Category Archives: Ice Fishing

Fishing when the water is hard on top

Ice Fishing How-to from North Dakota DFG

Ice Fishing How-to from North Dakota DFG
by Ty Stockton, North Dakota DFG
from The Fishing Wire

Fishing in North Dakota has never been better. The state boasts 22 species of game fish and 449 bodies of water where anglers can wet a line.

Quite a few of those fishing holes are relatively new. Since the early 1990s, when a long drought ended and a wet cycle began, previously dry lakes filled, and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department stocked many of these new waters with fish.

“At least 50 of those new lakes are producing good walleye,” said Greg Power, Game and Fish Department fisheries division chief.

A strange thing happens when a new lake is formed. Scott Gangl, Department fisheries management section leader, said the technical term for the fertility of a new body of water is “trophic upsurge.”

Walleye grow fat on this food in North Dakota

With a menu of scuds, fathead minnows and other prey, walleyes stocked in North Dakota’s new prairie lakes grow rapidly.

“It’s an explosion of nutrients, insects and resources fish thrive on,” he said. “When you flood vegetation or soil that had been dry, the nutrients are released into the water. Insects feed on these nutrients, and minnows – mostly fathead minnows in North Dakota – eat the insects, and this provides a fantastic food source for predatory fish, like walleyes.”

Because of this trophic upsurge, walleyes stocked in these new prairie lakes grow rapidly. Game and Fish fisheries biologists compile data on walleyes throughout the state, including growth rates. They’ve found that the average walleye in traditional waters, such as Lake Sakakawea, Lake Oahe or Lake Tschida, is 6 inches long at the end of the first growing season; 10 inches after two growing seasons; 14 inches after three seasons; and 16 inches after four seasons.

By contrast, walleyes in the nutrient-rich new prairie lakes, such as Sibley (Kidder County), Lehr WMA (McIntosh County), Kraft (Sargent County) and Twin Lakes (LaMoure County), are 9 inches at the end of the first season; 14 inches after two seasons; 16 inches after three seasons; and 18 inches after four seasons.

With walleyes growing faster in these new prairie waters, anglers have good opportunities to catch good-sized fish within a few years of the lakes being established. “Our strategy is to stock the heck out of those waters,” Gangl said. “If there are enough minnows, sometimes you can’t put enough fish in them to get the fathead populations down enough to let the fish get hungry, so we stock those waters with as many fish as we can.”

This means there are potentially more good-sized walleyes in the lakes than the minnow populations will comfortably feed. This in turn means plenty of fish under the surface are hungry enough to take the bait offered to them by an enterprising angler. In short, it’s a recipe for a good bite.

The fish stocked in these lakes don’t grow to catchable-size right away?– and in fact, walleye aren’t stocked immediately after lakes flood. Once a lake is established, fisheries biologists evaluate its viability. Among the considerations are the length of time it will likely hold water, the number of minnows it holds, and whether it can be accessed by the public.

“We can stock a lake if we have good, legal public access,” said Paul Bailey, Department south central fisheries district supervisor. “It might be a section line or a road, but often we get easements from willing landowners.”

Even after all of that, walleye are not usually the first fish stocked.

“We stock perch first,” Bailey said. “Perch deposit their eggs on flooded vegetation, so they do well in those newly flooded lakes.”

The perch serve two purposes, Power said. They provide another game fish for anglers to target, and they become an intermediate food source for growing walleyes when the larger, predatory fish are released into the lakes.

Once the forage base is established, either through minnows that naturally occur in the waters or perch that are trapped and transported from other waters in the state, walleyes are stocked in the lakes. The walleyes come from the Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery, and they’re mostly stocked as 1- to 2-inch fingerlings, though a few waters receive nearly microscopic fry (the developmental stage immediately following the fish hatching from their eggs).

From there, managing the fishery is a balancing act. If a lake has too many minnows, they outcompete perch for forage, and perch numbers decline. Also, when minnows provide more than enough food for walleyes to eat, they are not as interested in taking an angler’s lure.

If walleye populations grow too quickly, fathead minnow numbers start to dwindle. That’s where anglers enter the management picture.

“Anglers help with the predator-prey cycle,” Gangl said. “If we don’t have enough anglers fishing a certain water, the walleye populations get too big, and they bring down the minnow populations. We need anglers to take some fish out of the lakes, so the minnow and walleye populations remain balanced.”

Winter is a great time to find some of those hungry walleyes, too. Some of the newer lakes lack boat ramps, so the only way to get out to the middle of those lakes is to get there on the frozen surface.

So check with your local bait store or online ice fishing forum to find where the big ones are biting. You’ll not only have a good chance to put some fryers in the pan, you’ll also help Game and Fish keep the predator-prey balance to ensure these waters continue to provide good fishing opportunities for years to come.

1950 30
1963 150
1971 110
1980 139
1990 186
2000 208
2010 340
2012 365
2017 449

Forage and Other Factors
The Facebook post from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department says there are thousands of walleye in the lake you like to fish, so you grab your tackle and beat feet for the water. But when you get there, you try every lure in your tackle box, cast into 43 different likely spots, but you don’t get so much as a single bump on the end of your line.

What gives? Is this some sort of Candid Camera moment? Are you the butt of some cruel YouTube video, being laughed at as the most gullible angler in North Dakota?

Not at all. The netting surveys and other measures Game and Fish biologists use to monitor fisheries are good indicators of the numbers of fish below the surface. But the fact that there are a lot of fish in a lake doesn’t necessarily mean those fish will take an angler’s lure. There are a lot of factors that affect the bite.

“If the fish are well-fed from natural sources, they might not get into the bite,” said Scott Gangl, Department fisheries management section leader. On the flip side, “if you have a great bite, it indicates a lack of natural forage.” That forage, for the most part, is fathead minnows.

But Gangl said other factors play into the bite, as well.

“Weather patterns play a part,” he said. “When you see fronts rolling in, the fish may bite – or they may stop biting. Weather plays a role, but it’s not necessarily consistent.” He said as weather changes, you may see a change in fish activity.

Another weather-related factor is water temperature. Certain species of fish are adapted for different water temperatures. Trout are cold-water fish, so the colder the water, the more active they become. Walleye are cool-water fish, so as the water temperature drops they may become more active to a certain temperature, then settle down as the temperature continues to drop.

“Early ice is usually popular,” Gangl said. “The water’s still cooling, but it hasn’t gotten as cold as it’s going to get. As the temperature drops, the fish’s metabolism slows, and after the ice has been on for a while, and the water is colder, you might get that midwinter lull in activity.”

Gangl said he’s been fishing and has seen lots of fish on his Vexilar, but none of those fish would take his lure. “Sometimes it just happens like that,” he said. “There are obviously a lot of fish down there, but none of them are interested in the bait. You might get one to bite from time to time, but it’s pretty slow. Then all of a sudden, it all changes, and you get the rest of your limit in an hour.”

