Ice fishing can be a tricky business. If you’re at a spot and nothing seems to be happening the frustrations (and the cold) can easily set in.
Sure, you may pull out the ice fishing sonar to see what action there is; there’s options to maybe change holes or fish at a deeper depth. However, it is all too easy to blame the lack of catch on the fish.
How many times have you cursed them for ‘just not biting today’?
A potentially good day’s fishing then ends up being called short, gear is packed away and you figure better luck next time.
Well with the following tips I am hoping that this outcome will be a thing of the past. These simple steps will ensure that you have a few more techniques to try out before concluding that it’s time to throw in the towel.
So if you are ready, let’s get to it…
1. Swap the bait for a jig
Sure, the fish might not be biting today. If this continues one of your best bets is to change the bait.
Never estimate the power of the finesse plastic lures for ice fishing.
If it seems that the Bluegills and other panfish have grown bored of the live bait, (trust me this can happen) a 1/80 round head jig with a sliver of plastic hooked on it may well peak their interest instead.
The quiver of the lure has a good chance of enticing them, (assuming they are there in the first place), with minimum effort from you.
Finesse plastic jigs can also be used as search jigs and are perfectly at home in the crystal clear waters of the average ice fishing hole.
Let’s face it, if the live bait doesn’t seem to be working, what have you got to lose by trying the lure?
2. Jig not working? Shake it up with a size change
Ok so you’re tried the jig instead of bait and things a still pretty slow.
You can opt to change the color of course, however I generally find great success by changing the size.
It is worth experimenting with both smaller or larger jigs than the one you started out with.
This tip can be even used if the fish are biting. If a certain sized jig has netted you some average sized bluegills, why not up the anti by trying a larger sized teardrop to see if anything bigger is swimming around down there.
And finally, it doesn’t hurt to shake it up with a small size 12, Teardrop jig. There’s every chance that fish that couldn’t be snagged on the larger jigs will be lured on the smaller rig.
No point in leaving any stone unturned so to speak.
3. Don’t forget to look into the hole
It’s amazing how many of us fail to really look into the ice fishing hole. Why is that?
There’s no telling what you might learn by actually watching the fish as the respond to your baits or jig.
If you’re lucky you might even be able to watch the behaviour of some large bluegills.
These have a tendency to hover around the bait, if they take hold they will often spit it out again.
The speed of this means a regular float or bobber rig will not give a discernible signal of what just happened below.
The best way to snag the bluefish in these situations is to be looking down the hole as it happens; then you can enjoy actually setting the hook after the jig has been inhaled.
4. No luck looking in the hole, why not cover it instead
On the flip side of the previous tip, when looking down the hole doesn’t offer much of an insight you might want to think about covering it instead.
This works especially well in shallow water. Pile ice shavings over the top of the hole to block out all the light.
Then set up a glow in the dark jig and fish the hole in a whole new way.
5. Try setting down the rod
One top tip when fishing with a spring bobber rod (a Frabill’s panfish popper is a good choice), is to set the rod down so that the bait becomes motionless.
Again, this is slightly different method of presenting the bait to the fish and it is something they may respond positively to.
You never know until you try.
6. Twisting the line
The most popular, tried and tested way of moving the jig is by flicking the rod up and down.
Believe it or not, the fish may well become used to this and stop responding to it. It is very easy to shake things up (for the fish and for you) by twisting the line.
Hold the line between your index finger and thumb, then roll the line between your fingers. By doing this the jig will roll and spin at the same depth in the water, (rather than raising up and down).
You could also manoeuvre the jig around the perimeter of the hole, ensuring the depth remains constant while erratic side-to-side motion is increased.
7. Bouncing the jig off the bottom
Another method of manoeuvring the jig involves you bouncing it off the bottom.
This especially handy for enticing Perch that close to the lake bed.
The act of bouncing off the bottom will also cause a small cloud of bed debris to raise up. This along with the vibrations will help lure fish that are feeding at a distance.
Rigging a spring bobber is recommended when using this technique. With the jig resting on the bottom of the lake there should be enough weight that the bobber is halfway submerged.
After the fish is snagged the bobber will pop up so you know that it’s game on.
8. Another way to switch the jig – vertical to horizontal
Another way of giving something new a try is to swap the vertical jig to one that hangs horizontally.
A Jammin’ Jig Bobber Fry is excellent for this purpose.
Crappies and perch are especially responsive to horizontal style jigs.
9. Opt for the superline
If you’re fishing with pound test or lighter monofilament line you could be missing the indication that something has bitten. This is because these types of line have so much elasticity, especially at depth.
My recommended tip for fishing in deep water is to opt for the super line. When ice fishing you could do far worse than the PowerPro superline.
With the diameter of one-pound test monofilament this bad-boy line features the strength of eight-pound test line. More than sturdy enough for you to detect bites over long distances.
10. Never underestimate a bit of chumming
My final tip may well help when all else seems to be failing (and is especially helpful when competing): try a bit of chumming.
Armed with a few crushed wax worms, spikes, or minnows, chuck them down the hole.
Not only will this excite the local population of fish and bring them closer, it will also get them into a bit of a feeding frenzy, ready for your line.