Sometimes we think of ice fishing as a walleye, panfish, pike thing. While it is true that these species are what are caught most frequently through the ice, there are many other species of fish in the Midwest that can be caught through hard water.
In the past few years I've been on ice-fishing trips where smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, catfish, and tullibee were caught in addition to the more popular species that are caught through the ice. Following are some ideas that will help you take advantage of all the fish species that can be caught through the ice this time of year.
Perhaps the most important thing I've learned over the past few years relative to ice-fishing is the importance of keeping the bait a little bit above the fish. The theory used to be that we should keep the bait right in the fish's face.
While it is really important that we keep it where they can eat it easily, it seems to work well to see if we can get them to come up for the bait. Fish that come up for the bait are usually hungry and willing to eat.
If we see a fish on the sonar, and if we drop the bait right on them, sometimes they'll eat it, but other times they'll spook.
If we see a fish on the sonar, and if we stop the bait a couple of feet above them, they may or may not rise to the bait, but they usually don't spook either. If they don't come up to eat it, we can slowly lower it to them. It almost seems like if they get used to the bait before it's lowered to their level, they're more likely to eat it. Not always, but enough of the time to make this an important part of your presentation.
Tip-ups are a great way to present a bait for a wide variety of fish. We've taken walleyes, pike and a lot of largemouth bass on tip-ups. We generally don't target largemouth, but we've caught so many incidentally that it is apparent that they are susceptible to winter fishing.
Many experienced tip-up anglers choose a round tip-up that covers the hole completely. The Frabill Pro Thermal tip-up is the best out there. It covers the hole completely, which prevents freezing, prevents snow from blowing in the hole, and also reduces the amount of light entering the water through the hole.
Tip-ups enable an angler to present a different presentation to the fish. Most states allow ice-anglers to use multiple lines. If there are two or three anglers fishing, you can cover a lot of water with a few tip-ups.
Or, you can set a couple of tip-ups with live-bait, and a couple with dead bait.
Or you can set one or two tip-ups, depending on number of lines allowed, and you can work a jigging spoon near the tip-ups, giving the fish even more selection as to what to eat.
If you want to increase your odds of getting bit on your next fishing trip, keep these ideas in mind.