Often, that sudden change hits near sunset, or the fish will bite early in the morning, then suddenly stop as the sun gets higher. Gangl said this could be because walleye are better adapted to hunting in the dark than their prey – fathead minnows – are to seeing danger in darker water.

“It’s a factor of efficiency,” he said. “Fish forage on what is optimum. They try to get the best food they can get with the least amount of energy expended.”

Every fish in every fishery is an individual, so there are no scientific standards for what triggers the bite. You can move to new holes if the fish aren’t biting where you are, and maybe you’ll find a few active fish somewhere else. Or you can sit still and keep fishing, waiting for the conditions to cause the fish to get hungry.

After all, it’s called “fishing,” and not “catching,” for a reason. Greg Power, Department fisheries division chief may have said it best: “Mother Nature’s pendulum does swing wildly and rapidly in North Dakota.”

The best bet is to be in the right place at the right time when that pendulum swings your way.

Ice Fishing Underwater Angling Lessons

Underwater Angling Lessons

Top Ice Fishing Tips Via the Camera Lens

By Ted Pilgrim
from The Fishing Wire

Use a camera for ice fishing

A singular theme runs through the game of sight-fishing. It’s the visual see-stalk-cast and hang-on-to-your-rod sequence that anglers can’t get enough of; why fly fishers cherish above all else drifting dry flies for trout; why inshore anglers can’t sleep the night before an adventure on the shallow bonefish flats; why muskie hunters happily take a beating for twelve hours straight for the mere chance at one big fish . . .

Pure, adrenaline-laced, heart-pounding fun!

Believe it or not, the same motivation fuels the pursuit of crappies, walleyes or other species through a hole in a frozen lake — especially when one views the action via underwater camera lens. The rush of tension that occurs each time you watch a fish stalk your bait can turn excitement into addiction. Big bonuses result, too. Like learning new and fascinating fish behaviors, or discovering what your lure, line and retrieve really look like underwater, having witnessed the aquatic drama with your own two eyes.

“Panfish” Phil Laube is a Minnesota based angling adventurer who rarely ventures forth without his underwater camera. Laube’s especially enthusiastic about employing an Aqua-Vu to study his presentation and how fish react to it. If sight-fishing via camera lens happens to be super exciting, he doesn’t exactly mind that either.

“For a lot of anglers, fishing with a camera has become the main reason they don’t mind braving the winter elements,” Laube admits. “It’s like, if you remove the visual element of stalking big tarpon or redfish on the shallow flats, it’s still technically fishing, just not nearly as much fun.”

Intrepid ice angler “Panfish” Phil Laube says underwater spy-work skyrockets his fishing confidence.

Laube says that while he always totes his sonar unit for missions on ice, he also brings the camera, and deploys the optics whenever he can. “There are things you simply can’t experience or learn about what’s happening without seeing the real-world underwater landscape.”

In terms of essential and interesting discoveries, Laube offers the following aquatic observations:

(1) Confidence – “The camera has really improved my ability as a fisherman, especially in terms of coaxing fish to bite. It’s all about visualization and confidence. After seeing fish repeatedly respond favorably or negatively toward different lures and actions, you become much more certain of what’s happening below — even when you’re not using a camera. You can accurately picture what everything looks like, which allows me to predict fish response in some cases. Visualization yields confidence.”

(2) Interpreting Sonar – “There’s no better way to learn what your sonar unit is showing you than to put a camera down there at the same time. I promise you’ll discover you’ve been wrong about certain signals and about the way fish truly approach your lure. A lot of anglers think, for example, fish always ‘rise up’ to bite because of the way signals are shown on sonar, relative to the transducer. This isn’t often the case. Fish on sharp drop-offs is another one. If you’re set up on a sharp break — particularly with big rocks there to obstruct the transducer signal — your sonar may not show fish close to the bottom at all.

“The other big thing is species ID. Based on watching fish on the camera, you can learn what a crappie looks like on sonar versus a sunfish, or walleye versus pike. For example, sunfish often approach a lure slowly, deliberately, while crappies often chase and move more rapidly.”

High definition underwater cameras reveal amazing underwater details that immediately translate to more fish on the ice.

(1) Line Truths – “Fish reject spinning jigs and lures, every time. I use Frabill Straightline reels to reduce spin, but they don’t completely eliminate it. You need to keep the bait moving and vibrating with rapid, wrist-shaking movements, almost non-stop. I run 3- or 4-pound test for panfish most of the time. Fish generally aren’t line-shy. But it’s important to match line to lure weight. Too heavy of line makes lures spin more. In deep water, bites can be undetectable. So, you want a heavier lure hanging below a coil-free line. Coils reduce sensitivity. The new co-polymer and fluorocarbon ice lines are awesome — slick, straight, and largely memory-free. By the way, fluorocarbon isn’t as invisible as you think.

(2) Ace-in-the Hole Spots – “Time and again, the Aqua-Vu has shown me the great attracting power of tall, standing vegetation — or other vertical cover — for attracting crappies, sunfish and largemouth bass. Pike, too. Clumps or small clusters of beanstalk-like cabbage are particularly appealing. If you find these, you’ll find fish nearby the majority of the time. Same deal with sunken trees, brushpiles and cribs. The camera is often the only way to spot fish in the dense cover, plus reveal how they’re relating to it.”

(3) Lure Selection – “Used to be the first thing I did when a fish rejected my lure was to switch color. I’ve learned through the lens that the first adjustment is to downsize or up-size to the next smaller or larger version of the lure you’re using. Adjust your jigging cadence, too. Slow down. Color can be important, though it’s not usually nearly so critical as other factors.

“Finally, watch how fish are biting your lure. If you’re missing fish, could be they’re biting the jighead and missing the hook. Or, they’re simply nipping the tail of the plastic. Downsizing both jig and plastic can be the ticket. I’ve got one super-secret panfish jig that’s armed with hooks on both sides of the jighead. Stings every fish that bites.”

Laube laughs, though he’s actually serious when he says, “Remember, the camera never lies.”

Do’s and Dont’s for Ice Fishing

Top 10 Do’s and Dont’s for Ice Fishing
from The Fishing Wire

Plano, IL — Amidst the focus on jigging and mobility over recent years, some proven strategies have been lost in the icy shuffle. Like tip-up fishing, which has consistently produced fish and forced guys into head-to-head 50-yard dash sprints since day one. It’s forged (and compromised) friendships over the years, served as fun fish story fodder, and even sent a few unlucky lads to the E.R.

picture from The Fishing Wire

The Frabill Pro Thermal Insulated Round Tip-Up is the industry gold standard.

