Now that you have your equipment ready for your first trip on the ice, it’s time to decide what will lure the big fish to the end of your line.
The traditional method of using bait is time tested for success. New to the ice fishing game is the use of jigs and small lures. You may select to use a combination of both.
When you choose to use a tip up, bait rules the day. There is a myriad of bait choices one can use.
Worms, night crawlers, shiners or suckers lead as choices in the live bait category. Fishing these baits is similar to open water fishing. Thread your hook with your live bait of choice and drop the bait into your hole. Keep adjusting the depth of your bait until fish are found.
Live bait is not easy to find here in the valley. Silver Lake Home Center in Madison is one source for live bait. Ossipee Bait and Tackle has suckers up to 2 feet and a variety of shiners. Early in the season, it also has crawfish as well. Choose the bait to meet the quarry you are trying to catch.
If you don’t have a bait bucket, or these two establishments are a little out of the way, packaged bait can be used. The Berkley Co. makes a wide assortment of packaged baits from trout nuggets to earthworms to minnows. These baits have an indefinite shelf life and are stored in easy-to-carry jars.
Such bait can be a lighter density than water. Add a lead free sinker six inches above your bait to get the bait to the depth that you need.
If you elect to jig for your fish, lures and jigs will bring fish to hand. Lindy makes a great line of ice fishing jigs. The Frostee, the Darter, the Ice Jig are favorites here in the valley. A tried and true jig lure is the Swedish Pimple. This jig comes in a variety of colors. Gold, copper, fluorescent orange and red are effective colors here.
Rarely tried but a very effective lure to use jigging is the Daredevil. This old-school lure is now manufactured in a 1/16th ounce size, making it ideal for jigging.
The Daredevil is known for its red-and-white stripes, but it is now made in a variety of colors. Try the chartreuse with hot orange spots. It’s killer on schools of perch.
The beauty of jigging is that you can combine jigs with bait. Add a piece of Berkley earthworm to the hook of your Swedish Pimple. Add a piece of sucker meat to your Daredevil. Hook a shiner through the lips with your Ice Jig. The combination of flash with the added “smell” of live bait can be an irresistible combination. When you find a combination that works, stick with it. The right combination will make it a memorable day on the ice.
A word about salmon eggs. Salmon eggs are another bait used for ice fishing. Salmon eggs are a packaged bait and are available in a variety of colors. Orange, yellow, pink and red are just a few of the colors that are available. Salmon eggs are a productive bait for salmonids. You can place three or four on a hook or a single egg on your jig.
Tip of the Week
When trying to ice fish a new water, consider hiring a guide. A guide knows the locations for fish and what baits or jigs they are taking at the time.
Steve Angers is a native son to the Conway area. He has been consumed by fishing since catching his first wild brook trout at the base of Champney Falls.