Coping With A Tough Ice Bite
By: Scott M. Petersen

Being a working stiff like many of the fishermen out there a lot of times I do not get to choose when I want to go or get to go fishing. Yes, there are a few times that I can sneak away and go fishing but the majority of the times I live for the weekends, as these are the main days that I get to fishing like many of you. So when I got to the ice that morning without a cloud in the sky I knew it was a good day to be on the ice as a fisherman, but I had a pretty good idea that the fishing was going to be a little tough for the day. Believe me as the day when on this was an under statement. Just like during the summer months winter fishing will have its ups and downs but there are things that you can do to get the odds in your favor.

Tough bite conditions are nothing new to fishing and ice fishing will not escape this condition either. Just because there is an ice cover on the lake you might think that this cover would cut down some of the impact that the cold front/high pressure will have on the fish, but this does not happen. So just as you will be impacted by passing fronts in the summer you will have these same conditions to deal with during your winter fishing too. Tough bites can be looked at the same way but if I had to pick I would say that cold front/high pressure will have a greater affect on your winter fishing. The reason for this is the fish get such a good look at your bait as it sits there. During the winter you are not moving as much as you are in the summer and the fish will get a long time to examine the bait and make up their minds do they want to bite or not?

One of the keys to catching fish when the bite gets tough is to make your bait look as natural as possible. A lot of this has to do with line size. Line size is critical when ice fishing again because of the fact that you are not moving. Many of you like myself use some of the same reels and line for your winter and summer fishing all that is changing are the rods. Well this is wrong for the most I do the majority of my summer gill and crappie fishing with 4lb test line the starting size I use for ice fishing is 2lb line and when the bite gets real tough I will use 1lb. 4lb line for this application is too big and it will cost you bites and fish. Another technique adjustment I make is to use fiberglass rods. I have seen this happen time and time again. You get fish interested in your offering and they move towards your bait and start to nibble at the bait. You can see they have the bait in their mouths so you go to set the hook but before you can get the hook set they spit the bait out and you have just missed another fish. And to add insult to the case it may be the only time you will get the fish to bite as you can see them sink to the bottom again and away they go. The only chance you will get and you missed. This will cost you when the day is tough and you only get one chance per fish. So how do you put more odds in your favor and change these bites into catches?

Fiberglass rods will help. I have tried this many times and it has worked with flying colors. I feel just as you can feel the fish bite the bait better with a graphite rod the fish can feel you just as well and have a tendency to drop the bait faster. This only translates into one thing and that is missed fish through out the day, plain and simple. By going to a glass rod the fish will not be able to feel you as well and you will catch more fish by the end of the day. When doing so you will still have the advantage of being able to see what and when the fish are biting with your electronics. Another way to help keep the bites coming is to change your bait often. When the bite is slow fishermen will have a tendency to bait up and drop their offering down the hole and there it will sit. What started out as a positive scent from your bait is now becoming a negative scent only after a few minutes. If you want to put more odds in your favor during tough bite conditions you have to keep your bait fresh. The same goes, for when you catch fish also, change your bait before you put your bait back down the hole do not put the same bait back down.

Electronics play a big part of letting you know how the fish are reacting to your bait and what type of mood the fish are in. How many times has this happened to you? You drop your bait down the hole and watch on your electronics as the fish ease up to the bait you give the bait a slight jiggle to put a little action into the bait and the next second the fish is gone? I have seen this many of times and it seems to be more critical on the days when you are faced with a tough bite. Here’s a little trick that I have started to do to help cope with these conditions. When the fish get wary of the slightest movement I set the rod down on a bucket next to the hole. This will allow the bait to sit motionless and as the fish move into the cone angle I will take the line and tick it with my finger. By watching my electronics I can see how they react towards the bait and what they want. When they come to take the bait keep an eye on your electronics and see when the bite is going to happen. When the fish starts to get close start to watch your line and rod tip, when you see the line or rod tip move grab the rod and set the hook. When you look at it electronics do play a big part of your ice fishing when the bite gets tough.

So the next time you hear that a cold front/high pressure is coming don’t fret yes the bite maybe a little bit tough but you can still catch fish. Having the proper line size, fiberglass rods, fresh bait, and electronics all these tactics will help you get fish through the hole for the day. Please remember to practice CPR (Catch, Photo and Release) The future of fishing is in your hands.


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