One guy who’s tops on tip-ups is Frabill pro Pat Kalmerton of Sheboygan, Wisconsin based Wolf Pack Adventures. The good-natured guide will be the first to tell you that tip-up fishing is a sure fire way to cover lots of water quickly and ice just about anything that swims.

But Kalmerton stresses that tip-up fishing — like any angling approach — requires attention to detail. Set-it-and-forget is not part of this badger’s program.

“I’ve had the opportunity to learn tip-up secrets from seasoned anglers throughout the Midwest that would take years to figure out by trial and error,” says Kalmerton.

Thus, Like Cliff’s Notes for some class you snoozed through in high school, here’s Kalmerton’s Top 10 Tip-Up Dos and Don’ts to ace this winter semester’s tip-up test.

1) Heavy metal supersizing

Kalmerton says there’s a time and place for big hooks, but when in doubt, go smaller. In the case of walleye warfare, he sizes down to a #16 treble, usually opting for the extra flash of a gold Eagle Claw.

“I load the spool with 30-pound Frabill tip-up line and tie 8- to 10-feet of 8-pound fluorocarbon to a 25-pound InvisaSwivel. Make sure to tie the fluoro side first so you don’t have to run the whole tip-up through the Palomar loop! I slide one Owner glow bead up the fluoro and terminate the #16 gold treble with another Palomar. Then slide the bead down over the knot. I attach a split shot just heavy enough to keep the bait in a small strike window six to 10 inches above the hook and call it a day,” says Kalmerton.

For pike, he swaps out the 8-pound fluoro for 12-pound and sizes up to a #12 treble. “More often than not, 12-pound fluoro will handle any scissors beaks,” says Kalmerton.

When fishing 10-inch-plus suckers in trophy pike fisheries Kalmerton rigs 50-pound fluoro, five beads, a #6 Northland Real-Baitfish Image Colorado blade and clevis and a single 1/O hook tied with a snell knot.

“The thing I like about the snell knot is it pivots the hook when I really reef the hookset. I learned this from bass fishermen who fish punch baits — definitely ups hookset percentages.”

2) Not doing your homework

Kalmerton recommends studying LakeMaster GPS maps and PC software like Contour Elite ahead of time to surgically locate high-probability “spot-on-the-spot” locations.

“Take the time to study the body of water you’re going to fish and set out a gameplan,” says Kalmerton.

3) Setting up too close or too far from fish-holding structure

“One of the biggest reasons people get turned off to tip-ups is they spend all day in no-man’s land,” says Kalmerton. “Or setting tip-ups right on top of weeds, which can result in a tangled mess that fish will pass up 9 times out 10.”

He searches out ambush locations like green weeds, breaks, river currents, bottom transitions, and other structure where baitfish hide, instead of directly on top or too far away.

4) Fishing dead weeds

If you pull up your auger and the water’s full of plant matter that stinks, those are dying weeds. Baitfish and predators are drawn to vegetation that’s still producing oxygen, especially as winter progresses.

“Gotta get to the buffet with the freshest salad and best baitfish,” laughs Kalmerton.

5) Setting tip-ups too close together

Where you’re allowed more than one tip-up by law, fish different locations along any given structure, spreading them out as far as your state regs allow. Imagine the ice as a grid, and position your tip-ups out from your base location along a break at different depths.

6) Fishing too small of window in the water column

“A lot of anglers put a depth bomb on, come up six to eight inches for walleyes and two feet for pike,” says Kalmerton.

He suggests using your electronics to find the thermocline and baitfish to pinpoint where in the water column fish are feeding. For example, in late winter you may find that fish are up high, close to the ice, looking for water with more oxygen.

7) Mouse hunting with an elephant gun — and vice versa

Kalmerton chooses the right tip-up for your given species — or something versatile.

“The Frabill Dawg Bone can be used for both predators and panfish. For scouting panfish, simply adjust the shaft higher on the tip-up arm to release flag spring compression, which then results in sensitivity to very light bites. When hunting larger predators, just make sure you push that shaft back down.“

8) Tip-up neglect

“Walk around and make sure your tip-ups aren’t frozen in, there’s bait on your line, and it’s free of weeds,” says Kalmerton.

He adds that if you’re setting tip-ups for the evening “power hour,” think about using a Frabill Thermal to keep your holes ice-free.

9) Poor visibility

Kalmerton orients his tip-ups in the same direction, so at a mere glance he can see when one flag in a series trips. Like his fellow ice fishing authority, Steve Pennaz, Kalmerton loves the pre-lubed Frabill Artic Fire Rail tip-up for many situations. That said, when faced with deep snow on the hardwater, he’ll choose a Frabill wooden classic tip-up with a long spool arm to reach the hole and ride the flag above the snow. And for fishing in low visibility situations, he’ll affix a Frabill tip-up light to the flag shaft for easy detection.

10) Weak hooksets

Knowing when to set the hook on a fish — especially when you’re not sure when the tip-up flag tripped — can be difficult.

“Here’s the beauty of downsizing hooks. Most of the time the fish doesn’t spit the bait because it doesn’t feel the metal. As soon as I know the fish is running away from me and I feel weight, I reef on ‘em hard. Chances are you’re going to get a good gullet or corner-of-the-mouth hookset because that fish is committed to your bait!”

What Is Ice Off Fishing this Spring?

Tips for Ice Off Fishing this Spring
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
from The Fishing Wire

It lasts just a short time. But “ice off” can be a great time to catch lots of fish.

“Ice off” also gives you a chance to get outside and test the new fishing equipment you acquired over the winter.

What is ice off?

Ice off is a term anglers use to describe that time each spring when ice starts to melt off lakes around the nation. As the ice melts, the sun hits the shallow water near the shore. If conditions are right — if the sun shines for several days, and the wind stays calm — the water near the shore can warm up fast.

The warming water draws fish from deeper water, where they’ve spent the winter, into shallow water to feed. And these fish are hungry; it’s been awhile since they’ve had a decent meal.

Randy Oplinger, coldwater sport fisheries coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, says, at many waters, spring is the best time to fish.

“Just as the ice starts to come off the water is one of my favorite times of the year to fish,” he says. “Fishing can be great from both the shore and from a float tube. Ice off is also a great time to take your kids fishing. They can catch a bunch of fish.”

If the sky stays clear and the wind stays calm, fishing from shore can be fast and furious for one to two weeks. Then, as water in other parts of the lake or reservoir warm, fish start to move away from the shore and travel to deeper water.

Your ice-off fishing experience can last a lot longer than one to two weeks, though. If you stay updated on which waters are losing ice, and you’re willing to travel a bit, you can extend your ice-off fishing experience into April.

To stay updated on which waters are experiencing ice off, visit DWR personnel across Utah update fishing reports on this site every week.

