Habits of Highly Effective Ice Fisherman:
1) They practice Safety
This may sound like a broken record to many of those currently reading this but it’s true. Ice fishing has risks that other types of fishing simply don’t have. Know the ice thickness. Know where there may be flowing water. Speak with local guides about conditions. Also bring all essential safety gear: ice picks, life vest, and throw rope. No fish is worth dying for, although a trophy walleye is close.
2) They keep things sharp
This goes for both hooks and auger blades. Preseason sharpening of auger blades will make your life much easier. The last thing you want is getting out on the ice realizing your blades are dull, then spending 10 minutes on each hole. Keeping hooks sharp should be a habit of any fisherman but keeping them sharp for ice fishing is especially important. With hits being very light, making sure that your hook sets for every fish can make the difference between getting skunked and limiting out.
3) They know the water
If it’s your first time on a body of water, map the area you are fishing. If you have a transducer you can quickly find drop offs by drilling holes in different spots and checking the depth. You can also use depth finder weights to feel the sediment to get an idea of lake’s floor composition. After finding out this information you can choose your approach on fishing a given body of water. You can expedite this process by downloading or buying topographic lake maps, working off that.
4) They stick to the classics
There are many lures on the market these days, most are marketed to catch fisherman, rather than fish. Those that do best on the ice know how to use the simplest set ups very well. Ice fishing is more about knowing the body of water and reading your fish finder than trying a variety of colors and styles of lures. A tactic many anglers use in the warmer months. Stick to the classics: Colored ice jigs with live bait, small jigging spoons, and jigging raps.
5) They wear proper gear
Although the initial price tag may be daunting having quality winter apparel is extremely important. Staying warm has many benefits, not only will you be comfortable, but when you’re warm you are more focused, your muscles are more reactive, and your nerves more sensitive. Of all the gear to invest in, the two that will make your experience as good as possible are a quality pair of waterproof insulated boots and a quality pair of waterproof insulated gloves.
6) They are organized
There is nothing worse than fishing with the guy that throws all his gear into a sled and eagerly walks out onto the ice for the best spot. He will get to the spot first but will spend the next hour untangling his rods, fixing tip-ups, and finding his favorite jig. An easy D.I.Y project is to add rod holders to your sled or invest in an ice fishing rod case. Make sure that your sled is organized before you load it in your truck and check again before you head out onto the ice, this will decrease the chances of you having to make trip back to shore.
7) They know how their stuff works
This goes for all equipment from boot cleats to ice picks. Anything you bring on the ice you should know how and when to use it. If not, it’s just dead weight. Read the manual for your ice shanty, learn how to use your fish finder, make sure you have the right tanks for your heater. Once on the ice, it’s not the time to figure things out, and usually will make things much more difficult. It’s smart to set up your shanty preseason especially if it is new to you, this way you can quickly set up when on the ice. Reading up on how to use your fish finder will put you on fish much more accurately. Knowing how to start and operate a motorized auger will make things safer and less frustrating.
8) They check their fuel tanks
Don’t be that guy. A good day can go very south without fuel. If you are using propane for either your auger or heater, make sure to have at least 1 full back up tank for each propane powered piece of equipment. If you are using gasoline make sure you have a full tank when you go out on the ice and its always have a spare gas can on shore.
9) They keep fresh bait
Most ice fisherman will keep their bait for multiple uses over the course of weeks or even months. A common issue forgetting to check on wax worms before heading out, assuming that they are still good from the day or weekend before. Only to realize once out on the ice that you carried out a tin filled with nothing but hopes and dreams of catching fish.
Tip: Keep wax worms at slightly below room temp (45-55 degrees) and make sure that you pull out any dead ones as you see them, your bait could last months.
10) They bring beer and brats
The fastest way to get on the fish, fire up the grill crack open a case of beer. When out on the ice you would be amazed at how fast fellow fisherman will give up their best spots and baits in exchange for a hot brat and a cold domestic. Even if they don’t, you will be fat and happy so what does it matter if you catch anything anyways.
Author: Austen Doherty