Category Archives: Ice Fishing

Fishing when the water is hard on top

What Is FISHING THE LATE ICE and Why Should I Know About It


from The Fishing Wire

Fishing The Late Ice

The days are getting longer and warmer. Longer days and warmer temps at this time of year mean that some really good ice fishing is not far away. Here are some ideas for finishing the ice fishing season successfully.

Even through the ice and snow, fish seem to be able to sense a change in the seasons. Mother Nature tells the fish that it’s time to start thinking about spawning, so, under the cover of ice, they start to head in the direction of where they will spawn. They don’t just take off and go there, they take their time and leisurely head for their spawning areas. As they travel, they eat a little more than they have been. Walleyes, northern pike, perch, crappies, bluegills, pretty much all fish that live in the Midwest will be getting hungrier and easier to catch right now. You don’t want to completely abandon the offshore structures and deep weedlines that you’ve been fishing the past few weeks, but you need to remember that the fish will soon start to leave those spots. When the action starts to slow on those locations, you need to start moving to keep up with the fish. Pay attention to your sonar. If you’re seeing fewer fish marks than you have on recent trips, it’s time to think about heading to the areas that the fish are headed to.

There will still be an early-in-the-day and a late-in-the-day bite, but on a lot of bodies of water, the bite has the potential to be pretty good all day. Not on all lakes, but some lakes.

This time of year you need to keep moving until you find the fish. Try different depths, and different structures, just keep moving until you find fish activity. When you find them, sit on them until they move, then you move too. That’s the key to ice-fishing year-round, but perhaps more under late ice. Keep in mind that the fish are headed toward the areas where they’ll be spawning in a few weeks. You should be headed to those areas as well.

Remember that the fish have seen lots of baits by now. If you’ve got something on the end of your line that’s been working, keep using it until the fish tell you they want something else. Then go to a different color or a different size or impart a different action on the lure. If you’ve got a bait that hasn’t worked all year, give it a try. Maybe the fish will decide that it looks rather good to them now. There’s a new bait called a Jointed Pinhead Pro that the fish haven’t seen much of and should be very productive under this year’s late ice. Use the smallest size for bluegills, larger for perch and crappies, and even larger for walleyes.

The late-season ice fishing can be outstanding, but like most things, don’t try to get too much of a good thing. If you’re not sure about the ice being safe, don’t go out. If no one else is out there, you shouldn’t be either. Keep an eye on current conditions. If it starts to get warm during the day, you should head for shore. Venturing onto the ice when it’s not safe can be very exciting in a way that you don’t want to be excited. Be safe, move until you find the fish, and experiment with lures and how you present those lures, and the last few weeks of ice fishing could be memorable and exciting for you in a very good way.

– Bob Jensen of


from The Fishing Wire

Tips to Decrease Impacts to Fish When Catch-and-Release Ice Fishing

SALT LAKE CITY — Winter weather has descended on Utah, and if you are planning to go ice fishing this winter and want to release the fish you catch, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is offering some tips to help decrease stress and increase survival for the fish.

Minimize the air exposure time for the fish

Just like hot temperatures and warm water can have impacts on certain fish species, freezing weather can also be tough on fish.

Anglers have to remember that even though they are ice fishing, the fish they are catching are living in water that is not frozen — which means that the water temperature that the fish are experiencing is often warmer than the temperatures they are exposed to coming out of the water.

“If an angler is fishing on a particularly cold day, pulling a fish up through a hole and exposing them to freezing conditions can be stressful to a fish,” DWR Sportfish Coordinator Randy Oplinger said. “The water that remains on sensitive areas — such as the gills or eyes — can begin to freeze and this can cause damage to a fish. So, it is best to minimize exposure time and to release the fish as quickly as possible after catching it.”

One way to eliminate the air exposure time is to make sure you have quick access to all the tools you will need to easily and quickly release the fish.

“A unique aspect of ice fishing is that anglers tend to dress in layers to keep warm, which is definitely recommended,” Oplinger said. “However, they often bury key equipment, such as pliers and cameras, under those layers. Another key aspect of ice fishing is that anglers often fish with two holes that are somewhat separated from each other. This makes it easy to forget key equipment for releasing the fish when you head to another hole in response to a strike. What you don’t want to do is increase air exposure time for the fish because you are scrambling to find equipment. Anglers should carry the equipment that they need to release their fish in an easily accessible location.”

One idea for doing that is to keep your pliers on a lanyard around your neck to make them easy to find and access. Another idea is to keep all your equipment in a bucket or sled so that it’s easy to find and doesn’t get buried in the snow on top of the ice.

Eliminate contact with dry surfaces

Wearing gloves while ice fishing is typically recommended to protect an angler’s hands from freezing conditions. Those gloves, however, are often made of absorptive fabric. Fish have a protective slime coat on their skin, and wearing gloves while handling the fish can remove the slime coat.

“That can leave fish more susceptible to various skin issues, such as fungal diseases,” Oplinger said. “I know that it is tough to take gloves off while ice fishing because it’s cold, but handling fish with your bare hands is best. Once the fish have been safely released, then you can put your gloves back on.”