Another great resource is and Anglers visit these fishing forums daily to share information about their latest fishing trips.

Stores that sell fishing tackle, and stores located at various marinas in Utah, also have excellent, up-to-date information.

Shore fishing

Ice off can be a great time to catch lots of fish from shore. And you might not have to travel far, to get in on the action: many of Utah’s best ice-off fishing waters are close to some of the state’s biggest cities. “Many of these waters have good shoreline access,” Oplinger says. “And many of them have restrooms and fishing piers too.”

Oplinger says three waters — East Canyon Reservoir, Rockport Reservoir and Steinaker Reservoir — should be especially good to fish at ice off this year. “Ice-off fishing, at any of these reservoirs, would be a great day trip for a family,” he says.

There are a number of tactics you can use, to catch fish from shore during ice off:

Tactic 1 — Fish the edge of the ice

Oplinger says the open water near the edge of the ice is a great spot to cast your bait or to start retrieving your lure. If the ice isn’t too far away, getting your bait or lure to the edge of the ice is easy; simply cast it onto the ice, and then retrieve it towards you until it falls into the water at the edge of the ice.

Tactic 2 — Use PowerBait or nightcrawlers

If you’re fishing for rainbow trout, PowerBait and nightcrawlers are excellent baits to use at ice off. Oplinger recommends placing a large sinker on your line, a foot or two above your hook, and then casting your bait and letting it sink to the bottom of the water you’re fishing.

Another strategy is to float your bait one or two feet off the bottom. PowerBait comes in a floating variety that will float at whatever distance you place the hook from the sinker.

Nightcrawlers or PowerBait will also work for cutthroat trout, tiger trout, lake trout and splake (a cross between a lake trout and a brook trout). However, chub meat is the most effective bait to use for these fish.

Tactic 3 — Use lures

Using lures can also be an effective way to catch trout at ice off. Dark-colored plastic tubes and grubs, fished on a leadhead jig, can often provide excellent results. Spinners and spoons are also very effective at ice off.

You can fish these lures simply by casting them out and retrieving them back. Or, you can try the following technique:

Fill a clear plastic bobber about half full of water. The water will make the bobber heavier, but it will still float.

Slide the bobber about two to three feet up your line, and then tie a swivel on the end of the line. The swivel will prevent the bobber from sliding down your line and onto your lure.
Before you place your bobber and swivel on your line, cut a three-foot piece of fishing line. After placing your bobber and swivel, tie one end of the line to the swivel and the other end to your lure. Then, cast your lure.

After the lure hits the water, it will sink below the bobber. Slowly retrieve the lure back to you. Watch the bobber; as soon as a fish takes your lure, the bobber will start to move. Or, it might go under the water. When it does, pull your rod tip up, and set the hook!

Float tube fishing

Many people also catch fish at ice off while fishing from a float tube.

“Float tubes can be a great way to fish areas that you can’t reach from shore,” Oplinger says. “You can use them to get around the lake and find two things, all in the same place: a place where fish are biting and that you can fish all on your own. Plus, they’re a lot of fun to fish out of.”

Many waters are good waters to fish from a float tube at ice off, but four—Lost Creek Reservoir, Strawberry Reservoir, Cleveland Reservoir and Panguitch Lake—should be especially good waters to fish from a float tube this year.

“When fishing at ice off,” Oplinger says, “most float tube anglers use flies. But baits and lures can be effective from float tubes too. If you use flies, dark-colored wooly buggers, or flies that resemble a leech, are some great choices.”

Tips for success

Regardless of whether you’re fishing from the shore or from a float tube, Oplinger has tips to help you catch fish at ice off:

Tip 1 — Be patient

During ice off, trout often bunch together and cruise the shoreline in groups called schools. For that reason, it’s important to be patient.

“You have to be patient and wait for the schools to swim through,” Oplinger says. “You can sit there for awhile, with no bites, and then—all of the sudden—you’ll get bite after bite after bite. Then, after the fish swim through, it gets quiet again.”

Tip 2 — Check your equipment

Before you fish at ice off, it’s important to check your equipment.

“Over the winter,” Oplinger says, “fishing line, tippets and jigs often become brittle and lose their effectiveness. Before your first fishing trip this spring, make sure you check your equipment and replace worn line and old lures.”

Tip 3 — Watch anglers near you

“Pay attention to the anglers around you,” Oplinger says. “If you learn they’re catching fish with a certain lure or bait, and you have that same lure or bait in your tackle box, get it on your line.”

Wrapping Up the Ice Fishing

Wrapping Up the Ice Fishing Season
By Bob Jensen

For many of us, the ice-fishing season is over, but open water fishing is still a little ways off. Some will make a trip to a river to get in on some open water angling, and others will travel north to find ice that is still safe, but for many, now is a down time for actually wetting a line. That makes it a great time to take care of some things that need to be done to make our fishing even better next year. Following are some of those things.

Let’s start with some tasks that should be done now to wrap up the ice-fishing season. If you have a portable shelter, open it up and let it dry out good on the inside. Clean everything out of it that might attract mice or any other pest. Make sure it’s completely dry, then close it up and put it in storage. I prefer to store my shelters off the ground. Just put a couple of boards underneath it to allow for air flow. I’m not sure this is necessary, but I still like to do it.

Now, here’s a big one: Storing your auger. Different augers use different types of fuel today. Check with the manufacturer on how best to store your auger and then do it that way. Many ice-anglers like to start their auger every month or so and just let it run for a minute.

Also, if you noticed that it was getting harder to make a hole in the ice, have the blades sharpened or install a new set of blades.

Make sure the battery on your sonar unit is charged.

Take some line off your reel and remember to add fresh line when ice-season approaches again. Back the drag off also.

Open up your tacklebox and let it air out. Make a note of what lures need to be replaced.

Last thing: Clean out the pockets of the clothing that you wear on the ice. Make sure there are no candy bar wrappers or containers of waxworms, spikes, etc. Bad things happen when these are left in your coat.

Now to prepare for open water. If you haven’t been ice-fishing, remember to get a new fishing license.

If you didn’t do it when you put your rod and reels away for the winter, strip some line off and add new. More and more, anglers are realizing the importance of fresh line. On my jigging and rigging rods, I take about fifty yards off and tie new line to the old line. I generally never have more line than that out when jigging or rigging. I started using P-Line last year because it’s outstanding line that I can count on, but it’s also very affordable. With trolling reels, you’ll want to add more fresh line because you’ll often have more line out when trolling.

If you have a boat, make sure the batteries are charged and ready to go.

If you have waders that need some attention, get that done now. Leaky waders in the cold water of spring are no fun.

Check your tacklebox and make sure you have the lures you’ll need for the upcoming open water season.

