You can’t avoid it, winters in Wisconsin are downright cold and snowy. However, conditions seen as unfavorable to some can be welcomed by others. One of these groups of diehard Wisconsinites is ice anglers. That’s right, next to cheese curds, the Packers and supper clubs, ice fishing ranks right up there with one of those things that is quintessential Wisconsin.
But if you’re new to ice fishing where should you start? Where do you go? Is it really safe to be fishing on ice? Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Safety First - Don’t go ice fishing alone, dress in warm layers, and research the area you will be fishing to avoid inlets, outlets, and areas of current than can affect ice strength. Bait and tackle shops, local guides and online resources like Fishidy are great places to find answers about ice conditions.
- Time of Day Matters - Low light periods (dusk and dawn) are often the most productive times, while nighttime fishing can be even better. Knowing the clarity of the water/ice where you’re fishing and understanding light penetration can mean the difference between getting skunked and shore lunch.
- Find Structure, Find Fish – Winter fishing is similar to understanding how fish behave during summer months. Fish will tend to move to similar summer haunts under the ice where they’ll find more oxygen, tolerable water temperatures, and structure to prey on (or hide from) other fish. Deep vegetation, drop offs and fish cribs are all ideal spots to focus.
- Be Bold - Don’t be afraid to experiment with different presentations. Using different types of live bait, colors of jigs, and even ways of tying knots can affect how fish respond to your bait. Once you find the right combination though, lock it in.
- Stealth Pays Off - Fish are easy to spook, and when they’re under the ice it’s no different. Fish avoid vibration, noise and other disturbances, so practice being as quiet as possible and limiting your movements when fishing hard water.