I started gathering ice fishing intel in September, but some of the best intel on where I begin my ice fishing season is happening now in November. The boat is never put away until late November or even early December, especially recently with our warm drawn out Fall weather. Stuck between pheasant hunting trips and late season guide trips, I’m looking for the best early season ice fishing spots with my boat and sonar. Let’s face it, there is no easy mobility on the ice, not nearly as easy and efficient as open water mobility in a boat. And keeping fishing efficient and productive is top priority.
What about last years’ spots? Rule number one: Never rely on last year’s fishing spots, let alone last week.
They call it fishing memories, not a good idea. Use memories and fishing patterns as a starting point only. Using the Lund, the on board Vexilar FL-28 (Yes, I use my Vexilars all summer), and the Humminbird Helix 10, I can scout early ice fishing options on up to 4-5 lakes in a day. Not to mention, I’m creating a plotter trail and actually saving a few coordinates at the same time. I also carry a note book to make detailed notes about what I have found. I’m not a spot saver, but it is easier when your plotter/routes are jumbling up the screen. I always save my “routes” for future reference to create accuracy on the contour lines.
Yes folks, do not trust your “lake chip” even 80%. Doesn’t matter if it’s Humminbird or Lowrance. The “lake chips” are often close, but not 100% “true”. Pick a depth, (I usually choose the weed line), follow it with the boat and create a line, then compare it to the chart on your screen. That’s how you find the hotspots. Between you and me, I hope the maps never get accurate.
The picture I’ve included clearly illustrates what I’m trying to describe. The actual shape of the two underwater mid-lake points is clearly much different than the “chip chart”. The grey lines are my boat route tracing the same depth. Within the picture I had found 3 spots to place a fish house, loaded with fish: Bluegills, crappies and walleyes. Areas like this will hold fish all winter. First the fish will be in shallower weedy flats and on the weed lines during early ice, then slide out to more oxygen rich deeper water later in the season when the weeds are shot, using the bottom or suspending—or both. I just saved hours of walking around, or driving around, with an ATV and dropping a “ducer” on the ice every 15 ft.
Try to find a minimum of 9 spots on each lake to ice fish.
I look for three spots for early ice, three for mid-season, and three spots for late season ice fishing. That gives me enough areas to place a bunch of fish houses. Not next to each other. Dodge the crowds just in case they may be near “community holes.” But most importantly, multiple areas of safe ice for travel. So yup, I will accumulate around 45 potential ice fishing spots if I scout 5 lakes. Try do that walking around dressed like the Stay Puffed marshmallow man.
Give ice fishing in your boat a try, if anything use it as an excuse to winterize the boat, not to mention get some really late season open water fishing. It was in early November 1990 when I first used my boat and a pile of Jiggin’ Raps to find my early ice walleye spots, and I still do it today!
By Captain Josh Hagemeister