Tag Archives: Fishing Tips

Breaking the Ice: A Beginner’s Guide to Ice Fishing

The beauty of ice fishing, aside from the magical prospect of sitting on top of frozen water, is that you can fish on any part of the lake (provided you have ample ice). For those without boats, it might be that one chance to venture out over deeper waters in search of a lunker. In North America, ice fishing is often done from inside a small portable shelter known as a fishing shanty. The benefit of a shanty is that it allows you to stay warm as well as beat inclement weather. Ice fishing is also a great way to spend a day with friends and family—provided everybody can stay warm. While a few anglers are confident on 2.5 inches of solid ice, 4 inches is considered safe for walking. For snowmobiles and other light craft, 5-7 inches is recommended.

Ice fishing shanty [image: www.blog.syracuse.com]

Ice fishing shanty [Image: www.blog.syracuse.com]

Safety Ice safety is your number one concern. Our very own ice safety primer can be found here. As always, use good judgment when walking out onto the ice. Avoid areas with running water such as dams, spillways and streams flowing into or out of lakes. Keep in mind that slush ice is 50 percent weaker than clear ice and ice over running water is 20 percent weaker. Also, take a buddy fishing with you—it’s more fun and it could save a life.

image: www.dnr.state.oh.us

Image: www.dnr.state.oh.us

Gear The fish might be biting but without warm clothes or a way to cut a hole in the ice, you won’t be catching a thing. Warm ski pants or coveralls are the best way to go. Another essential item is a stool because it keeps you elevated and off the ice. Creating a hole in the ice can be done a number of ways, but the most efficient (if also the most cumbersome) is by augur. An ice augur is large gas or manually operated drill that can easily burrow through a foot or more of ice. If you don’t own an augur, an axe or ice saw will do the trick. Another technique, if a little sneaky, is to locate holes made by pervious fishermen where the ice isn’t as thick. These can be broken through with a small hand axe or chisel known as a spud.

Hand augur [image: wikipedia.com]

Hand augur [Image: wikipedia.com]

Technique Tips-up and jigging are the two most common forms of ice fishing. Jigging is done with a small, lightweight spinning rod, using brightly colored lures or jigs that are often “sweetened” with a piece of bait, such as a wax worm or minnow. Once you’ve reached the depth you think the fish are at, lift the rod every now and again to produce the effect known as jigging. Tip-ups are specialized ice fishing devices made of wood or plastic that allow anglers to fish multiple locations and depths at once. When a fish takes the bait, a flag is released, notifying the angler. The fish is then pulled in by hand or reel depending on your setup.

image: www.lakemichiganangler.com

Image: www.lakemichiganangler.com

Location Settling on a location depends on the species of fish you’re after. Shallow ponds and lakes are best for bass, panfish, chain pickerel and northern pike. For trout, landlocked salmon and cusk, you’ll want to fish in a deep-water lake. However, even though trout and salmon prefer deep water, it doesn’t mean you’ll find them there in the winter. Trout and salmon prefer deep water because it allows them to stay cool in the summer months. During winter months, it is not uncommon to find these fish just below the ice. Remember, if you’re after bigger fish, make sure to drill your hole big enough (8-12 inches) to land it. Lastly, don’t forget to pack a hot beverage to sip while you contemplate the unique position of standing on top of 40 or more feet of ice water.

image: wikipedia.com 

Snapper Time: Tips for making the most out of the Red Snapper season

Contributed by Alex Vail, The Flying Kayak

If you’re a Floridian like myself, you know that the long-anticipated Red Snapper season is soon to be under way. Though recent regulations have made it difficult for snapper fishing to seem worthwhile, there are ways in which you can still make the most out of the season.

Location Location

With the opening morning of the season comes the question: “Where should I fish?” Obviously this question is asked by every angler of every species all over the world, but it’s extremely important when it comes to Red Snapper. Though the season on the fish has been closed for quite some time, that doesn’t mean they haven’t been caught recently. Anyone fishing on structure offshore has a very high chance of catching a Red Snapper, and even though the angler can’t keep them out of season, there are certain wrecks that get fished throughout the year. I would personally try to avoid these popular wrecks during the Red Snapper season. Often, these are the spots that are closer to shore and easier to find. Instead, if you have the ability to do so, try to run further offshore to some of the hard-to-reach spots. These fish won’t have seen as many baits over the course of the year and can be eager to bite.

In order to maximize your efforts while Red Snapper fishing, an angler obviously wants to catch the biggest fish possible. But some of the more conventional methods of fishing over a wreck don’t exclude smaller fish. There’s nothing more frustrating than catching snapper ½-1” longer than the minimum size and have to play the “should I keep this or throw it back in hopes of a bigger one?” game.  So rather than simply anchoring up over some structure and start dropping down baits, consider some alternative methods to catch bigger fish.

Chumming

Chumming over a wreck is often overlooked by many anglers with the thought being: There’s already fish here…so why chum? But chumming over a wreck can help eliminate some of those smaller fish from taking the bait. The trick is that all snapper, both big and small, are located on the wreck, but only the bigger ones are more comfortable leaving the safety of the structure. So when the chum line drifts from the boat down to the wreck, only the bigger fish will begin to follow it to the source. Snapper will actually follow a chum line all the way up the water column to just a few feet from the surface. It isn’t uncommon to look off the back of the boat to see large snapper waiting for the next piece of chum to float by. Once the fish are chummed up, an angler can drift small chunks of bait into the chum line and expect a hook up on these bigger fish.

 

This snapper was caught right off the back of the boat in the chum line.

Jigging

Jigging is a tactic often used to land Red Snapper. Some of my favorite jigs, such as butterfly jigs, offer the chance to land snapper on a lure. But something that is often overlooked is how the jig is presented over a wreck. When a boat is anchored over structure and a jig is dropped down, the lure is essentially presented in just a single vertical column. Though an angler can change the depth of the jig, it’s almost impossible to change its linear location from a stationary boat. So rather than anchoring over a spot and jigging, try to judge the current and drift fish over the wreck instead. This allows the lure to cover much more water and present itself to many more fish in the process.

 

This snapper fell victim to a butterfly jig while drifting over a wreck

This snapper fell victim to a butterfly jig while drifting over a wreck

With the excitement of the Red Snapper season finally opening, it’s easy to want to just drop baits down and start putting fish on the line. But with some simple changes in tactics, an angler can help maximize his/her chances of landing bigger fish. At the end of the day, who doesn’t want to catch some of the bigger fish on a wreck? It is, after all, tough to beat catching a monster Red Snapper and enjoying one of the most delicious fish the Gulf Coast has to offer.