By Bob Jensen

In the past several years, a number of anglers have mentioned to me that they would like to get involved in ice-fishing. 

We’ve talked about what it takes to go ice-fishing and I’ve learned that there are just a few things that need to be kept in mind if someone wants to try their hand at fishing through a hole in the ice.  Let’s talk about some of those things.

First, we want to be comfortable.  Comfortable means keeping warm, but not too warm.  And it is possible to get too warm when you go ice-fishing.  It works well to drill a good number of holes over an area because some fish at times will school very tightly.  Other fish at other times are spread out.  Having the option to move from hole to hole quickly and easily is good, and it’s also good to drill those holes before you start fishing, and drilling several holes and walking between the holes can make a person too warm.  It works well to layer clothing so you can add or subtract clothing to keep at a comfortable temperature.

Beginner Ice angler

Second thing:  Many older anglers who enjoy open water fishing know how to use a spinning outfit.  However, many youngsters don’t.  I have a good number of ice-fishing rod/reel set-ups, and I always have one set aside with no line.  This enables me to show a young angler who has never used a spinning reel how to do so.

Next, take a rod/reel with line and simulate a fish being on the line.  Teach the youngster when to reel and when to let the rod fight the fish.

For anglers new to ice-fishing, and especially young anglers, I prefer to use baits that have just one hook:  No trebles!  It’s much easier to remove single hook baits from a fish’s mouth.  The past couple of years I’ve been fishing with some youngsters and we’ve used, almost exclusively, Forage Minnow Jigs tipped with some sort of bait.  These lures have a larger body and just a single fixed hook.  They’re very easy to handle, and the fish like them.  In the hands of a beginning angler, that’s a win.

It works so much better to make sure the beginning angler has a depth-finder to use.  Share yours.  I was ice-fishing with a six-year-old last year.  He was fishing, I was coaching.  We had my Vexilar FLX-20.  I showed and explained to my young partner what the depth-finder was showing us.  In two minutes he had it figured it out.  He could see his bait, and he was able to accurately tell me when he thought he was going to get bit, and he was usually right. 

Vexilars work very well because they read in real-time.  When the fish mark merges with the bait mark, you can expect to feel or see the strike.  And, if no fish are seen on the depth-finder, we move until we see fish.  This prevents the new angler from getting bored or frustrated.  We don’t wait for the fish to come to us, we go looking for them.

Last thing:  Go somewhere where the chances of getting bit are good.  They don’t need to be big fish, and it doesn’t matter what kind they are.  We just want something pulling back.  Most anglers, regardless of age or skill level, want to catch some fish, and when they’re in the early stages of learning, catching anything is a very good teacher and keeps them interested.

If you’ve got someone in your life that would like to go ice-fishing, keep these ideas in mind and you’ll increase their chances of enjoying the experience.

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Fishing the Midwest

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Midwest Hunting & Fishing

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