Talk to locals, bait shops, learn where the usual unsafe ice is located
Four inches of ice, minimum, for people and gear…not an ATV
Simple Common Sense will usually prevent ice-fishing accidents
By Jason Houser
Ice fishing is supposed to be a good time during the winter months while we wait for the first signs of the thaw to arrive. However, every year ice fishermen fall victim to thin ice and the danger of falling through, then not knowing measures to take if that worst-case scenario happens.
There are precautions an outdoorsman can take to prevent falling through weak ice. Unfortunately, no matter how careful we are on the ice, there is always the risk of getting wet in these sub-freezing waters that can quickly take one’s life, especially if they do not know what to do in case of that unintended emergency. This article is intended to help prevent accidents and what to do should one occur.
One of the biggest reasons for people going through the ice is that they get on hard water that is not thick enough to support them and their equipment. Four inches of clear ice is the bare minimum for a person to safely walk on. An ATV or snowmobile will take at least five inches of ice, and a vehicle will require eight inches, with twelve being better. A lot of things can factor into whether ice is safe or not, and these are only guidelines. Early and late in the season is often the most dangerous times to be on ice.
Each body of water has its known danger areas. If you are going to be on winter water that you are not familiar with, check with locals who know where the problem ice might be. They can provide a lot of valuable information.
Even though I stated what the thickness of ice should be when driving on it, try not to drive a highway vehicle on it if possible. If you must take a drive, keep the windows rolled down and your seat belt off. Remember that a car or truck can be replaced, so do not hesitate to leave it in a hurry if things go awry.
Safety should be first and foremost with fishermen. Do not venture onto the ice unless it is at least 4 to 6 inches thick. This is the minimum thickness that will safely support a person and their gear. Keep in mind that snow weakens the stability of the ice. Do not test just one area of the ice and assume that it will be the same depth at all areas of the lake, reservoir or pond – it might not be.
Ice fishing accidents can quickly become deadly. Do not ice fish alone. Always have someone with you and let people back at the house know where you will be and when you expect to return. That way, if you do not return on time, they know exactly where to go and look for you.
Also, frostbite and hypothermia are concerns that ice fishermen must be aware of. You must be alert as to the amount of time you are on the ice and the weather conditions while you are fishing. Do not get overwhelmed with all the excitement and stay out too long.
Below are five more ice fishing safety recommendations:
Wear a warm hat that covers your ears. In cold weather, 75 to 80 percent of heat loss from the body occurs from an uncovered head.
Go with a partner and stay separated when going to and from fishing spots in case one of you falls through the ice.
Carry a rope to throw if someone falls through the ice, go out to that person only as a last resort.
Test the ice ahead of you with an ice spud bar or an auger.
Do not leave children unsupervised.
Ice fishing is meant to be an enjoyable time in the outdoors. Practice safety on the ice…always. The advice in this article will prevent many accidents from occurring, but the best danger prevention is simply common sense.
If something doesn’t look safe, stay away.
There will be plenty of opportunities to step out on the ice.
Why Horizontal Jigging Minnows are the ALL-TIME Great Hardwater Bait
By Gord Pyzer
I love interacting with other anglers at fishing seminars, especially during the question-and-answer sessions, when I can just about guarantee that someone will ask: If you could only ice fish with one lure for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The answer is easy: A horizontal swimming-style lure such as the Rapala Jigging Rap or Acme Tackle Company’s Hyper-Glide and Hyper-Rattle. They’re as close to ice-fishing perfection as the tackle industry has come.
In their smallest sizes, these lures are ideal for nabbing black crappies, bluegills, ciscoes and perch. The biggest versions, on the other hand, weigh almost a full ounce, making them perfect for catching lake trout and pike and the biggest walleye and whitefish in the lake. There are also mid-size models, and they’re all exquisitely painted to resemble baitfish.
I’m particularly impressed with the side wings on the Hyper-Glide and Hyper-Rattle that transform the lures into finesse-style airplane jigs, letting you perform Cirque du Soleil-style stunts under the ice. It’s this very magic you can achieve with these lures that makes them such fatal attractions.
Sonar-GPS-Underwater Camera Connection Delivers Primo Big Fish Picture
Crosslake, MN (February 28, 2018) – Who knows how far angling technology will eventually take us? Maybe someone at the CIA has a clue. All we civilian anglers know is that things like GPS and sonar make fishing more productive and efficient, which pretty much defines technology itself.