Safety tips for anglers

While it is important to decrease stress on the fish while ice fishing, it is also very important to keep yourself safe as well. It’s important to dress in layers and have all the needed equipment to stay warm.

A general safety recommendation is to not step on the ice unless it is at least 4 inches thick. Keep in mind, though, that ice thickness can vary across a lake. If you see the ice is 4 inches thick in one spot, don’t assume it’s 4 inches thick across the entire lake. Be sure to drill test holes into the ice as you venture onto it. You should also avoid putting large groups of people and equipment in a small area — spread the weight out.

“As an extra precaution, you can also purchase ice safety picks, which can help you get out of a lake if you fall through the ice,” Oplinger said. “I’d also recommend taking a rope with you. It’s always a good idea to have someone else with you when ice fishing.”

Find more ice safety tips on the Utah State Parks website.

You can find more information about where to go ice fishing in Utah on the DWR Fish Utah map. Also, be sure to rate the waterbodies that you fish this winter on the website. The ratings allow DWR fisheries managers to gauge angler satisfaction at a specific waterbody. That information helps the DWR improve fishing across the state.


from The Fishing Wire

Veteran Guide Shares Ice Crappie Intel

BEMIDJI, Minn. – We’re making ice across the upper Ice Belt, and with colder temperatures in the forecast, ice fishing conditions should improve considerably in coming days.

While lots of anglers are pursuing early-ice walleyes at destinations like Minnesota’s Red Lake and to the north, lots of smaller lakes have locked up, too, providing easy access for some great crappie action.

We talked with Northland pro and veteran guide, Tom Neustrom—a master crappie angler on all fronts—and he shared his insights for more and bigger early-ice crappies. Take it from us, Tom’s got the 411 and is worth listening to.

Tom Talks Crappies

“Early crappies, honestly, are probably not as far in the basin as a lot of anglers think,” shares Neustrom. “They have a tendency, but it depends on the body of water, to roam around a little bit more during early-ice. They haven’t set up yet. But when you get into late-December and January, they’re on wintering spots in the basins and are not going to move much.”

Instead, Neustrom says during early-ice, crappies tend to establish by the first break in correlation with deeper water. The key is soft bottom. And sometimes, they’re in the deep weeds, and hang out as long as the weeds are still a little green, because there are all kinds of bugs and forage available.

“Get into mid- to late-December, and crappies start moving to the basins. The key is to find those basin-areas with a soft bottom. That’s where the critters are emerging out of the mud. Bloodworms (midge larvae) are critical; crappies chow down on them during early- to mid-ice. They’ll stay in close contact with that food source,” shares Neustrom.

Neustrom says that a lot of early-ice crappie anglers make the mistake of starting too deep during early-ice, concentrating their efforts in 25- to 40-feet—but quite often the crappies aren’t set up there yet.

“In Minnesota, I’m starting to work the basins in late-December and early-January. Before that, I’m working the first break and available green weeds just inside the basins,” shares Neustrom.

Basin crappies will tend to hold to the bottom, especially in the morning; then, as the day progresses, they’ll move up in the water column.

“If you look at your electronics in the morning—I use a Humminbird Helix 7 Ice Bundle—crappies will show up like a blanket or lumps laying on the bottom. They don’t really appear as suspended fish until it gets a little lighter outside. Critters start emerging out of the soft bottom and the crappies follow them up in the water column,” notes Neustrom.

Neustrom adds that LakeMaster mapping is critical to finding—and catching—hardwater crappies. “The new VX Premium LakeMaster card adds aerial mapping imagery, improved depth contour shading to find those spots-on-the-spot, bottom hardness, and SmartStrike, which is like having your own digital fishing guide.”

Winning Presentations

Neustrom says a 1/28-ounce Northland Tungsten Gill Getter has long been a winning bait of choice for early- to mid-winter crappies.

“I use glow patterns. If there’s water stain, I lean on orange and chartreuse patterns; if the water’s clear, I like white glow with a little chartreuse,” says Neustrom.

He adds that a bait that’s forgotten about is the Northland Forage Minnow Fry jig.

“I fish both the 3/32- and 1/16-ounce, depending on depth. It rocks sideways and drops quick and cuts the slush if you’re fishing outside. It has a thinner body and an excellent hook. I’ll put three or four waxies or Eurolarvae on it, and if I can’t catch ‘em that way, I’ll fish a really small crappie minnow on it. I hook the minnow through the tail—that’s key.”

Neustrom’s also a fan of spoon-style baits for early- to mid-ice crappies like the 1/16th-ounce Northland Forage Minnow in Super Glo finishes.

Neustrom adds: “The 1/8-ounce version is also a great walleye bait on deadsticks, rattle reels, and even jigging when the fish don’t want a rattle spoon. I’ve caught an awful lot of big crappies on this bait. Funny thing is, when they’re really going, I don’t put anything on it—no bait, no nothing. When they’re really fired up you can catch ‘em meatless.”

