Ice anglers are always looking for an added edge, something that will help them put a few more fish on the ice. We love to learn new tactics that will help us become more successful. We scour magazines, watch online videos, and attend seminars looking to pick up a few more tips that will increase our ice fishing success. Here are a few tips that will hopefully help you up your ice fishing game this season.
1. STAY ON TOP
There is nothing more exciting to most anglers than finding a school of fish so thick that their Vexilar can’t accurately determine the depth. This normally means non-stop action, but what do you do when the school is so focused on a particular prey species that your lure practically disappears?
A lure lost in a school of feeding fish sometimes resembles a needle in a haystack, it can literally disappear among the fish. If you keep your lure above the school, and fish it up and away from the fish where it looks isolated and vulnerable, you can usually persuade fish to leave the school and investigate, or capitalize on what looks like weak or wounded prey.
2. FIND THE BITE CEILING
Whether it be light conditions, barometric pressure, or energy conservation, there is a limit to how high in the water column fish will want to travel in pursuit of food. You often hear this referred to as the bite ceiling. Knowing the bite ceiling can prove invaluable, especially after you pluck a few fish from a school and the rest begin to sense something isn’t right and become finicky.
If you can get fish to follow your lure, keep working it up in the water column to the point that the fish stops following. Doing this a few times will help establish where the bite ceiling is. Knowing the bite ceiling gives you a more specific area of the water column to focus on. Time spent trying to persuade fish to travel farther than they want to is time wasted. Establishing the bite ceiling will almost always produce results.
3. PLAY THE KEEP-AWAY GAME
Playing keep-away is one of the most effective techniques I employ when ice fishing. It accounts for more giant white perch landings on Lake Winnipesaukee than any other technique I have ever used.
I understand that every day and each situation can be different, and while techniques such as dead-sticking can sometimes be extremely effective, most predatory game fish are accustomed to their prey attempting to flee when chased. Some species, such as lake trout, will almost always reject their prey if it stops trying to get away (for no reason) when they chase it. Keeping your lure moving slowly away from a fish that appears (on your flasher) to be committed can be a difficult technique to get used to, but it makes your presentation appear more natural and prevents the fish from getting a good look at it.
Most successful ice fishing adventures are the culmination
of many small victories. Small tricks and tips can often turn a good trip into a memorable one. If you don’t already use one or more of these techniques, give them a try the next time you head out onto the ice. Alone they are extremely effective. Put them together and they often result in memorable days with far more fish on the ice, and in the frying pan.
Tim Moore is an Ice Team pro and New Hampshire’s only full-time ice fishing guide.
He guides ice anglers from around the globe for lake trout and
world-class white perch on Lake Winnipesaukee.