How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Targeting Fish Under Ice

By Mark Leadens

I’m not the kind of angler that can sit over a hole all day long and wait for the fish to show up. I have to know there are fish under the hole, and I have to make them bite, or I’m moving.
Is there an advantage to the angler that is mobile and always searching for active fish? I think there is. Do you have to give anything up for the mobility? I’ll admit that the anglers in the big stationary shacks have a lot of comfort and room to spread out, but again, I’m after fish and I would venture to say that a mobile angler will catch many more fish than the anglers in the big stationary shacks.

The first thing I do to target fish under the ice is check around and see where they have been biting. This doesn’t mean I’m going to fish there. I figure if the word on the street is that fish are coming from an area, it’s a safe bet there will be a lot of people fishing there.

I’m going to target a spot that is similar to the location where the fish have been active. Let’s say the hot spot is a big weedy area and the edge of the weeds near a point has been producing well. If there is another area like that on the lake, I’ll be there.

I also want to know how deep, on what, and at what times of the day have been best. Believe it or not the bite can be a short duration thing on a specific bait, and you had better be in position then, or you’re out of luck.

Mobile anglers target their fish with a sonar. I use a colored flasher to find the fish and I also use the flasher to gauge the reaction of the fish to my bait. Here’s how.

Drill some holes in the area you plan to fish. Drop the transducer of the flasher in each hole and look for fish. In shallower water it’s hard to target fish on the sonar, but you can get an idea of the bottom type (sand, rock, mud) and how deep you are.

When you drop the lure down the hole it also shows up on the sonar. You can watch as fish swim up to the bait. They will either look and leave, or swim up and take a bite. If you have a lot of look and leavers, you’re doing something wrong and either need to change baits, colors, action, whatever. You see that getting the right combination of fish-triggering factors together requires some experimenting.

The sonar is probably the most important tool for mobile ice anglers because it gives them the ability to target actual fish. The next most important tool is the auger.

You have to drill a lot of holes. Fish concentrate in holes, dips, along weedlines, and around cover and you have to find the spot where these fish are concentrated. Just drilling one or two holes won’t give you enough locations to check to increase your odds of finding fish.

Mobile anglers typically opt for a gas or electric auger. You want something light, but strong, that will cut holes quickly. This means keeping the blades sharp.

Even though most mobile anglers are hard-core and could stand out in minus-30 windchills and not be fazed, it’s too hard to keep the holes open when it’s that cold. That’s why my friend and fellow ice angler, Dave Genz, designed the Fish Trap.

The Fish Trap is a one or two-person fish house on a sled. It allows phenomenal mobility, lots of room to store equipment, a place to sit down, and completely encloses the angler so you can stay warm and comfortable while fishing.

For some anglers the ability to have a few buddies in a heated shack to play cards, tell stories, and catch a few fish when they pass by is the ultimate winter fishing experience. For me, targeting some fish and figuring out what they want on a regular basis makes going out in the cold something I love to do, not something I have to do.


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