“The Northland Impulse Rigged Bloodworm has also been a great crappie bait—and always in purple. It’s a confidence bait. It’s also available in a tungsten version for faster drops, but I typically use the standard, lead version. I also like the Rigged Tungsten Mini-Smelt, and always in pink and gold.”

Lastly, when the crappies are really going, Neustrom will hole-hop a series of 10- to 15 different spots with a 1/8-ounce Northland Puppet Minnow for getting to active fish fast.

Rods, Reels, and Line

I terms of line, Neustrom uses 4-pound Sufix Elite mono on a spinning reel or in-line style reel.

“I like Daiwa 750-size spinning reels, which I helped design for ice, a nice medium between 500 and 1000 size reels. All of the models, QZ 750QG 750 and QC 750, are great and have a little larger spool than most ice reels,” remarks Neustrom.

When it comes to in-line reels, Neustrom likes trigger-style models for one-handed operation and quick, vertical fishing. In shallow waters, he will turn to fly-reel-style in-line reels that often require the angler to manually strip out the line.

When it comes to rods, Neustrom fishes the St. Croix Custom Ice (CCI) 32” Perch Seeker, a great medium-light power, extra-fast action rod with a soft tip. He’s also using the economical St. Croix Tundra SCT30LF, a great option for fishing smaller jigs.

“I don’t use spring bobbers for crappies, although I’ll use them occasionally for finesse-bite bluegills. Crappies are a little more aggressive than ‘gills. The bluegill bite is kind of a ‘twitch’; a crappie bite is more of a ‘thunk’,” observes Neustrom.

Typically, crappies feed upwards at a 45-degree angle, flare out their gill plates, and suck in water to inhale the bait. So, you’ve gotta watch the tip of your rod because all of a sudden, the bend will disappear and your line will go slack. Then it’s time to quickly reel up a little bit and lightly sweep the hook into place.

“For my second rod, I run a plain-Jane deadstick, typically a glow hook or a 1/16-ounce Forage Minnow Jig, split-shot, and a crappie minnow. I’m old school; I just set the rod on a 5-gallon bucket top. I also like the St. Croix Custom Ice (CCI) 32” Perch Seeker for my deadsticking,” shares Neustrom.

Bait Choices

“A good crappie angler fishes everything—waxies, Eurolarvae, crappie minnows, and soft plastics. You’ve gotta have some maggots in a little container for insurance. Crappies sometimes want that scent over soft-plastics. To go out with one thing is a huge mistake,” concludes Neustrom.

ABOUT Northland® Fishing Tackle

In 1975, a young Northwoods fishing guide named John Peterson started pouring jigs and tying tackle for his clients in a small remote cabin in northern Minnesota. The lures were innovative, made with high quality components, and most importantly, were catching fish when no other baits were working! Word spread like wildfire, the phone started ringing… and the Northland Fishing Tackle® brand was in hot demand! For 40 years now, John and the Northland® team have been designing, testing and perfecting an exclusive line of products that catch fish like no other brand on the market today. Manufactured in the heart of Minnesota’s finest fishing waters, Northland® is one of the country’s leading producers of premium quality jigs, live bait rigs, spinnerbaits and spoons for crappies, bluegills, perch, walleyes, bass, trout, northern pike and muskies.

Use Early Ice Know-How To Catch North Dakota Perch and Walleye

from The Fishing Wire

Catch early ice fish while ice fishing

BEMIDJI, Minn. – North Dakota-based Northland Fishing Tackle pro staffer Chad Malloy is a big fan of numerous lakes in North Dakota, Jamestown Reservoir being one of his favorites, especially during early- to mid-ice. “They have excellent crappies, big perch, and lots of walleyes. It’s a reservoir system and there’s current that runs down the middle, so we’re careful when we go, always checking ice conditions. We also use GPS mapping on our phones and Humminbird units to make sure we’re off the main channel,” notes Malloy.

“We have one spot close to the access that we can walk to and it’s basically a point that comes out with a back eddy and a hole. The fish gather up there; I’m assuming the bait washes up. Last season we got there and tied on Bro Bug Spoons and it was lights out. My buddy Dave has the new Mega Live from Humminbird, which is unreal for watching the pods of fish come in. We used 1/16- and 1/8-ounce Bro Bug Spoons on a light panfish rod with a fluorocarbon leader,” remarks Malloy.

Malloy continues: “I’m a big proponent of the Bro Bug Spoon—it’s tapered and has bulging insect eyes as well as a split-ring that attaches a wide-gap treble hook that dangles the bait and promotes solid hookups. I fished the Sneeze color, which is mostly chartreuse with a little bit of orange on one side and green dot with black in the center. It looks like an insect that fish are feeding on, and resembles a small minnow, too.”

