Finding the bite can be easy [UPDATED]Published 9:42am Tuesday, December 4, 2012 Updated 11:45am Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Finding biting fish can be a challenge regardless the fishing season. In the summer, it is easy to simply start the boat and move to a new spot, or even trailer to a new lake where hopefully better action is found.
Moving to a new spot or changing lakes are options for ice fishing, though these option may be more inconvenient during winter, especially at early ice when varying ice conditions can make moving difficult and, at times, risky.
With that in mind, there are some things anglers can do to try to increase their catches during challenging times. Here is a look at some strategies to find the bite when the action slows.
When moving a great deal is not possible, changing your fishing location even a little can be of benefit when the bite goes stale. For example, if you are catching fish during mid-day on the deep edge of a flat and the bite tapers, sliding a bit shallower as daylight wanes will often increase your catch. Fish, particularly walleyes, will often slide up shallower toward evening so moving with them can be beneficial.
Another “movement strategy” that often works is to move to the edge of a gathered crowd of anglers on a hot fishing spot when that action slows. Anglers gathered on a hot spot may spook the fish and moving to the perimeter of the crowd can pay dividends.
Small moves like these can easily be accomplished by using a small portable fishing shelter. My one-man Frabill Commando shelter is awesome for this style fishing because it’s a perfect one-man shelter when fishing and, when it’s time to move, it doubles as a lightweight sled for quickly loading and moving my gear.
Moving as the fish move is one way to stay on a good bite. Another way is by closely monitoring the depth the fish are moving at and also by observing how they are reacting to your fishing methods. Anglers who watch their sonar units closely and quickly raise or lower their bait to the level of a “mark” (appearance of a fish) showing on their screen often increase their catches.
Last winter, I had several instances where bluegill, crappie, and even walleye came in “high”. I was able to catch some of these fish by quickly reeling and raising my bait just above the level those fish appeared at. Had I not been using a sonar unit or, not been paying attention to it, I would not have even known those fish were present.
Another means of being observant that can increase your catch is paying attention to your jigging methods and experimenting with other approaches if your favorite method isn’t producing.
For example, some days the fish seem to really prefer aggressive jigging motions, while on others they want the bait presented more subtly.
By watching your sonar closely and making note of how the fish respond to the movements of your bait can help you dial in the best presentation for a particular day.
A quality sonar unit is important to success in many ice fishing situations like those just described. Lots of good winter sonar units are available to today’s anglers. My preference is the Humminbird ICE 55 because it clearly shows me everything I need to see, is very dependable, and comes in a soft-sided protective carrying case that I love for mobile angling.
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Finding a hot winter bite is the goal of all who ice fish. Sometimes that can be a struggle.
When those struggles happen, using some of the suggestions just presented can help anglers locate or relocate biting fish. As always, good luck on the ice
Mike Frisch is a western Minnesota fishing guide. Visit his website www.fishinwithfrisch.com or follow him on Facebook.