I’m still new to the ice fishing game. Last season, I took the plunge and bought a power auger, along with a sled to pull it. This winter, I completed the arsenal with three additional ice fishing poles and a sweet pop-up shelter my wife bought me for Christmas (thanks, babe!).
Armed with everything I needed for hard-water fishing, I ventured out to Lake Cascade. And then Magic Reservoir. Then back to Cascade. And I quickly learned something about ice fishing:
It can be even harder than the ice you’re standing on.
The difficulty lies in the abundance of variables and lack of obvious solutions. If the fish aren’t biting during open-water season, you can change locations (dramatically and repeatedly so, if you’re fishing from a boat). You can switch lures. You can alter your presentation and retrieve. And almost always, you’ll eventually find something that works.
Ice fishing is a different animal. Moving requires a lot of time and effort. Lure variety is limited to different styles of vertical jigs. Add the chilly elements, the difficulty of visually identifying good spots, and the finicky wintertime habits of many fish species, and it can be enough to stump even the savviest angler.
My first few ice trips were slow. My buddies and I picked up a few fish here and there, but nothing to write home about. So last weekend, we set out for C.J. Strike, determined to finally have a big day on the ice. We went in armed with a game plan (fish in at least 30 feet of water) and the means to achieve it (a GPS map that listed water depths). When the map said we’d reached our target depth, we drilled a test hole and measured. Sure enough, it was 30 feet.
Not long after setting up shop, one of my poles got a bite. Naturally, it was the one farthest away from me, so I penguin-ran across the slick, black ice. By the time I got there, my rod holder was nearly getting pulled down the hole. I grabbed it and cranked up a nice perch. As I lowered my jig back down, I felt another bump. Another fat perch.
This was going to be our day.
Those first two fish came on jigs tipped with worms, but a friendly neighboring angler (thanks fella!) suggested cut bait. We added small pieces of perch meat to our lures, and the bite immediately picked up. Bouncing rod tips sent us racing (and falling) all over the ice, sometimes two or three at a time.
We fished away the afternoon, giggling like little kids each time a perch took our bait. My buddy Luke even busted out an epic dance after finally breaking his season-long ice slump. We each kept eight fish, releasing the smaller ones to fry another day.
So am I figuring out this ice fishing thing, or was it just a lucky day? Probably a little of both, but I’ll be back soon to try again. Maybe I’ll see you on the ice.
Jordan Rodriguez has been fishing Idaho waters since he was a teen. Share your fish stories, adventures, tips and tricks at firstname.lastname@example.org.