“The fish were skittish because of the thin ice. With Mega Live you can see fish move off when someone is walking around. We would then hunker down and the fish would come back. So, with early ice it’s important to be quiet and not move around a lot. And I think that having a lure that’s quiet is sometimes better—and sometimes the opposite is true—but on this day, we whacked them on the Bro Bug Spoon. All we needed was a fathead minnow head on the bait and would tease them up a little bit from the bottom and they’d just rip it. We caught a healthy mixture of walleyes and jumbo perch this way,” adds Malloy.

Later in the day the fish got more aggressive, so Malloy and partner Dave tied on the smallest size Northland Rippin’ Shad. A solid presentation was ripping the bait two or three times to get the rattle engaged, followed by lifting the bait above the fish. When that bite quit, the duo downsized to the smallest Bro Bug Spoon, added a few maggots, and were able to catch more perch.

Malloy also fishes Devils Lake every chance he gets. “On Devils the rattle spoons really shine. The Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon is by far the number one bait in the area. Tip it with a minnow head when you’re searching for walleyes and use the larger ones—at least a ¼-ounce. Perch will eat them, too. Another one of my favorite lures is the Buck-Shot Coffin Spoon. It marries the Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon with the Macho Minnow Spoon by having a brass rattle on a coffin-shaped body, so you have the rattle and the kicker tailfin. You’ve got a flipping and flashing action, the rattle, and the cut and taper of the spoon makes it dart to the side on the drop. To me, it’s the trifecta of actions in one spoon. It’s worked very, very well and I can see it becoming a top producer for walleyes and perch on Devils Lake—and just about any other body of water.”

On Devils Lake, sometimes the walleyes are aggressive, sometimes less aggressive, but for the most part, it’s an active bite. When they’re active, Malloy recommends Rippin’ Shad in all three sizes depending on the size of the fish that have come in.

“I’ve been using lipless crankbaits for walleyes for the past ten years or so. It all started on a trip to Lake Winnipeg. The technique, which was pretty much pioneered on Lake Winnipeg, has carried all over the country, too. Depending on how excited and aggressive the fish are helps you decide what size bait to use. You can catch a trophy-sized walleye on the smallest Rippin’ Shad as well as small ones on the big sizes. Fish are eating various bait and the size of the bait is bigger than you might imagine. I don’t think you can use too big of the lure when the walleyes are aggressive. But fishing a smaller size when they’re neutral will elicit more bites. There are times when smaller lures do produce more fish. It’s all trying to feel what the attitude of the walleyes are,” notes Malloy.

He continues: “Same thing for perch. On an outing to Devils Lake last winter, I was fishing a larger spoon. I could get them to chase it off the bottom, but I couldn’t get them to swallow it. So, I switched things up to a small tungsten Mud Bug. They are perfect for loading with waxies or maggots. The Mud Bug is a smaller, more dense target and those perch are able to suck in the bait easier. When they’re a bit more neutral, it’s easier to get them to hit a tungsten jig than a spoon.”

A tip Malloy is happy to share involves matching-the-hatch. “Our best catches come when we can find a small piece of structure by itself. We have one area where there is a sunken road and a culvert surrounded by old brush. Those brushy trees hold the freshwater shrimp (scuds), a main food source in the lake. Last year we had some excellent luck using the Northland Glo-Shot Fire Belly Spoons. The spoons have a hollow center that you can place a mini glow stick into, and one of my favorite colors for any Dakota lake is UV Pink Tiger. My theory is that pink color gives the illusion of the shrimp.”

ABOUT Northland® Fishing Tackle
In 1975, a young Northwoods fishing guide named John Peterson started pouring jigs and tying tackle for his clients in a small remote cabin in northern Minnesota. The lures were innovative, made with high quality components, and most importantly, were catching fish when no other baits were working! Word spread like wildfire, the phone started ringing… and the Northland Fishing Tackle® brand was in hot demand! For 40 years now, John and the Northland® team have been designing, testing and perfecting an exclusive line of products that catch fish like no other brand on the market today. Manufactured in the heart of Minnesota’s finest fishing waters, Northland® is one of the country’s leading producers of premium quality jigs, live bait rigs, spinnerbaits and spoons for crappies, bluegills, perch, walleyes, bass, trout, northern pike and muskies.

Late Ice Season Can Produce Some Unexpected Catches


from The Fishing Wire

Unexpected Catches on Late Ice

The ice fishing season is winding down. In some parts of ice fishing territory, the season has closed for a couple species of fish. However, there are still lots of fish to chase in the remaining weeks of ice fishing. Perch, crappies, and other panfish are fair game in most places, and so are some species of fish of which we might not think. Some of those types of fish that aren’t frequently targeted can provide lots of excitement in the next few weeks. They can also provide some outstanding table fare. Following are ideas for getting in on that action.