Beyond the traditional fish-finding tools, underwater cameras add realism and adrenaline to the operation. What’s more electrifying, after all, than actually witnessing the strike, whether through polarized lenses or an Aqua-Vu screen?
Cameras, of course, aren’t just about underwater sight fishing and keeping kids entertained. Advanced underwater cams are equipped with probes that reveal water temperature at the depth you’re actually fishing — often a totally different degree than the surface temp shown on your sonar screen. Ice anglers, for example, are discovering the frequency with which fish flock to warmer pockets amid otherwise near-freezing water. Only way to know for sure is to drop the camera optics, and see for yourself the actual temperature and any fish in the neighborhood.
Another step forward has occurred as enhanced sonar screens now do justice to live color video. Consequently, folks who run video-enabled units — such as Raymarine eSeries or the new Raymarine Axiom Pro — gain the bonus ability to plug their underwater camera right into their sonar screen.
Want to watch sonar and live underwater video at the same time? You got it. Sonar, GPS map and video? Yep. How about capturing still images and underwater video clips for later reference, or to share with friends? That’s possible, too. As is using your underwater camera to visually confirm fish species and the real-life appearance of structure, and then saving the spot as a GPS waypoint — all on the same unit.
While we’re at it, why not just deploy an underwater drone? Apparently, someone out there has nearly perfected a such a device and armed it with fish-seeking sonar, an attached LED lure and 4K video that transmits to a smartphone.
Beam me up, Scotty.
For now, in case you’re wondering about the leading edge of current fish electronics, all we can say is, “Watch this.”
About Outdoors Insight, Inc. – Creator of Aqua-Vu, the original Underwater Viewing System, Outdoors Insight, Inc. has led the underwater camera category in design, innovation and quality since 1997. The Central Minnesota based company builds many popular outdoors products, such as the iBall Trailer Hitch Camera (iballhitchcam.com) and Odor Check Moisture and Odor Control System (odorcheck.com) featuring Scent-Lok Technology. For more information on Aqua-Vu, visit www.aquavu.com.
The Inside Scoop, some fish-catching info for you GATOR-CHASERS:
Large bays are good early-ice options because they tend to freeze first — well before main lake areas — and offer the safest early ice, often just a short walk from shore.
Avoid small weedbeds or areas of sparse cover at first ice. Prominent weedbeds at the mouths of bays, or in the deeper centers of bays, provide big pike with plenty of habitat and room to feed and roam.
If you’ve fished open water there…and remember which areas offered the best weed growth, make those your starting points…. If the weeds are still healthy, pike are likely still using them under the ice.
If you’re unfamiliar with the lake, note large underwater structures on your map offering broad areas, perhaps 6-18′, bordered by deeper water. Chances are these will have the most weed growth — typically broadleaf cabbage or coontail. More weeds typically equals more pike.
Focus along or slightly inside the deep edges of weedbeds, and dangle a dead sucker, cisco, goldeye or other large baitfish below a tip-up, using a wire or fluorocarbon leader rig to prevent bite-offs.
Some anglers question the use of dead bait for large pike, assuming that lively minnows would be better. The fact is, large pike are as much scavengers as they are predators, and regularly pick up and eat freshly-killed baitfish off the bottom.
10-12″ dead sucker, cisco, alewife, shad, goldeye or other oily baitfish…you can obtain these baits in advance, keep them in your freezer, and pack up a sufficient amount for your next trip….
LIVETARGET’s Lipless Rattlebait ICE FISHING PRIMER for HARDWATER WALLEYES
Mission Critical ADVICE in the story that follows
Step-by-Step Technique that will WORK FOR YOU
Click the Image to the right to go right to…
Ontario-on-the-Lake, Ontario (December 23, 2017) – Recent years have witnessed explosive growth in our understanding of the hardwater walleye. As more anglers tread familiar and exotic walleye waters, our repertoire of productive techniques for everyone’s favorite Perciformes has expanded rapidly. Gone are the days when we were limited to set lines dangling sucker minnows along weedlines, hoping for a random bite or two as the sun tucked behind the trees. The most successful walleye anglers have adopted a power fishing approach, running-and-gunning with big baits and aggressive presentations; a mobile mindset that has been rewarded with more and bigger fish.
