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Keep Ice Fishing Simple
By Colin Crawford

The problem with ice fishing, in many cases, is that people let themselves get bored, or cold, or discouraged.  That doesn't have to be the case.  It's a matter of being willing to change and try something new.
If I haven't had any action in 15 minutes, I move!  Drill a few more holes.  It'll keep you warm.  If you can't handle the labor, bring a young kid with you.  They love to fish and they have unlimited energy as long as they're enthusiastic about the trip.  Remember kids have short attention spans ( so do most adults) and if the fish aren't hitting or the weather is too cold or windy it's no fun at all being on the ice.  Keep it short and sweet and your youngster will be much more likely to get excited about the next trip.
It wasn’t that long ago I remember going fishing with my dad and we had a hand auger a few jigs, waxworms and the most important invention the plastic five gallon pail.  We always walked to a specific location using the triangular positions of the dead tree on the far shore lined up with the white house and fifty paces from the last point we crossed. Two of the most revolutionary devices for ice fishing are the hand held GPS and the portable depthfinder.  Without these ice angling would still be locked in the last 1,000 years.  Today, when a hot spot is located, the location can easily be electronically saved as a waypoint on a hand held GPS, ensuring swift, efficient guaranteed returns with just the press of the button.  If only I had one these when I was a kid.  The frustrating times trying to find that white house and the dead tree when in actuality the house was
painted a different color and the dead tree fell in the high wind last summer.  GPS would have helped my dad and me locate those roving schools of walleyes next to that favorite dropoff. I have good luck locating fish holding structure through the ice using my portable locator.  By making use of the zoom feature, I can identify fish that are holding very tight to the structure being checked.  By
simply wetting the ice and placing the transducer on the wet spot, you can examine the bottom make-up before drilling your holes.  This saves you both time and work.  The key to ice fishing as it is in any fishing is location.  For walleye and other gamefish, try long tapering points; inside channel turns; rock
humps, neck downs, and structure near spring spawning areas.  Use the sonar to spot fish. Try submerged brush piles and blowdowns for crappie and bluegill.  Watch the screen or flasher.  You can actually see fish appear on a graph.  Sensitive sonars track your lure so you can put it right in the fish’s face.  I have actually seen a day when a mark appeared on the sonar screen while reeling in a lure.  A pause, and the mark moved closer to the bait.  A twitch of the wrist brought a powerful strike.  A heart-racing fight put a nice eight pound walleye on the ice.  The same situation can be used for panfish.
The warmest innovation that has helped the ice angler stay on the ice longer, which enables them to catch more fish is the portable ice shanty.  A good, lightweight, and portable ice shanty can provide a lot of added comfort.  A propane lantern is enough to warm the interior. These structures come with names such as the Clam, and the Fish Trap. The important thing is that they allow you to take others out on the ice and yet be mobile.  One thing that many modern ice fisherman want to do is to move from location to location.  Sure, the carpeted ice shack with the bunkbeds is nice, but not as portable as the modern ice angler needs.  Regardless of the type of lake you fish, your choice in baits is also critical.  Use larger baits under stable weather conditions.  For walleye and pike, don’t’ hesitate to use the largest shiners you can get.  If you are jigging, also use larger spoons.  After a front, downsize your minnow.  Many nice walleye have been taken on small crappie minnows under adverse conditions.  Panfish can become finicky after a weather change, so, again, down size your bait.

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