On an ice fishing trip with some friends in the late 70’s I was introduced to a fish that has become a much more popular fish for a good number of ice anglers. We were on Mille Lacs Lake in central Minnesota. Walleye season was still open, so we were after walleyes. This was before sonar use had been popularized for ice fishing. Finding fish was kind of a hit and miss thing. One of the anglers in our group took us to a spot on the west side of the lake where he caught walleyes in the summer. We drilled holes in the ice and started fishing. Walleye action was steady. I caught a couple and had become somewhat proficient in grabbing them behind the head as they came through the hole. Action slowed a bit, then I hooked another. When the fish’s head got into the hole, I casually grabbed it as I had the others. I lifted it from the hole. The fish felt slipperier than the previous walleyes, and when it wrapped itself around my arm, I knew that something was different. I wouldn’t say that I went into a full-blown panic, but I was certainly more excitable than I had been with the walleyes.

My friends told me that the fish that I had caught was an eelpout. I had never heard of an eelpout and had never seen in real-life a fish that looked like an eelpout. They told me that eelpout were not the most desirable fish in the lake. Nonetheless, it was a fun fight. In recent years, eelpout, also known as burbot, lingcod, and a variety of other names, have become very desirable to many anglers. They fight well, can be willing biters, and are outstanding on the table. Ice fishing expert John Crane uses Leech Flutter Spoons and Pinhead Mino spoons tipped with one minnow sometimes and loaded with several smaller minnows other times. He and many other pout chasers like their spoons to be in glow colors. If you’ve never fished for eelpout through the ice, find a way to give it a shot.

Another fish that’s gained popularity in ice fishing are whitefish. Again, I was introduced to whitefish accidentally. It was early March, and we were fishing for perch. We were spread out east to west across a not-so-well-known perch spot that an angler in our group had come across. Action was okay. We were getting ready to go exploring for another area when the eastern-most angler hooked a fish that felt larger than the perch that we had been catching. It was a whitefish. A minute later, an angler fishing twenty yards west hooked up. Another whitefish. They were going through the area, from east to west. Pretty soon everyone was catching. Then, action slowed for the angler on the east while those on the west continued to catch. Then the action stopped. The school had moved through. Had we known then what we know now, we would have moved around to relocate the school. Flashy spoons are good when the fish are active, Drop Jigs tipped with plastic or live bait will produce when the whitefish aren’t as active. Whitefish are also outstanding on the table.

On late ice, in addition to eelpout and whitefish, I or friends that I’m fishing with have caught lots of largemouth and smallmouth bass and some channel catfish through the ice. Even though some species of fish are off-limits now, there are still plenty of fish willing to bend an ice rod. The days are getting longer, the weather warmer, and the bite can be good. Make sure that the ice is safe, and if it is, get on it and see what you can catch.

– By Bob Jensen of

Get These Five Baits for Ice Fishing To Catch Fish Through the Ice This Season



The Top Five Ice Fishing Baits You Need This Season

OCEAN SPRINGS, Mississippi – With this year’s ice fishing season approaching, here are the top five ice fishing lures you should add to your arsenal. American Baitworks brands’ Freedom Tackle and STH Bait Co. have you covered with some of the best ice fishing lures available.

Freedom Tackle Minnow Jigging Spoon

The Freedom Minnow jigging spoon delivers a combination of flash, one-of-a-kind action, and bait-fish appeal that all species find irresistible.

Highly reactive, the Freedom Minnow can be worked with several retrieves to draw strikes, including a quick, attention-grabbing jerk and a slow stop-and-go. On the drop, the Freedom Minnow Spoon delivers a slow-falling flutter and an abundance of bite-inducing flash.

On the top and bottom of the center wire shaft, the Freedom Minnow Spoon is fitted with a metal bead and a glass bead that bang against the body to create a unique underwater sound. Armed with chemically sharpened hooks, the Freedom Minnow Spoon delivers a highly individualized presentation that will catch a wide range of species.

Freedom Tackle Turnback Shad – Vertical Jigging

The Freedom Tackle Turnback Shad is the perfect vertical jig for open water or through the ice. The lure features a full metal body that swings freely on the metal line tie shaft.

With a jerk of the rod, the lure will dart off in random directions, turn around and swim back the other way, covering more water and imparting a more life-like action. The Glass beads on the metal shaft offer a visual and audio attraction to compliment the beautifully sculpted metal body.

Available in 4 sizes (3/32oz, 3/16oz, 5/8oz, 1oz) and 8 colors, including natural, glow, and UV colors for any situation.

Freedom Tackle Blade Bait

The most versatile Blade Bait on the market, the Freedom Blade Bait is a three in one tool to get the job done through the ice. The lure features multiple ways to rig the hooks to match your desired presentation.

The Blade Bait delivers maximum vibration and flash that draws in fish. Designed with a unique feature, the ability to rig the double hook on the top of the lure head and lock it into place on the custom design hook notch.

STH Bait Co. Drifter

A legend for targeting walleye and whitefish through the ice, the Drifter is one of the best baits available for catching these sometimes-tight-lipped species.

A classic, handcrafted, and hand-poured bait with year-round application, the Drifter is 2.75”/69 mm in length. Super soft with 3D eyes gives the Drifter a life-like appearance, giving fish the visual cues and makes them think it’s real prey. Try rigging this bait as a drop shot or on a jig head to maximize its action and fish catching ability.