Ground Zero for this hardwater walleye revolution is the lipless rattlebait. A mainstay of open water anglers throughout North America, the lipless rattlebait is just as deadly when presented through an eight-inch hole. Wait, better make that a ten-inch hole, because when you fish lipless rattlebaits to their full potential, you’ll need that extra space.
There is no better way to shorten the learning curve on a new technique than to pick the brain of an expert. North Dakota-based angler Chad Maloy, past president of Fargo-Moorhead Walleyes Unlimited and a veteran of the Masters Walleye Circuit, is a lipless rattlebait specialist, bringing trophy walleyes topside using ice fishing’s hottest presentation on both sides of the international border. We asked Chad to help direct budding rattlebait warriors along the path to success, and he did much more: Chad provided a veritable roadmap that is guaranteed to help you catch your first lipless rattlebait walleye this season.
Maloy is a big believer in LIVETARGET lipless rattlebaits, which he fishes throughout the hardwater season. “I use LIVETARGET lipless rattlebaits all season long. They do an awesome job of locating and attracting the most active fish in an area, and turning those fish into biters.
“First of all, LIVETARGET rattlebaits have an infinite dive curve. They can literally be fished from shallow water, less than a foot deep, to the deepest section of the lake. That allows me to target walleyes with lipless rattlebaits all season long, and at all hours of the day.”
What is the most effective way to present the lipless rattlebait through the ice? Maloy continues, “I start out dropping the lure to the bottom. There have been times when it never gets there because it’s intercepted. If that doesn’t happen, I give it a few very long and aggressive rips to the lure, which sends out a shock wave of sound and vibration.”
That shock wave, easily audible to anglers on the ice, originates from LIVETARGET’s unsurpassed internal rattle system. “What I have witnessed over the years, landing giant walleyes from Devil’s Lake in North Dakota to greenbacks from Lake Winnipeg, is that the rattles in LIVETARGET rattlebaits are unlike any other. They have a special, effective sound that others don’t…and it’s killer!”
Let’s get back to that hole in the ice.
Once Maloy rips his LIVETARGET rattlebait to call fish in, he starts paying close attention to his electronics, watching for, “any blip in the water column.
It’s not uncommon for larger fish to be anywhere from bottom to 3 feet below the ice. I see a promising mark, I bring my lure right above the fish and try to seal the deal with one of three different moves. First, I get the lure to shake, activating the rattles without making large vertical moves. Alternately, I imitate a fleeing baitfish by giving the bait shorter rips.
My ace-in-the-hole is to slowly lift the lure an inch or so, then drop the rod tip quickly to throw slack in the line. This makes the lure freefall, and shimmy dramatically on the fall. All that’s left to do is set the hook and enjoy the ride!”
(Grab a pen and notepad, because what Maloy just said is mission critical. Let that rattlebait fall with zero resistance to maximize the flutter. With even a touch of tension on the line, the shimmy is marginalized, even negated.)
Setting up shop over the biggest, most aggressive walleyes on your favorite frozen lake is no time to break out the whippy noodle rods, either. Thirty to thirty-six-inch rods with a medium to medium-heavy power rating are preferred. Consider the St. Croix Mojo Ice (MIR36MH) while hole-hopping, or the Frabill Bro Series 30” Large Walleye/Pike Combo for fish house operations where lateral space is limited.
When it comes to line, a stout braided line like 10 lb. test Seaguar Smackdown, tipped with a leader of 15 lb. test Seaguar Blue Label 100% fluorocarbon, will bring lipless rattlebait walleyes topside. Rather than joining the braided main line to the fluorocarbon leader with a typical Double Uni or Alberto knot, use a small swivel instead, which will further reduce line twist with the added benefit of being easier to tie in bone-chilling winter walleye weather.
Back to the baits… “I normally carry two sizes of LIVETARGET rattlebaits, size 70 and size 60,” said Maloy. “If we have had a severe cold front I will use the smaller size 60, and if the fish are on the chew, I use the larger size 70. During the later part if the ice season, when the fish are very aggressive in advance of the spawn, I will also start with size 70.
“The first lure I rig is a LIVETARGET silver/blue Golden Shiner Rattlebait. I would guess this lure has put more Manitoba Master Angler walleyes on the ice for me than any other lure. The size and shape of the lure will match the hatch of several baitfish, including shad, but certainly is a dead ringer for a golden shiner minnow. The paint and finish are extremely realistic, and the lure produces lots of flash and contrast. And did I mention the sound? The rattle output is deadly, and unmatched by anything else on the market.”
