Tips for cold-weather fishing: apparel, baits and other necessities.
Across the Ice Belt, anglers are anxiously prepping for hardwater adventures in the months ahead. To make this your best winter yet, we’ve assembled a few timely tips on gearing up to make the most of all the icy good action to come.
Restocking your arsenal of jigs, spoons and other ice fishing lures is a big part of preparing for ice fishing success, but don’t forget to stock up on tippings as well.
While natural baits such as waxworms and minnow heads have long been a top choice for tipping winter fishing lures, modern artificial softbaits catch more fish, while eliminating the hassles of live bait.
Softbaits are easy to store and transport. They’re durable on the hook and never go belly up in the minnow bucket. Plus, you don’t have to worry about making a run to the bait shop before hitting the lake. Added advantages softbaits offer over live bait include more choices in colors, sizes and actions—allowing anglers to perfectly tweak their presentations to the mood of the fish and conditions at hand.
Flavored softbaits come in all shapes and sizes. Choose from dainty panfish baits like Berkley’s Gulp! Ice Euro Larvae and PowerBait Ice Wishbone to larger options built for open water that also work wonders through the ice, such as Gulp! Minnows.
Rods, Reels And Line
Prior to the Ice Fishing Revolution, winter warriors wielded veritable broomsticks strung with thick black braided line or stiff, poor-handling monofilament with all the sensitivity of a sickly Slinky.
Today’s ice anglers enjoy high-performance rods and reels like Berkley’s Lightning Rod Ice Combo, and a variety of next-generation fishing lines to spool up with. Berkley Trilene Cold Weather monofilament, for example, is formulated for as much flexibility at 32 degrees as regular mono has on a summer day.
Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon Ice adds the near-invisibility of fluorocarbon, which can be critical in ultra-clear conditions common in the wintertime. Plus, it offers low stretch for greater sensitivity and rock-solid hooksets. Its thin diameter also engenders better lure control.
High-performance superlines such as Berkley NanoFil or FireLine Micro Ice further reduce stretch and line diameter, while increasing strength. The result is optimum sensitivity for detecting light bites in deep water, as well as precision lure control.
How to Tie the Nanofil Knot
Adding a short fluorocarbon or monofilament leader to the end of your superline mainline for reduced visibility and added abrasion resistance can produce the best of all worlds.
Underwater cameras and sonar systems lift the veil of secrecy from the underwater world, allowing anglers to identify high-quality structure and cover, as well as spot fish and see how they react to different lures, baits and jig strokes.
Sonar is available in LCD and flasher-style displays. Flashers are a traditional, easy-to-use favorite, but modern LCDs paint an amazingly detailed picture of what lies beneath the ice.
Sonar units that include GPS chartplotters offer the added bonus of viewing depth and contour information on lake maps. Plus you get all the perks of GPS navigation, including the ability to mark waypoints over fish-producing strike zones and chart travel routes—a huge plus in unfamiliar surroundings, especially when fishing large bodies of water.
Of course, you can’t strike winter gold without first punching a hole through the icepack with a chisel or auger.
Chisels are great for testing the ice and cutting holes when the ice is relatively thin in early winter. Chisels also excel for re-opening lightly frozen holes toward the end of the season.
Hand augers are lightweight and quiet. Because they require ample amounts of human labor to operate, they’re ideal for slicing small holes in ice less than a foot thick. For thicker ice and boring holes 8 inches or larger in diameter, power augers get the nod.
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