STH Bait Co. Dart Minnow

Uniquely designed to target panfish, walleye, and whitefish, the Dart Minnow delivers a lot of fish catching power in its relatively small size at 2.3”. Designed to be used on a jig head or as a drop shot, the Dart Minnow is a consistent performer and a must-have in your ice fishing arsenal.

American Baitworks Keeps You Fishing in Every Season of the Year

Undoubtedly, American Baitworks’ ice fishing lures will keep you pulling fish throughout the ice season. Carrying mix of vertical jigs, multiuse hard baits, and finesse soft plastics from Freedom Tackle and STH Bait Co. will give you more variety to throw at your target species this winter.

For more information about and to check out our full line of ice fishing products, please visit

Are There Methods and Tactics To Find Mid-Season Success While Ice Fishing?


How To Find Consistent Mid-Season Ice Fishing Success

In many areas across ice fishing country, the ice fishing action got off to a bit of a late start this time around. Warmer than usual weather prevented safe ice from forming, and then when it did form, more warm weather sent things backwards. Now though, the action is underway. Lots of anglers are on the ice and success has been anywhere from good to exceptionally good. For that particularly good action to continue, there are some things that we can do. Following are some of those things.

I usually like the later rounds of the ice season better than the first few. We can get around on the ice better, and that’s a big deal. This time of year, it’s not unusual to drill dozens of holes in the ice in our attempts to find fish. The ice is thicker and there’s more snow on it, so the fish aren’t as easily spooked. And, although additional traffic on the ice can spook fish this time of year, the extra traffic won’t be as noticeable as it was earlier in the season.

The weather is usually warmer as mid-winter turns into late- winter, and that makes us more likely to get out and move around. I like to put my equipment in a flip-over and cover the ice, drilling holes as I move. Even with all my gear, it’s possible to be comfortable yet efficient. It’s not unusual to be covering territory and realize that you’re farther from your starting point than you might have imagined. When that happens, fish the holes that have been drilled on your way back to your starting point. You can often catch a bunch of fish by re-visiting holes that you’ve already fished.

Sonar is such an important part of successful ice-fishing. This time of year, it usually doesn’t pay to sit on a hole for more than 5 minutes if there are no fish below. The FLX-28 that sees the most use from me does all I need it to do to help me see and catch more fish. If I don’t see fish, I don’t hang around. But if I do see something that looks interesting but doesn’t want to eat what I’m showing them, I show them something different.

The biggest challenge to catching fish through the ice at this time of year is fishing pressure and conditioning. The fish have seen a lot of baits so they’re more selective. Additionally, many fish have been caught and taken home, so there’s fewer of them down there. Now is the time to abandon community spots and go out searching for other locations that aren’t as popular or well-known. There might not be as many fish on these spots, but the fish that are there often won’t be as finicky. Find different fish and show them different presentations and you’re chances for success will improve.

Downsizing and going to a slower presentation can be a good idea later in the season, especially when the fish are more choosy than usual. Some of the most successful ice anglers are using what is referred to as a 1-2 punch. They attract the fish with a bait that gets the fishes attention, something like a Tikka Mino. This style of bait has a good amount of action. The fish come in and look and will often eat it. But sometimes they just look. When this happens, drop a smaller jig to them. A Drop Jig tipped with live bait or plastic works well especially for panfish. Impart little action to the jig. Once you get the fish’s attention with the larger more aggressive bait, they have a tough time saying “No” to the smaller bait with less action.

The weather is warming or will be soon. The days will get longer, and the fish will get hungrier. If you get out on the ice in the next few weeks, the odds that you’ll catch a few are good, and that should be enough of a reason to go ice-fishing while the ice is still safe.

– By Bob Jensen of


Mike Frisch

from The Fishing Wire

Deep-Water Crappies Can Provide Mid-Winter Action

Mid-winter can be one of the best times to locate and “stay on” on crappies. Though the fish are often in predictable areas during this time, getting them to bite can be a bit challenging. Here are some thoughts on where to first, find mid-winter crappies and second, on ways to tempt them into biting.

Mid- winter crappies are often found roaming deep basins searching for food. Basin areas in some of the shallow lakes I fish might be in the 15- to 25- foot depth ranges. On other lakes with deeper waters, the basins that hold fish will often be deeper too.

While crappies often roam a particular basin, a good basin one year will often be a good basin the next year too. For that reason, anglers can often return to productive areas they found in previous winters or, on previous trips, and drill holes in the same vicinity to pinpoint schools.

Moving about a basin and quickly drilling holes to find those schools is key and this is where having a sharp, reliable ice auger helps. The K-Drill auger I use works great for searching as it’s super lightweight and is powered by a cordless electric drill, so with a charged battery, it’s a reliable starter.

Another important part of a successful basin crappie search is the use of a quality flasher sonar unit. Sonar allows anglers to “see” any crappies roaming a basin and, since crappies often suspend, is helpful in effectively presenting a bait in the water column at the level the fish are found.

