What makes an ice angler successful? This question seems complex and out of reach but in fact the answer is probably already under your nose. We spend a lot of time browsing the various Internet websites, reading the latest magazine articles and spending time chatting with fellow anglers and friends trying to find out how to put more fish on the ice. It’s no secret that we’re already trying to answer this question for ourselves. The answer to this question may also be different for each and every angler, but here are some of the crucial points to consistently putting fish on the ice.
Do Your Homework
No it’s not time to go back to school, I wouldn’t do that to you, but it is time to focus on preparing yourself for a day on the ice. With the modern advancement of GPS units and highly detailed paper maps we can now take away a lot of the guesswork before we even hit the ice. Studying the body of water we intend to hit the night before the big day can pay off in dividends when it’s time to take action. Plotting waypoints, critiquing strategy, finalizing a game plan; these are all things we can do in the comfort of the living room without wasting precious time on the ice. Let’s face it; we are becoming more and more deadly when it comes to effectively breaking down a body of water. The tools are there to help us so take advantage of those gifts.
Think Light and Stay Mobile
It’s no secret that staying mobile is the modern way of doing things, but we still see ice anglers regress back into old habits. Don’t fall victim to sitting in one spot if the fish are not biting. Just like out in the boat you wouldn’t cast to the same spot over and over for hours on end, it’s no different when fishing through an eight-inch hole. Give each spot some time but when the feeling disappears it’s time to move on. The augers on the market today allow us to cut holes fast and efficient, moving is now made simple. Our Fish Traps are lighter and more mobile as well. With staying mobile, don’t overburden yourself with excess amounts of gear. Keep things simple and bring only what you need. This will not only help you move quicker and easier but it will also keep you more mentally focused.
Become a Master of Your Flasher Unit
This goes without saying, but having the ability to see how a fish reacts to your every movement is worth its weight in gold. Going to the lake without your flasher is just as bad as not going at all. Spend the extra time to learn how your Vexilar works and what you’re seeing on the readout. Understanding how to read bottom content (soft or hard), how to tell if weeds are present, when to know to switch baits based on fish reaction, depicting the fish’s mood levels, these are all things that can be done with your Vexilar if you train your eye to notice them. Don’t settle for only using your flasher as a means of showing you the depth and where your jig is in relation to the fish, because its potential is much greater than that. Spend the extra time on the details and nuances of what your Vexilar is telling you. There is a reason we consider our flasher unit as our best friend when out on the ice.
Look to New Fishing Methods
Being versatile out on the ice will allow you to find success no matter the situation or conditions. Force yourself to use different techniques and presentations. If you’re a bobber and minnow angler then try fishing without a bobber or without a minnow. Constantly change the way you fish so you have a more complete set of weapons. Having the ability to catch a certain fish with several different applications will better prepare you for adverse situations. Learn to fish smaller jigs in order train yourself how to use finesse tactics and then switch gears and master the art of upsizing for aggressive fish. Also, don’t feel like you have to always use live bait. Try artificial presentations and add a variety of plastic-bodied baits into your arsenal if you haven’t already. The recent advancements of artificial baits have taken the ice fishing scene by storm and it’s something that needs to be a part of everyone’s game plan. Bottom line here, give yourself enough options so the fish have no choice but to eventually surrender.
Think like a Fish
Only if this wasn’t easier said than done. Thinking like a fish is probably the single most important piece of the puzzle. Let’s face it, if we knew what the fish were thinking then it would be all too easier, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to put ourselves in the right mindset. Fish are simple creatures. They eat, reproduce (sometimes) and migrate from spot to spot. Understanding their habitat and determining where they reside is often more than half the battle. Try to understand the forage base in the lake and then relate that information to where the predator-prey relationship takes place. Simple variables like oxygen and cover can make drastic differences in fish location. Take a second to put yourself in the mind of the fish you are targeting. Visualize the structure of the lake and take into account where you find fish during the other seasons. Fish patterns can be predictable if you take a second to think outside the box—or in this situation, fish house.
While this in no way finalizes all the ways of becoming a successful ice angler, hopefully it makes you think more about the details that ice fishing brings. The beauty of the sport is that we can create our own ways of being successful. Some days a successful outing means to share a few laughs and fish with a close friend. Other days it means catching trophy fish and bragging to your buddies. No matter the situation or outcome, enjoy your time on the ice and being successful will come naturally!