“My second choice is the LIVETARGET Yearling Rattlebait 65. The Yearling Rattlebait mimics the appearance of a baitball of minnows, but with the action and sound of a rattlebait. An equally productive alternative is the LIVETARGET Sunfish Rattlebait. Its three sizes bracket perfectly around the sizes of the Golden Shiner. These three baits: the LIVETARGET Golden Shiner, Yearling, and Sunfish Rattlebait have produced the biggest hardwater walleyes of my life.”
While LIVETARGET baits are widely recognized as having the most anatomically accurate, 3-dimensional designs and incredibly detailed, lifelike finishes, there are times when a hint of other-worldly glow will help to close the deal. Maloy remarks, “When water clarity is low due to sediment or tannic stain, I turn to the four glow colors in the Golden Shiner family. Unlike most hyper-bright glow lures, these LIVETARGET patterns offer a subtle hint of glow, and have been excellent the past two seasons.”
Welcome to the future of hardwater walleye angling, produced by a decade of refinements in baits, tackle and presentations. Fold the family of LIVETARGET lipless rattlebaits into your walleye repertoire this winter, and let the good times roll…and rattle!
ABOUT LIVETARGET: Since its launch in 2008, LIVETARGET has grown into a full family of life-like fishing lures that Match-the-Hatch™ to specific game fish forage, with over 750 styles and colors of lures for fresh and saltwater fishing. The lures feature industry-leading designs in realism and workmanship that closely mimic nature’s different baitfish species. Headquartered in Ontario, Canada, LIVETARGET won ICAST Best of Show awards in the hard and soft lure categories in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2017.
Women Anglers Encouraged TO POST ICE FISHING PIX at #WOMENONICE
Women Ice Angler OUTREACH PROGRAM – Skill Development, see details
Otter Tail County, MN – Nov. 8, 2017: The Women Ice Angler Project (WIAP #womenonice) will be on the move in 2018—literally. The fourth year of #womenonice will focus on moving from lake-to-lake in Otter Tail Lakes Country (Otter Tail County, Minnesota) highlighting the ease of mobility and moving from spot to spot. Otter Tail Lakes Country Association (OTLCA) and East Silent Lake Resort will host the media event along with Clam Outdoors.
Otter County is unique in that it boasts more than 1,000 lakes inside county borders. Communities include Perham, Fergus Falls and Pelican Rapids to name a few. The largest lakes include Otter Tail, Dead Lake, Rush Lake, Big Pine Lake and Pelican.
The ladies will fish for generous-sized panfish including sunfish, bluegills and crappies, as well as nice eater-size walleyes. “The ladies might not catch a personal best walleye here, but they have a chance at landing some trophy-sized panfish. This is a panfish paradise,” said Erik Osberg, Rural Rebound Initiative Coordinator for Otter Tail County.
Several media/video partners will follow the “ladies-on-the-ice” for video production and TV shows, including Larry Smith Outdoors, Grass Fed and Outdoors First Media. “We’ve seen our media coverage grow, and we enjoy interacting within the communities when we arrive onsite,” said founder of WI Women Fish and the Women Ice Angler Project, Barb Carey. “While it isn’t a done deal yet, we have a huge media partner finalizing their plans to follow us as well. This initiative to showcase and empower women to ice fish has really gained momentum.”
A community-wide “Meet & Greet” is in the planning stages and will include helpful tips on preparing fish.
In addition to Carey, the following ladies will fish in #womenonice this year, pro-staff anglers:
Outdoor Photographer: Hannah Stonehouse Hudson
Outdoor Writer: Kristine (K.J.) Houtman.
The goal of the Women Ice Angler Project is to encourage women to try ice fishing, as well as mentor those who already enjoy it and want to improve their skills. An additional plus has been moving the industry forward to show women ice anglers in corporate marketing efforts and social media.
“We don’t underestimate the skill level of women ice anglers,” Barb Carey said. “Sure, we’re happy to introduce some new participants, but there are many women who want to grow in their skills and our powerful group of gals can help them do just that.”