I use the FLX-20 flasher because it does an excellent job of helping me locate fish and has ¼-inch separation allowing me to easily distinguish individual fish and my bait when the fishing starts. This is important as crappies often appear several at a time and “separating” them as they appear on sonar helps catch them!

Finding roaming crappies is obviously important. The challenge then becomes getting them to bite. Sometimes the fish are aggressive and can be caught on small jigging spoons tipped with minnow heads or waxworms and worked aggressively. A 1/16-ounce Jointed Pinhead Mino spoon is my favorite as it comes in all the right colors and its jointed design, and the action the design provides, often makes it appealing to crappies.

Spoons are favorites as they appeal to bigger fish and the aggressive ones. At times, however, crappies require more finesse. This is when small tungsten jigs get the nod. In fact, a small tungsten Drop-Kick jig tipped with either waxworms or a small panfish plastic has put lots of crappies on the ice when the fish refused other lures. Pink, red, and white jig and plastic color combinations have worked well for me when finicky crappies are encountered.

I usually start a fishing day jigging a spoon and go to the tungsten jig if the fish won’t cooperate. These jigging methods are, however, only one part of my 1-2 winter crappie set up. The other involves a simple crappie minnow fished on a plain hook beneath a bobber with some split shot weights added to the line about a foot or so above the hook.

This “do nothing” approach is often effective when fish are attracted to a jigging bait but refuse to eat it. Often, these fish simply slide over to, and inhale, the minnow!

If getting fish to inhale your baits this winter is a goal, consider targeting crappies. By heading to the basin of your favorite panfish lake and employing the tips suggested you can probably find and catch some mid-winter slabs right now. As always, good luck on the ice and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure!

Mike Frisch is co-host of Fishing of the Midwest TV and a multi-species Minnesota fishing guide, view the website: to see more from Fishing the Midwest.

What Are Some Good Innovative Ice Fishing Lures?

Of Innovation and Ice Fishing Originals

FISKAS Wolfram Jigs & Little-Atom; All-Time Money Winners on Ice

from The Fishing Wire

Saline, MI – Right place. Right time. Great lure. For Jamie and Carmin Olson of Your Bobbers Down, Inc., the old fishing adage parallels not just the successful company’s back-story, but also serves as a sort of remarkable self-fulfilling prophecy. Sixteen years after the company’s inception, the Olson’s brands remain benchmarks in the ice fishing industry.

In 2001, Jamie Olson was on a mission to find the best spring bobber for his ice fishing when he came across FISKAS, a Swedish manufacturer of top hardwater products. Unable to sell across oceans at the time, FISKAS opted to ship Olson a sample of every product they made—primarily FISKAS Wolfram (tungsten) ice jigs — hopeful for a U.S. distribution deal.

“It was a small box of jigs,” Olson recalled. “There were just four sizes and thirty color patterns back then, plus a pile of FISKAS Balances (swimming / jigging lures), but the package weighed well over 20-pounds.

“At the time, no one in North America had any idea what a tungsten jig was, let alone how heavy they were compared to lead or how effectively they fished. But when I placed a single tiny FISKAS Wolfram Jig in my palm, and felt its impressive heft, I knew we were on to something big.”

That very November, Olson and his wife Carmin launched, a family-run online store offering cutting-edge, hard-to-find ice fishing products. “My favorite fishing partner is my wife’s father, George Pullin. He’d call me up at work all the time when he wanted to go fishing. I’d pick up the phone and hear George’s exuberant voice: ‘Hey, your bobber’s down!’ he’d always say. Later, when we started our business, the phrase became a natural for our company name.”

Success followed, with product placement at numerous local retailers, and Cabela’s stores in 2003. “Our good friends Jeff Morse and his father Phil understood the power of FISKAS Wolfram Jigs right away. Jeff worked at the local Cabela’s store and introduced us to Cabela’s corporate folks. In 2004, the Morses also won $20,000 and the first NAIFC Championship, pairing FISKAS Wolfram Jigs with Little-Atom Nuggies.”

Soon, the profitable lure pairing led to a relationship between and Little-Atom, a classic ice fishing company who created early microplastic baits, such as the Wedgee, Noodle and Nuggie. “While most folks consider Little-Atom the pioneer in ice plastics,” noted Olson, “few know that they also crafted some of the original ice jigs. The Rembrandt, Rat Finkie, Purist and Shmoe are all classic lure designs created in the 50s and 60s by Little-Atom, imitated by many other companies over the years.”

Following a handshake in 2005, became the sole online sales point and a distributor of Little-Atom lures and plastics. “Before this, I was traveling to the big ice tournaments, selling FISKAS Wolfram Jigs and Little-Atom lures out of my van. I remember having lines of anglers wrapped around parking lots, people who’d heard about the success of our stuff and couldn’t find it anywhere else. At times, folks wondered if we were selling fishing tackle, or something else less legit,” Olson laughs.

“When we first showed tackle buyers at Cabela’s, Scheels, Bass Pro Shops and other stores our products, they told us they’d never seen anything like it before. We were the first company to bring tungsten ice jigs to the U.S. market. It took some time and education for the market to accept the higher cost of these premium products.

