I break the ice fishing down into three key periods: early ice, midwinter ice, and late season ice.
Of the three, I think early season ice may be the most overrated and late season ice the most underrated. Don’t get me wrong. Early ice fishing is good for a number of reasons. There are fewer anglers, which translates into less noise, and that’s a big, big factor for fishing success. Plus, just after ice-up, we have some of the highest oxygen levels that we’ll see all winter partially because we still have some green weeds. That vegetation provides sanctuary for fish and forage sources, and predator fish follow, so shallows and weedlines are key areas to work early season.
That said, I think we put too much emphasis on early ice, resulting in anglers giving up on the midseason, which can be very productive. Too many ice anglers consider midseason the dog days of winter ice fishing. Midwinter doldrums and dog days both are angling misnomers. Fish still have to feed!
Typically what hurts the bite in midwinter is heavy fishing pressure and the accompanying noise, which spooks fish. Fish early and late and avoid the crowds, and you’ll find angling success during these coldest days of the year.
Late ice is very productive, but many anglers have given up for the year by the time it rolls around. We’ve got fresh run-off re-oxygenating the lakes, longer hours of daylight jumpstarting photosynthesis in our weeds, and gradually warming water temperatures. It all adds up to forage and predators becoming more aggressive.
Get out and enjoy all three phases of winter ice fishing this year!
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One of the most popular ice-angling seminar speakers in the country, Minnesota-based “Tackle” Terry Tuma was catching big fish through hard water before it was “cool.” From border country walleyes to farm pond panfish, Tuma explains his ice formula for catching winter fish. For more fishing tips from “Tackle” Terry Tuma, visit the Outdoor News website at www.outdoornews.com or Upper Midwest residents can listen to Tuma every Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m. CST on the FAN Radio Network.