These things are small details that often get forgotten, but if you remember them now, you’ll be more prepared to hit the open water soon and the ice when it returns.

To see all the newest episodes of the Fishing the Midwest television series, new fishing related tips, and fishing articles from the past, go to

What Is First Ice Safety?

First Ice Safety
By Mike Gnatkowski
from The Fishing Wire

When someone tells you “you’re walking on thin ice” it’s meant as words of extreme caution or warning. Ice fishermen need to take it literally. First ice produces some of the hottest ice fishing of the year and ice anglers are anxious to get on the ice to start the new season, but first ice also demands an extra level of vigilance and concern.

“First ice is a time that demands both stealth and safety,” shared ice fishing authority Brian Brosdahl. “If you’ve ever went through the ice it’s a ordeal that you won’t soon forget and don’t want to repeat. With that in mind, make sure you have a spud bar or ice chisel.” A lot of guys may not even have one these days, but it’s a must-have tool on first ice.

Call your favorite tackle shop or a local guide before venturing out and check on ice conditions. If you don’t see others fishing or signs that other anglers have been on the ice, use extreme caution. I don’t know of anyone that hands out awards for being the first one on the ice, but you might end up on the evening news.

“A spud bar is my friend!” joked Brosdahl. “A spud or ice chisel is going to allow you to check ice conditions as you go.” Standard ice chisels, like Frabill’s ( 52-inch, 5.5-pound model, are an inexpensive price to pay for peace of mind when testing ice conditions. Use the spud systematically to check ice thickness every 10 to 20 yards or so while you gradually work your way out to where you’re going to fish. “Be careful to not out walk your spud,” advised Brosdahl. If you’re in a group, don’t walk all together in a straight line. Spread out so if you do fall through you don’t all go down together. That way, the others can help you get out. Don’t stand in a group until you’re sure the ice is safe. Use a long rope to pull your shanty behind if you’re using one so as not to add weight in one location and to keep from spooking fish.

A life jacket is a good idea. It might seem like the inflatable variety of life jacket would be ideal for the situation, but a conventional life jacket may be better. “Some inflatable life jackets have a cord you have to pull to blow them up,” said Brosdahl. “The shock of going through the ice may leave you disoriented or confused or if you get knocked unconscious you won’t be able to pull the cord. There is a pill that dissolves in the auto inflation models. If the pill doesn’t dissolve you’re toast and a regular, conventional life jacket works all the time.” Once you’re on the ice and are sure conditions are safe you can take it off.

Even better is a floatation suit like Frabill’s new I Float Jacket and Bibs ( Several manufacturers make foam-filled suits that are the ultimate life-saving devices. Not only do the suits float, but they also maintain your body temperature preventing hypothermia until help arrives or you can get yourself out. Flotation suits sport bright colors that can aid rescuers in finding you; they also have glow-in-the-dark patches or piping so you can be located after dark.

You can’t always tell ice quality by just looking at it. Clear, blue ice is obviously the strongest, but just because there has been a week of sub-freezing temperatures don’t assume the ice is safe. Mark some increments on your ice scoop and measure the ice thickness so you know exactly how much ice there is. Milky-colored ice or slush is never safe.

Remember that ice thickness can vary greatly from lake to lake. Smaller lakes and ponds will have safe ice first. If there’s snow on the ice, assume that it’s unsafe until you can check its thickness. Snow acts like an insulating blanket and slows the freezing process. Ice under the snow will be thinner and weaker. A snowfall also can warm up and melt existing ice. Keep in mind that ice thickness is not likely to be uniform. Current, springs, waterfowl, and debris on the ice can cause ice thickness to vary greatly from one location to another and in a very short distance.

There’s one safety item that you should put on before you even step on the ice-creepers or ice cleats. Slick, glare first ice is an accident waiting to happen. Creepers provide traction and keep you upright. A nasty spill on the ice can result in a broken arm or elbow, torn ligaments or a concussion. Frabill’s rubber ice creepers ( pull easily over most winter boots. 10 carbide spikes (per creeper) contact and grip the ice to keep you upright and injury free.

Some other first-ice essentials should include a set of ice awls or picks, a length of rope and a cell phone in a sealed container or zip-loc bag. Several of the Frabill ( suits that ice fishermen prefer come complete with ice awls that are at the ready. Should you go through, a set of ice picks can assist you in getting out quickly. Wear them around your neck where you can grab them. If you go through, try to remain calm. Don’t remove your jacket or outer clothing. Clothing can trap air to keep you afloat and keep you warm. Dig the ice awls into the ice, kick your feet and try to roll out onto the ice. Keep rolling until you’re on safe ice. Rolling will help distribute your weight until you’re on safe ice and can stand up or crawl. Try and head back in the direction you came from. That’s where the safest ice is like to be.

A cell phone can be used to call for help and notify authorities that you need help or that you made it out of the water and are safe. If you have a length of rope it can be used by others to pull you out while maintaining a safe distance.

The best policy is to realize that no ice is safe ice. Authorities generally consider 4 inches of ice to be a minimum for safe travel by individual anglers, 6 inches to be safe for group activities and 8 inches for travel via snowmobile or four-wheeler. Traveling on the ice is never recommended by car or truck, but a minimum of a foot of clear, hard ice is required for going on the ice in YOUR vehicle, but not mine!

Find O2 To Find Fish Under the Ice

Aim for the O2 to find fish under the ice

Move regularly, change offerings often: you’ll crack midwinter’s code

By Mitch Eeagan

locate and lands fish in the dead of winter.

locate and lands fish in the dead of winter.

Bro doesn’t save lives or build rockets, but it’s his own brand of deep-thinking that locates and lands fish in the dead of winter. Photo by Bill Lindner

Imagine your home growing darker by the day, to the point you haven’t seen sunlight in over a month. Moreover, your surroundings are growing colder by the day. In fact, it’s so frigid that your muscles have become rigid; to the point it’s all you can do to muster moving a few feet…even to eat. And you’re hungry.

Oxygen is diminishing, too. Some areas are completely void of oxygen, while other pockets have just enough to sustain life. So you migrate to where respiration is still an option.

To say life’s registering a zero on the fun-o-meter is an understatement.

And with that lowly scenario in place, you now know what it’s like to be a fish living in the Ice Belt during the dead of winter. It’s been a long time since light penetrated the surface and temperatures are at the coldest they will be all year. To boot, the lack of vegetation, rain and wave action have oxygen levels dwindling rapidly.

And it’s this combination of factors that make midwinter a difficult time to catch fish. But if you’re game to put in the time, find those oxygenated zones, rewards are paid in bites and fillets.

