I’m lucky enough to live near a fishery that contains thousands of perch inhabiting relatively shallow water all winter long. Along with perch, there’s a relatively decent fishery for bluegills, pumpkinseeds, and crappies, and the occasional bass bite. Yet the majority of fishermen in my area, as high as 95% by my estimation, never use electronics when ice fishing, and that continues to blow my mind. Sure, shallow, active perch don’t need much coaxing to bite, but for panfish and deeper perch, especially in the middle of the winter, nothing beats a quality flasher to put more fish on the ice. I’ve said it in the past: give me good electronics and a lousy lure, and I’ll catch more fish through the ice than with the perfect bait and no “eyes”. Electronics have, literally, changed my approach to ice fishing.
Search and destroy
Like many novice ice fishermen, I used to think that the key to getting bit was to downsize lures to the point of miniscule, and fish painfully slow. The theory is that fish, being cold blooded, are almost in a state of hibernation under the ice. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many species of fish, especially cool water predators like perch and walleye, are aggressive all winter long. Even warmer water species, like crappies and bluegills, can be triggered to bite using aggressive tactics. I learned the nature of this by watching sonar. When fishing for bluegills and pumpkinseeds, I quickly learned that, on days when the bite was really tough, the key to a productive outcome was to catch one fish out of each hole. Doing so put a good number of keepers in my bucket by days end. When I would settle into a spot with fish around, I would often catch one right away that, judging by the fish’s activity on my flasher, was quite active. More time spent in that hole would yield little or no results. When I would move to a new location, again, one fish would come quick, followed by a lull. So I quit having lulls. After catching one fish, if another isn’t visible on my screen relatively quickly –within one or two drops of my bait – I move. Using a flasher, in this case a Humminbird ICE 55, I can immediately judge if there’s fish around, and if they’re active. It’s as productive, and definite, as sight fishing. The flasher doesn’t lie. And, if there’s fish around, at least one will almost always be active.
The same holds true with perch, but to a larger extent. Perch are active schoolers, and most often hunt and feed in large numbers. With flasher in hand, I comb areas where sight fishing is impossible, looking for large schools. At each new location, if perch aren’t visible on my screen within the first few drops of the lure, I move to a new location. I find it far better to go to the fish than to try to get them to come to me. A move might only need be ten yards or so, especially in dingy water. In clearer water, a substantial move is often necessary. Don’t be afraid to graph areas around concentrations of other fishermen – they’re there for a reason. Your flasher won’t lie once you “take a peek”.
Getting dialed in
The number one reason I use the ICE 55 is very simple: it has a 6-color display. In the areas that I fish, I often need to differentiate between weeds and fish. The multi-color display allows me to do so. Also, as a fish comes into the beam, and gets directly in line with my lure, it’s color on the flasher changes. With a major intensity reading, it’s obvious a fish is interested in my bait, and I can often coax that fish into biting. But make no mistake: the most difficult fish often require the greatest lure movements. Many anglers opt for the opposite approach: they slow down and use tiny movements to attempt to catch those negative fish. I have found the opposite holds true. Those negative fish can be triggered to bite out of reaction with fast fishing approaches. When a fish approaches my lure on the flasher screen, and it’s reading grows in intensity, I immediately make it look like my lure is trying to get away from that fish by raising my bait quickly in the water column. If the fish follows, I continue to raise my lure until the fish bites. If the fish stops, I put my bait back in front of it and raise it up again. Eventually, that fish will react to that lure and chase it out of aggression, and often bite with ferocity. And, often, it’s very fast upward movements that are the key to getting bites on the toughest days
Through the continued use of a flasher, I was able to change my approach to ice fishing on tough days, and it’s paid off ever since. Angler’s can learn more by watching the depthfinder screen than they ever could without. Flashers are vital tools in ice fishing; practically eliminating tough days all together. Everybody likes that.