Ice fishing is a popular but dangerous sport. You may even need to fish in winter to ensure your survival, making the following advice all the more necessary. Follow these 11 pointers for a successful and safe outing.
1. Only venture out onto solid, 2-foot-thick ice. Falling through, even if you have your ice safety pick and pull yourself out, can kill you in as little as 20 minutes.
2. Ninety percent of fish live in 10 percent of the water. Pay attention to where there is cover, which is usually where the little ones live and the big ones feed. Find well-oxygenated water and you may hit the jackpot. Crush up some of your live bait and chum the hole. Fish are slow in cold water, but they respond to the oils and scents as they drift towards the bottom.
3. Fish like movement in their food, as their natural prey are often other fish. Using jigs and small, flashy spoons mimic the real thing. However, always opt for natural bait when possible. Slow wintertime fish need to be enticed with slow jigging movements.
4. Fish can smell, have excellent vision and taste, and can also hear very well, especially with water-amplifying sounds around them. Always consider this when hunting after them.
5. Fish are cold blooded, and the colder it gets the more lethargic they become. When the water is warmest, during and at the end of winter, fish are more active and taking baits more readily.
6. Consider a fish’s lateral line as an additional way fish sense everything from bait movement to being targeted by larger predators. The sensitive lateral line allows them to seek food and school with other fish of the same size. This sense helps fish feel water current movements as well.
7. Always take into account moon phases when fishing. A new moon or full moon will usually spur fish into feeding.
8. Underwater structures are where fish live and feed too, so know the terrain of the body of water you’re fishing. Pay attention to where there are weed lines, underwater humps, and pay attention when you see a large tree submerged under the ice.
9. Some fish, like walleye and perch, are found close to the lake bottom. Crappie and sunfish are normally suspended. Fish the conditions, not just the species.
10. Fish can see color, and wearing flashy clothes can scare them. Be cautious. When the water is clear and your fishing shallow, keep movement to a minimum over the hole.
11. Ice fishing really requires live bait whether you’re using a bobber, a tip-up or jigging—be it for fun or the need to catch fish as emergency food.
This article originally published in SURVIVOR’S EDGE® Spring 2015. Print and Digital Subscriptions to SURVIVOR’S EDGE® magazine are available here.
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