Heavy breathers

if oxygen levels are critical, crappies, bluegills and perch could be right under the ice

if oxygen levels are critical, crappies, bluegills and perch could be right under the ice

The safest place to avoid suffocation is sometimes right under the ice. In the bowels of winter, if oxygen levels are critical, crappies, bluegills and perch could be hanging right under your feet. Photo by Bill Lindner

Minnesota Ice-Fishing Guide Brian “Bro” Brosdahl is no stranger to fishing shallow, heavily snow-covered lakes. The Grand Rapids, Minnesota resident moves around a lot. And uses specialized electronics to find panfish other anglers often overlook.

“I drill a lot of holes and check every one for any signs of life,” said Bro. “If fish are right under me I’ll see ’em on the ‘Bird, and, because of the ultra-sensitivity settings on the Humminbird ICE HELIX 5, I can put my jig right in their faces.

“But I’ll also lower my Aqua-Vu Micro DT down every hole, as well; especially if I am not marking anything. Fish might be just inches under the ice during the heart of winter, following the oxygen. The camera is able to spy those fish.”

Custom Jigs & Spins' new Rotating Power Minnow (RPM)

Custom Jigs & Spins’ new Rotating Power Minnow (RPM)

Custom Jigs & Spins’ new Rotating Power Minnow (RPM) has been fully weaponized. In the dead of winter, the ballistic-bait is best aimed at active fish, especially ones in well oxygenated waters. Photo by Bill Lindner

Paying close attention to the underwater viewing system’s screen the moment its camera hits the water, Bro starts spinning the lens right the bottom of the hole. Oftentimes, panfish will be literally inches away, curiously inspecting the corded device. Once fish are revealed, Bro removes the camera, strips off a couple feet of line and lowers his jig—tipped with either spikes, wax worms or mousies.

“A lot of anglers have no idea those fish are even there,” Bro added. “These suspended fish get totally overlooked this time of year. It’s cool when you can see your jig and watch a fish swim over and gobble it up.”

If there are a lot of fish just under the surface, Bro will operate out of his Frabill flip-over. The darkness not only allows Bro to see the fish better, but also camouflages the fact he’s above by muting his silhouetted movements.

When oxygen levels are low, and fish lethargic, Bro uses tiny jigs with a slow fall. His preferences are Northland’s new Impulse Helium Mayfly, Stonefly and Waxyfly. Custom Jigs & Spins’ Nuclear Ant, Ratso and Shrimpo are another trio of lifelike lures that sink slowly.

Goin’ with the flow

Walleye Pro Mark Brumbaugh

Walleye Pro Mark Brumbaugh

Walleye Pro Mark Brumbaugh holds a hefty perch taken on a Custom Jigs & Spins’ Lightnin’ VertiGlo Spoon late in the winter season. Photo by the author

When Walleye Tournament Pro Mark Brumbaugh targets pike, walleye and jumbo perch late in the season, he searches out river and creek mouths.

“Anywhere water’s flowing into a lake there will be more dissolved oxygen,” the Brownstown, Ohio, resident said. “And because fish spawn in these same rivers, they’ll be here staging to reproduce, too.”

Because there’s more dissolved oxygen near inlets, fish will be spread throughout the water column. Subsequently, Brumbaugh likes larger, heavier jigs that can move up and down quickly.

Bladebaits are one of Brumbaugh’s go-to lures in stained water as they produce a lot of vibration. Reef Runner’s Cicada is one of his favorites. He also employs Custom Jigs & Spins’ B3 Blade Bait and new Rotating Power Minnow (RPM) swimming bait.

Take a deep breath

Aqua-Vu optics and fishes in real-time with an AV Micro DT in a Micro-Mobile Pro-Vu Case.

Aqua-Vu optics and fishes in real-time with an AV Micro DT in a Micro-Mobile Pro-Vu Case.

When fish are tucked tight to the ice, Bro employs Aqua-Vu optics and fishes in real-time with an AV Micro DT in a Micro-Mobile Pro-Vu Case. Photo by Bill Lindner

As avid anglers will tell you, late winter can be one of the toughest times of the year. But maybe that’s because they weren’t looking in the right places.

Some fish might be right under foot; literally, mere inches under the ice. If this is the case, use light lures with a slow flutter and fall. In waterways with inlets, search out the entire water column with lures that sink fast so you can get the lure to fish before they turn tail.

Mitch Eeagan is a writer and photographer who not only lives, but survives off the land and water in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Ice Fishing Safety

Safety First on the Ice
Ice fishing safety is critical

Be Safe On the Ice

Be Safe On the Ice

Guide-tested tips for fishing smart and staying safe
from The Fishing Wire

Thanks to an extended stretch of unusually mild weather, anxious anglers across the Ice Belt are starting to venture out on winter’s magic carpet in force.

But even at this late date, ice conditions are far from perfect. In some areas, warm weather is weakening the fledgling icepack, while in others, fresh snow is cloaking it with an insulating blanket that puts the brakes on the formation of new ice.

“Safety is always a concern when ice fishing, but it’s more important now than ever,” reports veteran ice fishing guide Bernie Keefe of Granby, Colorado.

Keefe is quick to point out that weather changes can wreak havoc on a lake’s icy coating, which otherwise is some of winter’s strongest ice. “You can throw the ice thickness charts for new ice out the window once you get a prolonged thaw, rain or even thick, wet snow,” he says.

Indeed, above-freezing temperatures can greatly reduce the ice’s strength-to-thickness ratio. For example, while four inches of fresh, clear ice may support a person on foot, a foot or more of rotting, partially thawed ice may not.

That’s not to say all ice is unsafe right now. Keefe is out and about chasing lakers and other salmonids on his high-country home waters, and similar opportunities exist across the north. But he strongly advises taking ample precautions to help prevent accidental dunkings and avert tragedy if someone does fall through.

“Your first step in ice safety should be researching the conditions with local guides, bait shops and other reliable sources of information,” he says. “Facebook is a helpful tool, too, as are online forums.”

While such homework can steer you toward lakes with traversable ice, Keefe cautions that it’s just a starting point. “A smart plan of attack and the right safety gear are still critical,” he says.

For starters, Keefe never fishes alone on first ice. And he always lets someone back on shore know where he’s headed and when he plans to return.

A variety of safety gear including a spud bar, ice cleats, Nebulus floatation system and emergency rescue line can help avoid tragedy on ice.

He also arms himself with a variety of life-saving devices that starts with his wardrobe. “I always wear a Clam IceArmor LIFT Suit,” he says, explaining that the built-in Space Age lining boosts buoyancy without adding bulkiness. “You don’t even know you’re wearing a buoyant suit,” he adds.

Along with the suit, he slips heavy-duty yet lightweight Kahtoola ice cleats over his boots to assure traction on the treacherously slippery surface. “Cleats are a must, especially on slick new ice, or when you splash water onto the ice when drilling or landing fish,” he notes.