Award-winning outdoor photographer Hannah Stonehouse Hudson (Stonehouse Photography, http://stonehousephotoblog.com/) is a big part of the success of WIAP. “The colder it is, the happier I am,” Hudson said about her photography. “The light is incredible when it’s really cold and I love it.” WIAP photos can be found in retail stores, on product packaging, in corporate catalogs as well as throughout tourism and ice-fishing social media.
For the entire winter, all women anglers are encouraged to post their ice fishing photos and share their stories with #womenonice and follow theiceangler.com. “Our sponsors are totally behind the message women can and do enjoy this great sport,” Carey concluded.
The Women Ice Angler Project sponsors include Clam Outdoors, Outdoor First Media, Larry Smith Outdoors, The Great Wild Radio Show, Fish On Kids Books, Stonehouse Photography, WI Women Fish, East Silent Lake Resort of Dent, Minn. and Otter Tail Lakes Country Association.
Contact Barb Carey for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 608-692-7386.
I’d be a very rich man If I had a dollar for every person who believes that the reason they don’t enjoy the same results as some of the more successful anglers is because they don’t have access to secret lures, covert baits, hush-hush scents and cloak-and-dagger waypoints.
The reason this view is so out of whack is because the key to success most days is not in the big picture or the grand scheme of things, but rather in the subtle, often cunning and clever refinements.
The little things really do add up most days to making a huge difference in your fishing success. And if you enjoy ice fishing as much as I do for walleye, black crappies, yellow perch and bull bluegills, I have a brilliant refinement for you.
Truthfully, it is a game changer.
In fact, here is what I want you to do this winter to prove it to yourself. Use one of the new single action fishing reels like the Rapala R-Type Ice Centerpin and prepare to be amazed for one very simple reason. Because of the natural way that your line comes off the spool, and goes back on – like a fly reel – and because there is no drag system to twist your line, it never coils and develops a memory.
As a result, when you drop your lure or bait down the hole, it remains dead still and doesn’t spin like it does when you use a spinning reel. And if there is one thing that walleyes, perch, crappies and bluegills detest with a passion, it is a lure or bait that twirls around in circles, as they stare at it and size it up.
It is the subject of this week’s video blog that I shot the other day while ice fishing on Northwestern Ontario’s majestic Lake of the Woods. How good was the fishing? In two days, the yellow perch action was non-stop with only two or three fish measuring as small as 12-inches. The vast majority averaged over 13-inches in length, with so many 13.75 to 14.25 inch jumbos approaching two-pounds that it was spellbinding!
Click on the following video and see for yourself.
2016 Women Ice Angler Project(WIAP) is Successful Event
Getting my camera shutter to stay functional when the air is cold enough to freeze water can cause me to think twice about heading out to ice fish in winter. No matter how long many of us have been trying to fool finny critters in winter, we normally don’t find advice from lady ice anglers. Why? Until now we could not find any. Those days have changed!
Today, thanks to the leadership of a few adventurous women folk, we have found ladies that provide effective example and clear communication with great video and still photography for all of the rest of the ice fishing world. All I can say is, WOW!
Led by Barb Carey, founder of the WI Women Fish (WI stands for Wisconsin) and organizer of the Women Ice Angler Project (WIAP), fellow women anglers included CLAM Ice Pro, Shelly Holland; Kristine (K. J.) Houtman, outdoor author of many outdoor books including a children’s book series (visit http://www.fishonkidsbooks.com/); photographer, Hannah Stonehouse Hudson (http://stonehousephoto.zenfolio.com/); Clam Power Stick pro’s Bonnie Timm and Rikki Pardun; and long-time fishing instructor, Holly Hanson.
These ladies challenged themselves, the weather and the fishing from a lady-owned ice fishing headquarters location, Cyrus Resort, on Lake of the Woods near Baudette, Minnesota. Gathering great photos of women in the sport of ice fishing, the ladies carried the message that ice fishing is an outdoor winter fun sport for gals to enjoy. Eater-size walleye and sauger provided great meals and one monster northern pike were among catches made. The big, nearly 40 inch water wolf was successfully released to spawn and fight another day.
Carey says, “If we can encourage new women to try this sport and at the same time raise the bar and mentor women who already love ice fishing, but would like to take their passion to the next level, then we’ve succeeded.”
The ladies, all excellent professional communicators, wanted to meet a second objective to provide quality ice fishing photos that showcase ladies in the outdoors, especially on the ice, for tourism and product promotions. Award-winning photographer Hannah Stonehouse Hudson of Stonehouse Photography is part of why sponsors signed on.
