A question that I hear quite a bit about ice fishing pertains to the effects of weather on fish under the ice. Most anglers realize that weather plays a big role in the willingness of fish to bite in the open water season but often wonder if weather affects them when there is a cover of ice overhead. I used to be curious about the same thing. Now, after spending quite a bit of time on the ice with some outstanding ice anglers, it’s apparent that weather does affect the fish even when there is a cover of ice.
Questioning the effects of weather makes sense. In the summer, some really good fishing can occur on cloudy days. The cloud cover reduces light penetration, and often, reduced light penetration encourages the fish to bite better. Not always, but often.
In the winter, the snow and ice reduces light penetration, so the thought is, maybe the fish will bite better more often.
I was on the ice recently with ice fishing expert Tony Roach. We were on Mille Lacs Lake in central Minnesota and for days prior to my arrival, Tony and his guests had been pounding the walleyes… lots of ‘em and big ones.
Our day on the ice coincided with a sizable drop in air temperatures and high blue skies. Tony knew right away that the bite might be off a bit, but you can’t catch ‘em if you don’t drop a line through the ice, so away we went.
Tony is a proponent of drilling lots of holes and covering lots of ice, kind of like trolling on the ice. We would fish a hole for maybe five minutes while keeping a close eye on the sonar. If a fish didn’t show up, we moved.
And if a fish was seen on the sonar, but didn’t eat our bait, we also moved.
We moved a lot that day.
Tony had us on fish. I could see fish on my Humminbird 55 ICE unit come up and look at my bait, then slowly drift away. This sonar does an outstanding job of revealing fish just a few inches off the bottom. We tried smaller baits, bigger baits, different colors and different jigging actions. We tried everything we could to get bit, and every now and then, we did get a walleye to eat our bait. But we saw a lot more fish than we caught.
We tried several different areas and saw fish in most of those areas. However, one had quite a few more fish than the others.
In the early afternoon, we noticed clouds building on the horizon. The wind picked up for a while, then calmed down. The weather was changing. Tony suggested we get back to the area that had the most fish. He wanted to be on the best spot when this weather system arrived.
A little later in the afternoon, when the cloud cover was heavier, the walleyes went on the bite. Action picked up noticeably. It was another lesson that weather does affect fish under the ice. If you’re one of those folks who likes to fish through the ice, keep in mind that weather will affect the bite. If you’re on the ice and notice a change in weather, keep your bait where the fish are. That’s the only way to get bit.