Detecting Subtle Ice Fishing Panfish Bites: Beyond Feel And Sight

With today’s fishing technology, plus a few exclusive bluegill and walleye tricks, there’s no excuse for missing bites!

Many seminar attendees ask me for tips on how to detect subtle bites. No doubt: Ice bites demand ever-more attention to detail. Blame evolution: Hard-hitting, aggressive panfish don’t live to spawn another day!

Terry Tuma

Still, man can outsmart fish, and with today’s technology at our disposal, there’s no excuse for missing bites. A Vexilar or underwater camera helps! But part of it is simple experience. Like Texas-rigging in open water, you develop a sixth sense for when a bite is happening.

Here are some basic tricks I use: Use a spring bobber, use a slip-bobber knot, and depth setters, and strike indicators. Try fishing a drop line beyond the rod tip between thumb and forefinger. Kink your line, and when it straightens, be on alert.

Many times sunnies bite so light that the spring bobber doesn’t move! That will cost us some fish.

If deadsticking with a bobber, use a bobber that is only big enough to hold a bait and lure at a prescribed depth. It’s got to be small. I like Ice Buster bobbers where you cut the foam; they’re great for customizing a small, subtle bobber to the conditions.

I’ve done a lot of bobber tests in tandem with an underwater camera over the years, and these finicky bluegills will try your patience.

We have to understand that the fishes environment in winter is totally different. Especially after the first-ice period, their metabolism slows, so they weigh every food source. They’re picky so we need to be fussy with our bait and how we present it.

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One Response to “Detecting Subtle Ice Fishing Panfish Bites: Beyond Feel And Sight”

  1. TJanet Conover

    I find that moving the minnow around will get more bites! I also use an Aqua View camera to watch the fish and if they aren’t interested in the minnow, switch to a meal worm or spike and try to get some of the milky substance for the fish to smell ! And if all that doesn’t work, I will use a small jig tipped with the meal worm!