I learned something about taking better pictures in the cold when Stonehouse shared, “The colder it is, the happier I am. I know that sounds weird, but often the light is just better when it is really cold.” Go figure! Yep, we never stop acquiring a new focus from others that understand more about what they do best in the professional world.
Host lodge for the event was Cyrus Resort, a woman-owned outdoor resort that provides year-round access for visitors to Lake of the Woods. Owner Lori Vinje said, “We were very happy to have this project here and the fishing was great. There’s so much to offer in our area along with fishing year round, including golf courses, small gift shops, snowmobile trails and Zippel Bay State Park. We were happy to see the Public Relations side of this kind of project to talk about our wonderful area. We want folks to know they’re welcome here all year.”
Vexilar appreciates the quality of photos available to sponsors. “We want to encourage anyone to get into fishing; whether different cultures or different ages. We want to support more women getting involved and empower them,” Corey Studer said, promotions manager at Vexilar. “I’m married to a beautiful wife and have two wonderful twin daughters who like to fish. This is a great fit for us.”
Joe Henry, Executive Director with Lake of the Woods Tourism, provided additional support for the project and said, “These ladies do a great job sharing their special message to a group of people I might not be able to reach. “They’re capturing real life and it gives great return on investment, helping us continue to build Lake of the Woods business down the road.”
All lady anglers are encouraged to post their ice fishing photos and share their stories with #womenonice. “Our sponsors are totally behind the message that women can and do enjoy this great ice-fishing sport.” The Women Ice Angler Project sponsors include Clam Outdoors, Chevrolet, Vexilar, Jiffy, Aqua Vu, Outdoor First Media, The Great Wild Radio Show, Fish on Kids Books, Stonehouse Photography, WI Women Fish, Cyrus Resort, and Lake of the Woods Tourism Bureau.
How the HydroWave Mini Rings the Dinner Bell for Hungry Lunkers
I am convinced that sound and vibration are the next big frontiers in fishing. It is a subject that has intrigued me for many years now, and the more I delve into it, the more certain I am that we’re on the cusp of a revolutionary new understanding about the role these two factors play in our fishing success.
As a matter of fact, I can picture a not-too-distant future when anglers will concern themselves as much or more about sound and vibration as they do about the size, shape, profile and color of their lures.
This is because the factors that attract fish to our lures and then trigger them to strike are different than what anglers imagine. The popular perception is that a fish sees our lure swimming through the water and is attracted by its appearance. That’s why anglers spend so much time fretting over the color of their lures, and attempting to “match the hatch” with lures that resemble the baitfish that big predator fish are eating.
This is a good strategy—at least as a starting point. But there is so much more that many anglers miss. Once attracted to our bait, a big walleye, bass, lake trout, salmon, muskie or pike will often follow and inspect it, sometimes for several minutes, waiting for clues that suggest that it’s alive and edible. But here’s the twist: significant study has shown that these fish are triggered to strike by the sound and vibration emitted by the lure, which is picked up by the sensory receptors in the fish.
This is precisely why lures like soft-plastic swimbaits are often swallowed so greedily by walleye and bass, and large double-bladed bucktails attract and trigger so many gargantuan muskies and enormous northern pike. The sounds and vibrations these lures emit are so accurate, natural and real that following fish are obliged to strike.
Now, I know what you’re thinking.
Imagine if we could produce a natural, life-like sound system that would pull fish towards our boats and our ice fishing holes, and then trigger them to bite. Well, stop imagining—it’s here.
Click on this link to read the rest of this incredible story:
Mark Martin, the original Professional Walleye Trail champion, hosts a unique ice-fishing “school” that teaches techniques for finding and catching fish right out on the ice. Mark Martin’s Ice Fishing Vacation Schools are peopled with fish-head instructors that spend every possible winter moment dropping their lures through holes in the ice.
“My pro staff is avid about perch, Martin says. Over the past five years, they discovered that using a deadstick and just tapping it once in a while at least doubles your catch. Where three rods are legal, they use one jigging rod and two deadsticks, each sporting jigs tipped with wax worms or just a piece of plastic. I don’t know why, but if you just tap that deadstick once in a while, it will catch far more perch than the jigging sticks. These include piles of porky perch! Hard to believe? Martin never wanted to believe it, either. “You know me,” he laughed. “I hate it. I’d much rather be jigging with the rod in my hand, but when my staff is catching three perch to my one every single day we are on the ice and that goes on for five years, I realized I had to accept it and change or just keep getting dusted.
