When we go ice fishing, obviously it has to be cold outside. But there’s a difference between twenty degrees above zero cold and twenty degrees below zero cold. We’re in that time of year where we can get to twenty below and consideration in fishing a little differently is recommended due to those cold temps. Here are some ideas for changing up your routine.
Number one thing is you’ve gotta stay warm: It’s just no fun when you’re cold. Layer your clothing, and stay away from cotton underclothing. Cotton will trap moisture, like sweat, next to your skin, and that moisture makes you get cold. Check out Cabela’s MTP Heavy Weights for the layer next to your skin.
Cold feet can make you want to go home perhaps quicker than anything else when you’re on the ice. You need warm boots. There are lots of different ones out there. Boots that keep your feet warm on above zero days don’t necessarily do the job on below zero days. A pair of warm boots will be just as important as the right lure.
A good shelter with a heater will go a long way in keeping you warm. Of course, there are the permanent shelters that enable you to fish in your shirt sleeves, but most ice anglers like to be mobile. You won’t find a warmer shelter than Frabill’s R2-Tec units. And some anglers carry a strip of thick carpeting in their shelter to put under their feet while they’re sitting and fishing.
The fish will have been pressured by this time of the year, so you’ll also want to consider changing your presentation, especially on those under zero days. Just as in open water fishing, fish activity often decreases when the temperatures drop. Fish can feel those weather changes below the ice just like they can in the summer.
Usually, under these conditions, a smaller, slower moving bait will be more productive. If you’re after walleyes and you’ve been using a quarter ounce Macho Minnow spoon, you might want to go to the eighth ounce size. By the way, those Macho Minnows have been really good lately.
Or, let’s say you’ve been using a Puppet Minnow. These baits dart out to the side as you lift and drop them. That might be too much action for the fish. So, go to a more traditional spoon that doesn’t move too much as it falls.
Or, just try a minnow on a hook under a slip-bobber. When the fish want it slow, a minnow is about as slow as it gets.
I’ve seen times under cold conditions that Gulp! Alive out-produced live bait. One very memorable instance occurred in South Dakota a couple of years ago. We were fishing perch with tiny Forage Minnow Fry jigs. We were using waxworms and the like on the jigs, and we weren’t catching much. A couple of us started using Gulp! Maggots on our jigs. We fished them very slowly, and when we saw a fish on our depth-finder looking at our bait, we quit moving the bait. Sometimes the fish would look and move on, but just as often, if we held the bait motionless, the fish would eventually eat it. Sometimes they would look fifteen or twenty seconds, but when they were this selective, in this case, they preferred the Gulp! to the real stuff.
Colder than usual temperatures can slow action under the ice, but if you keep the ideas above in mind, you can still catch fish even in the coldest of conditions.
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