A couple of years ago, I ice fished with a few friends of mine on Saginaw Bay in Michigan. Saginaw Bay is extremely large and the fishing can be great at times and not so good at other times. Even when fishing isn’t great, my friend Ernie Miller, a walleye guide is able to find fish. On the day I fished Saginaw Bay with Ernie, we were looking for walleye and perch and when the fishing got tough, Ernie started moving.
Most ice anglers, including myself, often head out on the ice with a shanty, a heater and a lunch. They sit down in one spot and fish until they’ve had enough fun fishing and head home. When the fishing gets tough for Miller, he starts bouncing from hole to hole until he finds fish.
“When I go ice fishing, I often leave my shanty at home because I know if I get warm and comfortable, I will probably fish in one spot until it’s time to leave,” Miller said. “If I fish without a shelter, I am much more likely to go and look for fish.”
When Miller starts bouncing around, he makes sure he has plenty of clothes on because in the wind and snow you can get cold easily if you are sitting on a bucket without something to block the wind. Fortunately for anglers like Miller who are willing to move around on the ice looking for fish, snowsuits are much better than they were a decade ago. Technology has allowed many companies to produce lightweight clothes that keep anglers warm and dry even when they are sitting in the wind.
Two new companies I have recently encountered that make great ice fishing clothes are Sno-Suit and Staywoods Products who makes the Warm Bag. If you wear either of these products, sitting on the cold ice won’t be as tough as it would be if you were using an old snowsuit. Being warm is critical when ice fishing.
When Miller ice fishes, he only brings the bare necessities with him so it doesn’t take much to move to another location. “If I don’t find fish in one spot after ten minutes of fishing, I move. Having everything I need in one bucket allows me to move to a new spot quickly,” Miller said.
In addition to packing light, Miller also drills a dozen holes first thing in the morning. He goes from hole to hole as the day progresses.
“Often fish move into the shallows for the night and then go back out to deep water about mid-morning,” Miller said. “By drilling my holes first thing in the morning, I only disturb the fish for a few minutes and have all kinds of holes to fish from throughout the day. I typically start fishing in the shallows first thing in the morning and start fishing the deeper holes in the afternoon so I follow the fish as they move deeper and continue to catch fish all day.”
When Miller is short on time, he often finds holes other guys have recently left. On large bodies of water that are fished heavily in the winter there are often open holes all over the place left by fishermen.
“In half an hour, I can fish six or more holes that have been left vacant by someone else,” Miller said. “Sometimes fish won’t be in a certain area so anglers leave. An hour later, the fish may move into that location. Staying mobile allows me to quickly check several holes until I find fish.”
Miller finds the fish by bringing an electronic Vexilar with him. In a matter of minutes, he can throw the Vexilar line down the hole and know if the fish are down there feeding. If he spots them on the Vexilar, he puts a line down and sees if he can get a bite.
“Fish like walleye and perch can be lethargic in the winter and if you don’t put the bait right in front of them, they won’t bite,” Miller said. “The key to mobile fishing is locating where the fish are and what depth they’re at. If I put a wax worm down 10 feet and the walleye is at 12 feet, in many cases a fish won’t rise up and take it. If you have all day and plan to fish one spot, you can take your time and experiment. I’m often in a hurry and once I locate fish, I try to put the bait out in front of them and catch as many fish as quickly as I can.”
Knowing how to read a Vexilar is part of Miller’s success. Being willing to constantly move helps him regularly go home with lots of fish.
“I have fished many tournaments over the years and time is money,” Miller said. “The guy who can leave one spot and get his lines in the water fastest at the next spot often wins the most money. Staying lightweight, mobile and unwilling to commit to one location for long has helped me catch more fish. Fish are constantly moving to find food. Anglers who are willing to move will catch more fish.”
To find out more about the author visit www.tracybreen.com
To find out more about Ernie Miller visitwww.michiganfishguide.com