Enjoy the Winter View of Fishing

Mention ice fishing to many and you get a remark such as, “People who fish on the ice are crazy” or “How can you enjoy freezing your butt off?” They’re right in some repects, but many years ago for me I was with an experienced angler to help guide me through critical techniques and tackle/equipment selections to help overcome these opinions.

From that time on I’ve worked in developing and learning my own techniques with the help of a Vexilar flasher. While my selection is a Vexilar FLX28, something as simple as the model FL8 will do just fine to get a person started. This has excited many newcomers whom I have introduced the sport to, and even those who have never used a color flasher. Some also enjoy using a camera, which I’ve found helpful to team with a flasher, but still prefer the flasher for seeing the entire column of water.

A good basic selection of lures is another plus for making ice fishing easier, and the choices available are overwhelming. But I can easily get by with a few models from Custom Jigs & Spins like the Ratfinkee, Ratso, Gill Pill and Demon. Added to this are four colors of Crappie Nibbles (Chartreuse, Glitter Chartreuse, Rainbow and White), live waxworms and Kick’N Bass Attractants in their Crappie and Java.

Ice chisels can be used too, but that can add up to more work. If maximum enjoyment is to be achieved a good drill needs to be purchased that can cut through the ice with less effort, one that is lightweight and more of a pleasure than a pain to use, especially for novices.

While many set up on the ice without a shelter, I would say use some sort of folding shelter that has multi-positions so it can be used as a full cover in the colder, snowier weather. A wind block or one one folded all the way back can suffiice on warmer days as well. Shelters can also double as a transporting sled to take all your items on.

Along with a shelter I’ll use a Frabill Padded Trunk as a seat and storage bin in my Trekker Deluxe. I have taken out the removable padded bass boat seats that come with it, but I will take them along if I have a second person.

The spinning rigs and straight-line rigs are used for almost all of my fishing in winter, and provide great sensitivity and direct contact with a lure and any fish. Spinning is used for fishing areas with deeper water and for catching the fish that have to have more “playing time.” Also, always be sure to have warm layered clothing, good pack boots, and, if further warmth is needed, propane heaters and hand and feet warmers.

At this point I’m sure some non-ice anglers are still saying we’re crazy being out there now, but using the aformentioned items above will help enhance the catching enjoyment and make it more comfortable.

The people whom I’ve taken ice fishing for the first time have quickly picked up on how it can all come together. First, I make sure they understand what they’re looking at on a flasher, and normally I’ll give them one of my spare Vexilar units to use or drill a middle hole for them to place the FLX28’s adjustable Pro-ducer to watch both lines.

Bill Blomgren and Rob Groene both got the angler’s “ice-bug bite” when they first saw a red flash—indicating a fish—moving up at their green flash (jig). Then, in a split second, they saw they had a fish on. After that experience it didn’t take long to have the two forget about the cold and just catch fish. That first day with Rob was one where we ended up catching and releasing 75 big bluegills in 20 feet of water. From that day on, Rob, who was already a top-notch open-water bass angler, developed into an excellent ice angler and has since introduced others to the sport.

Next in the development of newcomers appreciating ice fishing is simply enjoying their surroundings, especially if one is alone and can see and hear nature. A quiet day with soft wind through the pines, the sun bouncing from the snow and ice as it starts to rise or set, an eagle soaring overhead or a soft snowfall are all things to enjoy while fishing. Even the deep-sound thunk of thick ice forming below is an interesting and haunting experience that brings many to fish outside in winter.

In some cases, it can be just the cameraderie and fellowship with your fishing partner or being with a group of anglers who are willing to share all their knowledge or tell stories of past experiences—something like a scene from Grumpy Old Men.

As always, safety comes first. You need to “know” your ice and never venture onto an area that is remotely questionable. If you’re new to the sport, be sure to go with a group and have people teach you what to look for. And, always follow their lead. Throughout the ice season the best policy is if it’s “iffy” don’t go out. There will always be another day or another season to experience and catch fish.

If you are a seasoned ice angler, remember to take someone with, whether they’re new to the sport, have some experience or are just a regular fishing buddy. Always be willing to help them enjoy the winter view of fishing more.