Keefe also slips the nylon tether linking a pair of Clam Floating Ice Picks around his neck, and stashes one of the company’s 50-foot Emergency Throw Rope rescue lines in his sled.

“The rescue line is easy to throw to someone in trouble,” he says. “I also pull my sled with a 50-foot rope, which provides added insurance. When walking out on the ice, I hold the line and my fishing partner stays next to the rope a safe distance away from me, so if either one of us goes in, the other one can haul him out.”

Unloaded, the sled also serves as a handy rescue device in its own right. “Just dump everything out and slide it over to a person who’s fallen through,” he adds.

As added insurance, Keefe also carries a Nebulus Emergency Flotation Device, which when inflated can support the weight of three adults plus a submerged snowmobile or ATV.

By doing his homework and gearing up with the right safety equipment, Keefe is safely enjoying the early winter bite, and so can you, provided you take similar precautions to ensure your well being on the ice as the unusual winter of 2015-’16 gets rolling.

Check out this video for more ice safety tips from Bernie.

For more information or to book a trip with Keefe, visit:
or call (970) 531-2318.

What Are Some Panfishing Tips for Ice Anglers?

Panfishing Tips for Ice Anglers
from The Fishing Wire

Horizontal vs. vertical jigs and the underwater footage to prove our point

Custom JIgs & Spins 'Gill Pill

Custom JIgs & Spins ‘Gill Pill

A Custom JIgs & Spins ‘Gill Pill jousts soft plastic Noodels to create a delicious horizontal-hung spider from Mars.

Pick a panfish jig. But not just any panfish jig. You want one that quivers like crappie candy; moves like bluegill food. Color matters, too. Ditto for body shape, profile, texture and, sometimes, taste.

Still, it’s possible to choose wisely, while continually overlooking one very critical characteristic. Some folks call it angle of the dangle. For specialists like Panfish “Phil” Laube, it’s about hook positioning, bluegill bite mechanics, or the way a crappie crushes a jig. When to present a bait perpendicular versus parallel? When to offer a hook angle that’s obtuse, as opposed to acute (remember Geometry 101?)

Turns out, paying attention in math class really did matter. For in the real world of lure selection, the difference between bites and actual hooksets boils down to one critical choice: When to go vertical and when to hang horizontal.

Offering an optimized hook angle, the tournament-proven Chekai Tungsten Ice Jig fishes fast and active. It’s the perfect jig for pairing with plastics, particularly a Custom Jigs & Spins Wedgee plastic, or even a writhing mass of live larvae. Either way, the Chekai’s jighook is ultra sharp, with plenty of extra gap to set itself sweetly and securely in a panfish’s lip. Fishing precisely horizontal, the hook itself “tips down” slightly, a fine-tuned detail that assures the hook always finds home.

Custom Jigs & Spins tungsten Chekai

Custom Jigs & Spins tungsten Chekai

The Custom Jigs & Spins tungsten Chekai fishes fast and horizontally, and with its freakishly sharp, wide and unturned hook, sticks fish with amazing precision and consitency.

Assuming a similar underwater posture, the Diamond Jig fishes small, yet heavy for its compact size. Perfect for presenting live bait or plastics, this gem jig also sports a sweet little extra enticement—a bejeweled attractor bead at the base of the head. The Diamond Jig’s needle-sharp hook is offset at an ideal 45-degrees for ultimate hook-setting success (see, Geometry does matter.)

To turn the tables on panfish in shallow vegetation or other valuable vertical scenarios, Custom Jigs & Spins’ VertiGlo Demon remains a classic tactic. Finished with a chip-resistant, long-lasting glow paint, this perpendicular panfish jig maintains an upright posture at all times. Yet the hookpoint stands out at 90-degrees from the body—again, the optimal angle for vertical jig tricks.

jig crappie

jig crappie

Adding extra polish to each of these optimized jigs, the Wedgee plastic looks, feels and swims like a living thing. Poured with a super-fine, tapered body shape, this sweet little softbait is the ultimate ice-fishing inducement. The Wedgee’s super versatile, too. Fish the 1.75-inch plastic whole. Trim the head and thread it onto a jighook. Present it wacky-style, t-boned onto a Demon Jig for a lethal “vertizontal” posture. No matter what you do, the Wedgee’s tail just keeps on quivering. Try to stop it. Can’t be done. Also unlike live bait, it never dies.

We’re not suggesting you go back to school. Nor to revisit Geometry 101. Thankfully, the fishing folks at Custom Jigs & Spins have already aced the final exam, gifting anglers with A+ ice jigs that attract, trigger and most importantly, hook every fish that bites.

Custom Jigs & Spins started almost 30 years ago producing high quality ice fishing lures.

Ice Fishing Electronics

A Guide’s Perspective on Ice Fishing Electronics

By Maynard Lee

Big pike ice fishing

Big pike ice fishing

Photo by Bill Lindner, courtesy of Lake of the Woods Minnesota and Arnesen’s Rocky Point Resort

The frozen surfaces of lakes, rivers and reservoirs across the ice belt represent the final frontier in angling. Ice thicknesses that are often measured in feet, air temperatures that hover near zero, and frigid winds that often carry frozen precipitation all represent physical, and even psychological barriers to ice fishing success. Over the last 5 years, however, advances in marine electronics that were initially designed to assist open-water anglers have begun to breach the final frontier, providing shelter-bound ice fishers the technological advances they need to enjoy sustained success throughout the months-long hard water season. As the first intrepid anglers begin to creep onto frozen lakes this season, we caught up with noted guide and angling technology expert Dr. Jason Halfen, to tap his insights on how marine electronics can best be applied to ice fishing situations.

The Trifecta

“Whenever I lead groups onto the ice, we always carry a set of three tech tools to help us find and catch fish. This trifecta includes a portable, digital sonar/GPS combo with an installed GPS mapping chip, mechanical flasher unit for each angler in the group, and set of underwater cameras to visualize activity beneath the ice,” began Dr. Halfen, who owns and operates The Technological Angler, a company dedicated to providing technology training to contemporary anglers.

“Each component of the technology trifecta has a specific purpose, and this unique combination helps my groups find and catch more fish throughout the season.” We continued our conversation by exploring the role of each component of Halfen’s “Tech Trifecta” in more detail.

The Command Center

Dr. Halfen explains, “A portable digital sonar/GPS combo, like the new Humminbird ICE HELIX 5 SONAR GPS, is the command center for my groups of ice anglers. The GPS feature, combined with digital cartography from my Humminbird-LakeMaster chip, helps us to rapidly identify key locations to target panfish by day, and other areas to chase walleyes during low light periods.

“For example, we use the LakeMaster-exclusive Depth Highlight feature to identify key basin areas, 25-35 feet deep, that are filled with crappies all winter. Likewise, the precision depth contours provided by my Humminbird digital cartography allows me to find distinct breaklines that separate the basins from shallow weed flats, transition zones where walleyes hunt as the sun hits the treetops.”

