by Bob Jensen
Ice-fishing can be whatever you want it to be. Some folks like to make ice-fishing a social experience, others are more intent on catching fish. It seems like the anglers who like the social aspect of ice-fishing will opt for a warm, well-appointed ice house. They'll employ rattle-reels while they sit in the shelter playing cards, watching a football game on satellite television, and eating deer-sticks while they discuss almost any topic. They're having fun, and that's why they go fishing.
Other anglers prefer to use a portable shelter and move from hole to hole, usually fishing alone even if they're part of a group. These anglers keep a close eye on their depth-finders and change baits frequently. They're usually more interested in putting fish on the ice. They're having fun also, and that's a good thing. Different people like different things.
If you're one of those anglers who really wants to catch more fish, there a few things you can do to increase your chances for success.
The most successful ice anglers are those who pay attention to small details. The bait you put in front of the fish, and how you move it, is very important. Sometimes they want a particular color or size, and sometimes they want the bait barely moving. Northland Tackle has introduced a new series of baits designed by ice-fishing expert Brian Brosdahl. They're called Bro's Bug Collection. Each bait has a unique characteristic that matches a certain condition. For instance, there's Bro's Bloodworm, which is perfect when the panfish are feeding on bloodworms. Select a bait to match the conditions and you're going to be more successful.
When the fish are finicky, the line you're using is critical. There are times when two pound test line will catch more fish than four pound test line. Berkley Vanish is a fluorocarbon line that is invisible under water, and there are lots of times, especially when the water is clear, that it will catch more fish.
Some anglers like to use a no-stretch line for their ice-fishing, especially in deeper water. They use FireLine on the reel, then add a tiny swivel to the end of the FireLine. They then tie a short section of Vanish to the swivel. By doing so, you have the hook-setting qualities of no-stretch line, with the invisibility of fluorocarbon.
Pay attention to details. If you can see fish looking at your bait but not eating it, try a different style of bait, try a different color, move the bait more or less, go smaller or larger: Just do something different. If they're not responding to what you're doing, do something different. Eventually you'll find what it is they're looking for, and then you'll catch more fish.
For more fish-catching information, visit fishingthemidwest.com