Posts Tagged ‘Ice fishing tips’

Northern Pike caught on Sandy Pond

Northern Pike caught on Sandy Pond

So you have decided you want to try ice fishing but don’t know where to start. You have a few options. The first and least expensive is find a friend or co worker that is already into ice fishing and ask them if they would take you. This will cost you a few bucks for gas, bait and maybe your friends lunch. This will give you a good chance to experience ice fishing and if you decided you don’t like it your not out anything.

The second option would be to hire a fishing guide who offers ice fishing trips. This will cost you about $300. That may seem like a lot of money but it will be worth it for more than one reason. First off if a guide is offering ice fishing trips they spend a lot of time on the ice and will know where the fish are and what they are hitting on. During a normal season I spend 2 to 6 days a week on the ice. I cover a lot of water until I find the fish. The guide you hire will also likely have top notch equipment including a shanty, heater, fish finder, quality rods and reels, and tip ups or tip downs. This will not only give you a better experience but also introduce you to the different equipment you may want to purchase in the future. Your guide will also provide all the bait needed. If you are going to hire a guide make sure you specify that you are new to ice fishing and are looking to try it out. Let them know the type of fish you are looking to catch and make sure they are confident in being able to put you on that species. In the Central New York area the major species of fish caught ice fishing are Perch, Sunfish, Bluegills, Crappie, Pike, and Walleye.

The third option would be to go out and buy the basic ice fishing gear and give it a try on your own. If you feel that ice fishing is going to be for you this is a good option. There is some basic gear you will need. First off you will need an auger to cut through the ice. I don’t recommend the blue Morra augers. They will work ok at first but will not last. Spend a little extra and buy at least the Strike Master Lazer auger. This is a good starter auger. As you get more into ice fishing you may want to upgrade to a better hand auger or even a gas powered one.  Don’t forget to get an ice scoop to clean all the slush out of the hole after you cut it.

Then you will need something to catch fish with. If you are planning on just fishing for panfish or walleye then a couple jigging rods will do. I recommend buying one with a good reel that has an instant anti reverse. With out an instant anti reverse you will miss many hits when setting the hook due to the bail spinning back until it hits the stop.  You can pick up a decent rod and reel combo for around $30. You will want one light action for sunnies and gills and a medium action for perch and walleye.

If you plan to fish for pike you will also need some tip ups. The style you choose is all personal preference. I personally like the polar style as they set up easy and very seldom do you get wind flags.  However the Laker style are nice if you are setting long strings as the higher flag will be easier to see in the distance.

Tip downs are also a great option for perch fishing. There are days where my jigging rod barely sees any use as I am busy chasing my tip downs all day. This is a problem I love to have.

The bait you need will depend on what you are fishing for. For perch jigs or spoons with spikes, a minnow, or a perch eye are best. I like the Forage minnow jigs the best. They are shaped like a spoon with a single hook molded into it. You will also find a variety of soft plastic baits that can be applied to your jig or spoon that will also work. For panfish you will normally want smaller sized jigs tipped with spikes. There are times where small spoon such as Frostee’s tipped with spikes or a perch eye can be the ticket.  For pike you will want large minnows to fish on your tip ups. You will want a steel leader or a heavy mono leader on the tip  up with a good sized treble hook. Hook the minnow through the back and place it about 3 feet from bottom. If you want to jig for Pike large jigging spoons tipped with a minnow or a jigging Rapala will be your best bet. As for Walleyes I like to use medium sized jigging spoons tipped with a large buckeye or fat head minnow. Overall your best bet is to hit up a local tackle shop and ask what has been working. They will be more than willing to show you what you need for lures and bait. Start off with a small box of the basics they recommend and go from there adding a few each time you stop for bait.

The last thing you will need is a bucket or sled to haul your stuff out on the ice. Jet sleds are my preferred sled for hauling gear but a simple kids sled will work at first. A bucket can double as a seat and a way to bring your fish home.

Ice spikes that connect together and can be worn around your neck are a great safety item to have. They are designed to be used if you fall through the ice to help you climb back onto the ice. They are cheap insurance at about $9 a set. I always have them with me and always wear them on early and late ice.

There is a lot more gear that you could purchase but this would get you fishing. If you plan on getting serious about it you will want a shanty, a heater, fish finder, and possibly an under water camera. These all will make the ice fishing experience much more enjoyable but are not necessarily needed to get started. I will get into these items in more detail in future posts as this is just discussing the basics.

Now that you have a the gear you need the question is where to fish. This is again where hiring a guide or going with a friend will help a lot. They will already know the hot spots. If you are fishing on a body of water that gets any fishing pressure it will be easy to see where people are catching fish. All you have to do is look for the “city” of ice shantys and head in that direction. I normally wont set up any closer than about 30 yards from another shanty. I don’t like it when someone sets up on top of me so I don’t do it to others. If the person has tip ups or tip downs out be considerate of them too and don’t set up in the middle of their spread.

If you are fishing a body of water that doesn’t get much pressure or is private fish the same types of structures you would in the summer. If there are drop offs, brush piles, or weed beds these are the places you should start. If you can get a contour map of the lake or pond it will help with this.

Staying mobile is a big part of my strategy and should be yours too. If I don’t find the fish I am looking for in the first 10 minutes I am moving. I may only move 10 feet or I may move 100 yards. It all depends on the water I am fishing.  This only applies to jigging. If I am setting tip ups for pike or walleye I will spread them out over a big area to start and move them towards the tip ups that start producing. When tip up fishing I give them an hour before moving if I haven’t had a hit.  If I am moving my whole tip up spread its to an entirely different section of the lake as I normally put out 5 tip ups covering at least 100 yards. Again this is a subject that will be discussed in future articles.

I hope this post has helped you if you plan on trying ice fishing this year. Again if you are going to give it a try I recommend going with a friend or hiring a guide. It will make your first trip much more enjoyable than trying to do it on your own.

I appreciate any questions, comments, or ideas for future posts. Good luck and see you on the ice.

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Fished this morning on Big Bay (Onieda Lake). There was a minor set back as the power steering was not working on my truck so I had to call Mike and get a ride with him instead of meeting him there. We got there a bit late but set up and quickly realized that no one was catching anything. After fishing for about 2 hours with only one bite and no fish on the ice we decided to head north to Sixtown Pond in Henderson.

After stopping to pick up Amanda and more bait we drove up to Sixtown. There were a few people out fishing and saw a nice pike brought on the ice as soon as we go there. It was a nice relief after not seeing a fish on Big Bay. I cut the holes as Amanda and Dustin cleaned them out. As soon as Amanda started jigging she started getting bites. We thought we had it made.

Unfortunately the bite slowed right away. We managed 9 keeper sunfish and threw back around 10 perch and 3 sunnies. Only one tip-up went off that actually had a fish on it. I tried to set the hook and lost it right away.  There were some nice people that gave us 2 pike as they were packing up. I came home and cut them up with the 9 sunnies. Can’t wait for fish dinner tomorrow.

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