Midwinter ice fishing tips

Friday, January 20, 2017
Dax and Max Clark keep warm when they’re ice fishing even when it’s cold outside. The fish might not always be big, but this dad/son team always enjoy their time together on the ice. (Photo by Steve Weisman)

We’re entering the midwinter ice fishing season. Ice fishing this time of year can be productive, but it can also be challenging. If we have answers for those challenges, we can be successful at catching fish through the ice. Following are some of the challenges and some ideas for meeting those challenges.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for ice anglers this time of the year is the cold: It can get pretty darn chilly some days this time of year. The wind can be especially brutal. However, there is absolutely no reason to be cold at a temperature of zero.

The first thing you need to do is get some warm clothes. There is plenty of clothing available that will enable you to stay as warm as you want to be. My absolute favorite is Cabela’s Outfitter Fleece outerwear with WindShear. There are several different options with WindShear. The Berber Fleece is so comfortable and quiet and soft you’ll find yourself almost hoping for cold weather just so you can wear this coat.

Another thing you can do if you’re going to be fishing this time of year is to own, rent, or borrow a permanent shelter on the ice. These shelters are heated. You’ll be fishing in short sleeves.

The downside to a permanent house is that you’re anchored to a spot. Many ice anglers like to move around, especially this time of year. This is when a portable shelter becomes an asset. It used to be that portables weren’t very warm. The folks who make Otter shelters have developed a lining called Thermal-Tec that makes these shelters very warm. They are as warm a portable as you’ll find, and they allow an angler to move from spot to spot quickly and easily.

This time of year, moving from spot to spot is a big deal. The fish have been getting lots of fishing pressure and they’re getting spooky. You need to get away from the crowds. Abandon the community spots and find your own little out-of-the-way locations. The fish won’t be as spooky, so they’ll be easier to catch.

If for some reason you can’t get away from the crowds, you’ll want to use different baits than what everyone else is using. Sometimes early in the season one particular bait or style of bait gets hot. Anglers have success with that bait early in the season and stick with that particular bait all season, even though its productivity falls off.

When everyone else is using a particular bait with marginal success, that’s the time to switch to a different bait. Fish become conditioned to presentations. If you switch presentations, you’re greatly increasing your odds for getting bit.

A couple of new baits that the fish haven’t seen much of are the new Bro Bling Jig and the UV Forage Minnow Dart. Apparently the fish like to eat things they haven’t seen before because so far this ice season, these two baits have been getting eaten a lot.

Midwinter can provide some outstanding ice fishing opportunities. Now is the time to take advantage of those opportunities.

To see all the most recent episodes of the Fishing the Midwest television series, new fishing related tips, and fishing articles from the past, go to fishingthemidwest.com.

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