5 Essential Ice Fishing Tips

AJ Gall

Like or not, the time has come to step out of the woods and onto the ice.  Keep that warm camo on, but trade that bow and treestand in for a jigging rod and 5-gallon bucket.  Yup, you guessed it, it’s ice fishing season!

Here are a few tips to help you out-fish your buddies on your next ice fishing adventure.

The First Drop

Here’s a great tip for you ice fisherman who like to outsmart crappies.  Let’s say you’ve caught a few fish out of your hole, the fish swim away, and new ones move in.  You’re still jigging, but the fish just aren’t biting like they were earlier.  Chances are they’ve gotten used to the presentation and got turned off. Time for something new.

The Tip: Pull your line out of the water and wait . . . be ready to drop your lure down when your electronics show a fish approaching.   When you see a blip indicating a fish, drop the lure to their level.  Crappies are suckers for the first drop because they like to watch the bait fall to them.  As soon as you notice the fish coming to the bait, stop it dead and begin to slowly take it away from them. Chances are they’ll strike.

Rigging Tips for Tip-ups

As a seasoned ice angler, you’re probably doing these two things already, but if not, here are two tips to help you to better rig up your tip-ups.

Tip 1: Put a snap swivel between your main braided line and leader.  This makes it easy to switch from a pike setup to a finesse walleye setup easily.  It also adds a bit of weight, which limits the amount of split shots you need.

Tip 2: A slip bobber stop is the best line depth marker you can use.  It’s nice and bright so you can see it easily and you don’t have to worry about it moving or causing any tangles like you might expect with a marker bobber or button.

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Too Hard and Too High

A lot of anglers can easily fall into bad habits when jigging with minnow profile baits.  The most common bad habits are pulling to hard and lifting too high.  Why do we rip the bait up so fast? Because we like the feedback . . . the wiggle and vibration at the rod tip feels good.  It feels like the bait is working and really swimming down there.  In reality, it’s actually causing too much commotion and turning the fish off.

The Tip: Rather than ripping it fast and high, slow it down and bring it down.  A medium jerk speed with a 10-inch up and down pull followed with a couple soft twitches causes the most attractive action.  You’re looking for a nice wobble action, not a buzz.  Repeat that cadence and you’ll be landing some walleyes in no time.

Study Up

Ice fishing is similar bowhunting out of a treestand in some ways, like once you are set-up you hope you’re in the right area . . . the right “small” area for that matter.  How do you know? A lot of times it comes to the prep work done before hand.  Using topo maps to hone in on hunting or fishing hotspots has put many of fisherman and hunters in the right spot at the right time.

Tip: Scout lakes during the summer and mark key structures on your GPS that might hold fish in the winter.  Using a boat to scout allows you to cover much more area and get a good feel for the lake. Using a topo map will work great as well.  Both tactics will help you drill holes where there are fish.

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About The Author
From Woods to Table

AJ Gall

AJ Gall's prior hunting and wildlife experiences began long ago and make him the perfect contributing deer hunting guru.  As a habitat consultant under Dr. Grant Woods, AJ has worked on properties in 13 different states, amassing over 25,000 acres of quality deer management. He now uses that knowledge to help clients find their dream hunting properties as a licensed real estate agent in Wisconsin.  


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