Sometimes You’re Better Off KEEPING THINGS SIMPLE
by Jon Mitzel
Everything has its place in ice fishing, but in clear water, you’re often better off with a basic technique
There’s been a lot of innovations in the ice fishing industry over the last 20 years. Most of it positive. With the advent of ice jigs we’re no longer limited to plain old hooks with no color, no design and no fish-attracting shapes.
Let’s face it, ice fishing techniques are limited. While you be mobile and move around a lot, fact is you can’t cover the amount of water you can during the open water season.
You’re fishing through an ice hole in the ice. You can’t cast, you can’t retrieve and you’re basically just looking for a fish in a small confined area. And darn it, sometimes it’s just too cold out there to move around.
But when the mid-winter bite becomes tough we often rely on the plain hook tipped with a minnow. Small minnows for perch and medium sized minnows for walleyes will produce.
Jigging spoons, also, are great fish catchers, and will often attract and trigger fish into biting.
But when it comes to the plain hook, we prefer a long-shank hook, but small, perhaps a size 6 or maybe 8. By nature of their construction, smaller, thinner hooks are sharper. You will simply miss fewer fish. We also prefer a light line in clear water.
Keep in mind that it’s really the minnow the fish wants. The lure or jig is merely an attractor. If you’d like to add some color to a plain hook rig for visibility as an attractor, slip a small colored bead onto the line and let it rest against the eye of the hook. This will work well.
Tie the hook directly to the line (unless fishing for pike where a wire leader or heavy line is recommend), then 18 inches above the hook place a small split-shot for weight, 1/8th or 1/16th of an ounce.
Finally, finish it off at the top with a small bobber, just enough to keep the rig from sinking. This is usually no bigger than a quarter in diameter.
Hook the small minnow for perch or medium sized minnow for walleye just of the dorsal fin to keep it lively, taking care not to pierce the backbone.
We still like to “jig” this set-up from time to time, and by all means keep checking your bait for liveliness. But keep it simple.
Drop the rig into the hole and set is so your minnow is 6 to 12 inches off the bottom, remembering that that a fish can see baits much better that are above them, but has difficulty finding things below its body. The fish’s best field of vision is in front of itself and above.
Certainly, you can still move around a lot with this simple rig. Color is a great additive, but if the water is very clear, as it often is during winter months, go small and go subtle.
There is no substitue for punching holes in the area of a large school of fish. That’s why mobility is important. But the simple, basic rig consisting of a plain hook and minnow should not be overlooked especially when the bite slows or fish are finicky. •