Most manufacturers of ice rods build deadsticks. They are easy to distinguish, deadsticks have wimpy, floppy, brightly-colored tips (usually orange) and usually 8-inches to a tad over 24-inches in length. Easy to see against a backdrop of snow and ice, these fishing tools are specifically designed for the tip to bend without the fish feeling any pressure, giving you time to grab it and set the hook. The mid-section of the rod is stout, to drive hooks home with authority, but the tip flops about for quick, easy strike indication. Examples include the Clam Jason Mitchell Signature Meat Stick JMS28MS, the Wright & McGill Tony Roach Signature WMTR128PPF, the Thorne Brothers 28″ Deadstick, and the Frabill Bro Series 28″ Deadstick.
The best fishing program is a single-hook spoon with bait,” Martin said. The JB Lures Gem-N-Eye and Custom Jigs & Spins Demon are both good examples offered in a wide variety of sizes to match baits and conditions. “Lightly hook a minnow under the skin along the spine and that spoon has to turn every time the minnow moves,” Martin added. “Waxworms might work better when perch are feeding on invertebrates near bottom or when perch are really inactive, but if you have bait on the jig and just tap that deadstick every few minutes, they will come. It’s weird.
Martin adds, Any under-ice current makes it wobble when you leave it alone and when it wobbles it moves the bait. My staff either uses a split shot and Aberdeen hook, a vertical jig like the Custom Jigs & Spins Rat Finkee or a spoon with a single hook. I sometimes use a swinging-treble spoon like the VMC Tingler, but another favorite is a size #3 Jigging Rapala with no bait. It catches perch better under a deadstick than when jigged. Put a single, light-wire, #8 Aberdeen hook on a small Jigging Rapala and it moves more, it catches more current. Last year on the deadstick rod using a #3 Rapala with no bait, I caught quite a few walleyes and countless perch.”
It may seem like a “do-nothing” technique (only because it is), but one of the keys to successful dead-sticking is picking the rod up without alerting the fish. Martin likes to simply lay the rod over the top of a bucket, keeping it within reach or use a special balance-beam style rod holder. I like the coated-wire Rod Rocker made by Today’s Tackle,” Martin said. “It clips onto the bucket and the rod simply balances on top so you can pull the rod out without popping the tip up and signaling the fish, which would give them time to spit the hook.”
Martin wants to be jigging somewhere near the deadstick. Not just to be within reach, but to attract perch that usually end up hitting the bait under the deadstick. “Giving perch a decision, between the jigging and the deadstick, that’s the idea,” Martin said. “Sometimes we find the active lure is too much for perch to process in cold water. We can’t hold it still enough for long enough on most winter days.”
Surprising to many students at Ice School is the height off bottom Martin and crew suspend baits. “If we mark bait 15 feet off bottom, that’s where we set those deadstick baits,” Martin said. “The water is clear in most of the waters we fish, so we always want it well off bottom. About 4 to 5 feet up is normal. If perch are on bottom, they’ll rise for it. Even when they’re on bottom, rooting around for insects, they’ll come up 4 feet or more for these deadstick presentations.”Yet, for Martin and his merry ice-fishing men, deadsticks beat jigging every day, every place they go, and with a record for the past four or five years. These guys get around too, taking the Ice Fishing School to lakes and Great Lakes throughout the North.
“Most of my staffers don’t even jig for perch anymore,” Martin said. “We figured out a new way to jig, and it’s not to jig at all.”
A good percentage of ice anglers, I suspect, never fully realize the potential of their sonar units -especially flashers – because they turn them on and then fail to adjust them properly.
Fine tuning is absolutely essential if you want to know the size of the fish you are seeing on the screen. Honest truth, I’ve had folks out on the ice with me and they have spent an interminable amount of time trying to catch the “big fish” they were convinced they could see, because the signal it was returning was so big, bright, bold and red. But when they finally landed it, the fish was tiny.
So, how do you fine tune your sonar unit so that it will tell you everything you need to know about the size of the fish you can see on the screen? Well, click on the following video, look over my shoulder and I’ll show you how to do it.