them very near the surface or into the deeper feeding and holding areas.
Have fun and stay warm
Come prepared to stay warm. If you get cold and begin to feel ill, it's time to go somewhere and get warm. The cold is very hard on your body. It's always a good idea to fish with a buddy and watch out for one another.