|Grumpy or not, the classic shape of an ice fisherman is a
somewhat older guy, dressed in fairly warm clothing (that’s
not exactly new, either), standing there on the ice with no
thought of drilling another hole someplace else.
The only time this guy changes spots is when he sits down on
the bucket for a while.
Or, if he’s not outside, he’s in a shelter of some
kind that takes a road crew to move from one place to another.
Either way, you get a snapshot of ice fishing the way many people
think it still has to be.
There was a time when Huddle and Hope was your only choice,
when you were forced to fish differently through the ice than
over open water.
Then came Dave Genz, the man who transformed ice fishing forever,
who showed us that we didn’t have to settle for the old
way. More than 30 years ago he changed everything, including
the words we use to define ice fishing.
Genz talks about the Stone Age when referring to old school
ice fishing mentality. And he chose the word ‘mobility’
when describing the need to remain on the go until you find
and catch fish. Mobility has become one of the most commonly
used words for describing modern ice fishing, but the true and
full definition of what Genz means by mobility remains misunderstood.
As it pertains to ice fishing, mobility means that you do
everything it takes to find and catch fish. You move as often,
and as far, as necessary to follow a plan.
This does not mean you have to put pressure on yourself, or
that ice fishing has to become a cardiovascular endurance
contest. Fishing is supposed to be fun.
So, always go at a pace that’s comfortable for you.
But to make sure we all understand the various facets of mobility,
here is the story– from the man who coined the term.
“When we talk mobility,” Genz begins, “we
mean everything from choosing equipment that helps you move,
to packing light, deciding that you’re going to remain
mobile after you get out on the ice, and executing both big
moves and small moves.”
There’s even more to it, but here are the details, one
at a time.
It all starts with the right gear! No matter what your intentions,
you cannot remain mobile if you’re not set up to be
The first shot fired in the modern ice fishing revolution
was Genz’s invention of the Fish Trap, the original
instant setup shelter. To this day, the low profile, lightweight
Fish Traps (Scout, Pro, Guide) are the most mobile shelters
ever made. “If you walk out on the ice,” stresses
Genz, “these are what you need.” Slightly larger,
but extremely mobile for their size, are the Yukon and Voyager.
“And if you tow your fish house with an ATV or snowmobile,”
says Genz, “then the (Fish Trap) X2, X4 or Thermal X
will help you fish plenty of spots.”
No matter how instantly a shelter sets up, nothing allows
you to fish more ground than walking quickly through a series
of holes and kneeling or standing as you ‘check’
“If you fish during the daytime,” says Genz, “you
should stay on the move, even after you catch a nice fish.
Most fish don’t move much during the day, so you have
to move to find them.”
For years, Genz accepted the downside of fishing outside:
wet, sore knees from kneeling on the ice, and getting so cold
that even he wondered how much fun it was.
“But the clothing fixed all that,” he says. “Now
we have Ice Armor suits with padded knees and seat, that are
completely waterproof. They keep the wind out, and keep you
dry. That lets you keep fishing outside longer.”
On most winter days, nobody falls in love with kneeling on
the ice for hours, so the classic scenario for Genz and his
fellow Team True Blue pros is to hit the ice with a plan in
mind, drilling plenty of holes on the first spot and moving
quickly from hole to hole to see what’s up. Their Fish
Traps are a flip away from providing walls and heat whenever
they want them, which lets them keep fishing as they warm
up. On really cold, really windy days, the shelters are occupied
the entire time– except when they are being moved from
hole to hole.
“There’s almost no such thing as a day you can’t
fish anymore,” says Genz. “We have the right clothes,
and the right shelter, and we just keep fishing no matter
what. With Ice Armor, you can hole-hop, even when it’s
rude out there.”
‘Rude’ is another of Genz’s terms, a word
he uses to describe the weather on a day when some reasonable
people would find a reason to stay indoors. “If you
like to fish,” he continues, “just go, no matter
what the weather is. That’s what I do. I go pretty much
every day, all winter.”
Anchors are for Boats
Gearing up for mobility is a big deal. You have to choose
the right gear, but you should also avoid packing it so full
of additional gear that you turn it into an anchor.
“Bring everything you need, and nothing more,”
is another phrase Genz came up with many years ago, and it
rings true today. Need is the key word. Your vehicle, or base
camp (for Genz, often a Clam portable shelter) acts as warehouse.
If you run out of something, you run to base camp for supplies.
But don’t drag everything with you.
“If it’s easy to do, you’ll do it,”
says Genz, “but if it’s not, you won’t.”
He means: if it’s easy to move from spot to spot, you’ll
keep moving until you catch fish. If you have to lug every
piece of gear you own from hole to hole, you will move maybe
twice, and then sit there exhausted, whether you’re
catching anything or not.
So, mobility means to gear up for mobility, to have a plan
in mind, and to execute that plan.
“I hear it all the time, in the restaurant,” says
Genz, “about how they’re gonna drill all these
holes. But you get out there, and those same guys are sitting
in one place for hours.”
Plans have a way of going out the window out on the ice. That’s
why moving has to be something you plan for, and set up for.
Otherwise, you won’t do it.
Note: Dave Genz, known as Mr. Ice Fishing, was the primary
driver of the modern ice fishing revolution. He is now captain
of Clam’s Team True Blue, an elite pro staff dedicated
to helping people catch fish through the ice. For more, go
Next time: the details on why daytime demands mobility.