Today, all our FISKAS Wolfram Jigs are still made in the same factory, using premium tungsten molded bodies and the finest Japanese fly-tying hooks. Every lure is hand-soldered and painted by artists with tremendous attention to detail.”

All these years later, tungsten jigs have become big business, with numerous other companies jumping at the ‘heavy metal’ hype. “Anglers have a lot more choices now,” observes Olson, “but what we’ve found is that most of our customers remain loyal to FISKAS and Little-Atom because no other company can match our quality and our personal service.

Interestingly, more and more anglers are also discovering the advantages of heavy tungsten for their spring and summer fishing. They’re just so much more versatile and an awesome alternative to lead.”

Indeed, even with a surplus of new tungsten ice jig entries—including models from much larger companies—top anglers continue to choose FISKAS. At least six NAIFC Championships have been won by anglers using FISKAS / Little-Atom plastic combos to date, including titles in 2004, 2005, 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2015.

Interjects Tony Boshold, NAIFC and World Ice Fishing champ and longtime FISKAS-Little Atom aficionado. “When you add up all the championships and other tournament wins, FISKAS jigs and Little-Atom plastics are without question the money-winningest ice lures of all time. Even though a lot of imitators are out there now, word on the street about who’s got the best stuff has never strayed from the lures we’ve always used.”

Acknowledged as the finest one-stop-shop for premium, cutting-edge ice products, continues to bolster its product line with elite items. Beyond FISKAS and Little-Atom lures, Olson has added popular J&S Plastics, ASSO technical fishing line, Fiskas Balances, and bi-metal tungsten jigging spoons. Select complementary products such as Jonttu palm rods, C9 Scent Formula, Cold Snap Products, Ice-Strong Titanium Spring Bobbers and Bug Luggage jig boxes put the good stuff within the reach of all anglers.

Do Sonar and Ice Fishing Work Together To Help You Catch Fish?


Sonar And Ice Fishing

By Bob Jensen

from The Fishing Wire

Most people who go fishing on the ice will agree that sonar enables them to catch more fish. Sonar will reveal fish that are down there, and it will show how the fish respond to the bait that you’re using. When I first started ice fishing forty-plus years ago, the use of sonar wasn’t popular, mostly because there weren’t a lot of sonar units available for ice fishing. When I finally got an ice unit, and when I got familiar with it, and it didn’t take long to get familiar with it, I realized that I had been missing a key component for ice fishing success. Following are some actual on-the-ice lessons that convinced me that sonar needs to be part of an ice angler’s tool kit.

One day several years ago I shared an icehouse with fishing pioneer Gary Roach. We were on Lake of the Woods in northern Minnesota. The area that we were fishing had stained water, and our house was over about thirty feet of that stained water. Typically, walleyes prefer to hang near the bottom when the water is stained. We kept a close eye on our sonar units and caught some walleyes. It wasn’t fast, but it was okay. Every now and then, we would see a fish mark on the sonar about fifteen-feet down. Because walleyes usually hug the bottom in stained water, we ignored those marks, or at least I did. I assumed that the marks were a whitefish or something other than a walleye. Gary didn’t assume that. After seeing a couple of those high riding fish, Gary started pulling his spoon up to them. Gary likes to catch fish. Any fish. He figured that it was better to catch a whitefish than not catch a walleye. Come to find out, those marks were walleyes, and by pulling our baits up to them, we added significantly to our catch for the day. Without sonar, we would not have seen those fish, and without seeing them, we wouldn’t have caught them.

Some anglers like to tie a swivel into their line a foot or so above the bait. The swivel reduces line twist. On a sonar unit, you can see the swivel and the bait. At times, panfish will come up and nip at the swivel. We want them nipping at our bait, not the swivel. Again, I’ve seen this happen on the sonar. When we realize what’s happening, we can adjust. Maybe we need to go to another bait to get the fish’s attention, or maybe we just need to lift the bait we’re using up to the fish’s level. Again, without sonar, we wouldn’t realize what’s happening.

I’ve got a friend who spends a lot of time on the ice. He will admit that he spends too much time on the ice. However, he has become an expert at interpreting what the sonar is showing him. He genuinely believes, and I believe him, that by closely watching his sonar, he can see the waxworms, spikes, or whatever wiggling on his hook. When the wiggling slows down, it’s time to put on livelier bait.

He’s also convinced that he can see if his bait has fallen off the hook. Many times, I’ve heard him say that his bait fell off. When he reels it in, sure enough, the bait is gone.

I have another friend who started ice fishing just a couple of years ago. He was convinced that he didn’t need a sonar. Nonetheless, one day he asked to borrow mine. I had a Vexilar 12 that he took with him. This is a nice unit and does a decent job. It’s not the highest end sonar unit though. When my friend returned it at the end of the day, he wanted to know where he “could get one of those sonar things.” He quickly realized that sonar will indeed help an angler catch more fish through the ice.