 Use a depthfinder while ice fishing

Use a depthfinder while ice fishing

Dr. Halfen’s platoon of sonar units includes both sophisticated fishfinders with GPS and more traditional flashers. Photo by the author

However, the advantages of the HELIX extend well beyond cartography. Dr. Halfen continues, “one thing I really like about the new ICE HELIX 5 SONAR GPS is that I can move it seamlessly from my boat to the portable ice shuttle, using the same convenient set of power and transducer connections. Why does this matter? It allows me to take my HELIX on the water, before the lakes lock up, and drop waypoints on key “spot-on-the-spot” locations where I will turn to put fish on the ice, and smiles on anglers’ faces, all winter.”

During my conversation with Dr. Halfen, it struck me that nearly all anglers are already carrying a GPS device with them, right in their pockets: their smartphones. So, I asked why anglers should consider a dedicated marine GPS for their ice fishing needs, rather than just rely on their phones. His rapid response makes a LOT of sense. “First, recognize that plotting your GPS position on your phone, any displaying any available mapping, really chews up your phone’s battery. Coupled with typical cold air temperatures, using your phone’s GPS feature will dramatically reduce your phone battery lifetime while on the ice. Second, have you noticed that your smartphone is smaller than the holes you are fishing through? I’ve seen enough phones fall through the ice to know that phones belong in pockets, not in gloved hands trying to locate waypoints. Avoid sending your new smartphone to a watery grave by relying on your HELIX 5 for all of your GPS needs.”

Once likely spots are located and holes are drilled, the HELIX command center seamlessly transitions into sonar mode to help anglers monitor fish, and baits, beneath the ice. “All Humminbird digital sonar/GPS combos feature a dedicated ice fishing mode, which displays 2D sonar data on the traditional, circular “flasher wheel” display that we all grew up with during ice fishing’s infancy.

The new Hummnibird ICE HELIX 5 SONAR GPS merges modern mapping with refined digital sonar to stand as the most advanced combo-unit ice fishing has ever seen.

However, the ability of the ICE HELIX 5 GPS to also display that same sonar data in a standard, open-water type display that provides current AND historical sonar information can be invaluable for identifying exactly how fish are responding to particular jigging motions. That historical information can make all of the difference on a slow bite day, and that’s an extremely valuable insight that a mechanical flasher cannot provide.”

The Workhorses



Every army needs both a commander and a set of highly trained foot soldiers. In Dr. Halfen’s “Tech Trifecta”, the HELIX is the commanding officer, while a platoon of Humminbird ICE 55 and ICE 35 flashers carry the tech burden of finding and catching fish onto the icy battlefield. With such a heavy emphasis and reliance on the HELIX digital sonar/GPS combo, I asked Dr. Halfen why he would outfit his clients with mechanical flashers like the Humminbird ICE series, rather than handing each their own digital fish finder. As always, his answer is rooted heavily in the exacting physics of sonar science.

“It’s really all about the sonar frequencies that each unit is transmitting. Put too many units, all transmitting the same sonar frequency, in too small an area, and nobody is going to be able to see anything as all of the units will be interfering with each other. My HELIX sonar/GPS combo transmits standard open water sonar frequencies of 200 kHz and 83 kHz. In fact, if you look across all of the ice fishing sonar units available today, nearly all transmit at 200 kHz. This leads to a heavy reliance on noise filters and interference rejection schemes, which sometimes work, but oftentimes don’t. I prefer to address the problem at its source, rather than try to eliminate pesky, and persistent, sonar noise.

If sonar is the “yin”, the underwater camera is clearly the “yang”. Aqua-Vu’s exceptional Micro series has become even more practical and useful with the introduction of the Micro-Mobile Pro-Vu Case. Photo by Bill Lindner

One particularly compelling feature of the Humminbird ICE flashers is that they transmit a pair of frequencies that are unique in the ice fishing world: a wide, 240 kHz beam and a narrow, 455 kHz beam. This means that an angler using a Humminbird ICE flasher simply can’t interfere with an angler using the ICE HELIX 5 GPS combo because the two sonar units are transmitting completely different sonar frequencies. Moreover, I can add a third angler with a flasher into the mix, and as long as one flasher is transmitting at 240 kHz and the other is transmitting at 455 kHz, all three anglers can catch fish all day and never interfere with each other.”

Imagine, three guys in one Frabill hub shelter, each with their own sonar unit, and absolutely zero interference. Not a single blip. It’s not fantasy, but rather the science of modern ice fishing.”

The Spies

Underwater camera

Underwater camera

As valuable and irreplaceable as sonar is to contemporary ice fishing, visual information from underwater camera systems can help elevate the stream of insights delivered to the ice anglers to an entirely different level. Dr. Halfen refers to his Aqua-Vu underwater camera systems as his “spies”, covertly delivering tactical real-time visual intel.

“We use Aqua-Vu camera systems exclusively, in part because of their convenience and ease of use, but also because they offer us distinct advantages for finding and catching fish. First of all, systems like my Micro 5 fit completely within the front pocket of my Frabill I4 bibs. Their internal Lithium battery packs outlast even my longest days on the ice. And Micros weigh next to nothing, especially when compared to other camera systems on the market that seem to come with their own zip codes.

“When it comes to finding and catching fish, my Aqua-Vu camera allows me to conclusively identify bottom substrate, like telling the difference between sand and mud, which is a significant advantage when we are chasing perch that forage on mudflats. My underwater camera is also the primary tool that I use to distinguish between healthy green weeds, and their lifeless, brown counterparts.

Big crappie caught ice fishing

Big crappie caught ice fishing

Photo by Bill Lindner

“One thing I really like to do, especially when tip-up fishing for walleyes, is to deploy an Aqua-Vu Micro 5 PLUS a few feet away from my bait, so I can visually monitor it during the day and into the evening. The first time I did that, I was SHOCKED at the number of fish that inspected my baits but refused to bite. My underwater camera alerted me to the fact that fish were present and active, but perhaps not responding well to the sucker minnows I was using for bait. This was my cue to switch over to shiners, and that little change was all that was needed to start putting white tips on the ice.”

The Science of Modern Ice Fishing

Ice fishing has evolved well beyond its early days of chisels to cut holes and lead weights to estimate depths. The technology explosion that has revolutionized open-water fishing now stands on the threshold of frozen lakes, fishing’s final frontier. These tech tips from Dr. Jason Halfen will help you tap into that torrent of electronic fish-finding information, so that your ice fishing adventures this winter are met with a bounty of hard water success. Learn more about the ways that modern technology can improve your fishing by visiting The Technological Angler online.