December is right around the corner and with it comes early ice fishing in the northern United States. Below are ten tips to maximize your time on the ice this winter.
- Prioritize Safety: Always prioritize safety during ice fishing. Inform someone about your location, carry a spud bar for testing ice thickness, protect your cell phone, and equip yourself with safety gear like a rope and ice axe.
- Utilize Fall Scouting: Use your fall fishing experiences as a form of scouting for early ice. Target areas with good weed beds and break lines near the shore, identified during the fall, for more productive ice fishing.
- Minimize Movements: Be stealthy on early ice, as fish might be shallow and cautious. Move quietly during peak hours, such as early morning and evening. Set up your holes before the fish arrive to avoid spooking them.
- Choose Bait Wisely: Bait size matters; bigger bait attracts bigger fish. Tailor your bait choice to the size of walleye you’re targeting. Small baits like tungsten jigs for panfish, mid-size spoons for eater size walleye, and larger profile baits for trophy walleye.
- Tip-Ups vs. Rod and Reel: While tip-ups cover more water, using a rod and reel combo with a dead-sticking method is effective. Dead-sticking allows you to see bites more easily and increases your chances of landing bigger fish.
- Keep Bait Alive: Maintain lively bait in arctic temperatures using insulated and aerated bait stations. Active bait attracts fish from a distance, enhancing your chances of a successful catch.
- Start Off Bank Fishing: Begin your ice fishing near shorelines with structures like weeds, rocks, and sand. Move to deeper water as the day progresses. A location with a nearby break close to the shore can be advantageous.
- Find the Weeds: Weeds provide oxygen and attract fish. Early ice weed opportunities are valuable, and an underwater camera can assist in scouting for weeds.
- Choose the Right Rod: Select the appropriate rod for the size of walleye you’re targeting. A soft tip and longer rod work well for dead-sticking, while a medium to heavy powered extra-fast action rod is ideal for larger baits and trophy walleye.
- Dress Warm: Dress appropriately for unpredictable winter temperatures. Pack extra layers, gloves, and a fishing towel. Investing in quality ice suits like those from Striker Ice can enhance comfort and warmth during your ice fishing experience.
Be sure to fish carefully on the ice this winter and use these tips to catch more walleye.