Being a very gregarious person off the ice, I am a stickler on the ice for privacy. It’s really not a people thing but rather I have found getting away from the masses on the ice means better success for this angler. Ice anglers as a group tend to flock to community spots during the winter months whereas I believe the key to success is striking out for isolated spots on your own. Here are some ideas to maybe rethink your strategies as we head into the middle part of the ice fishing season.
Birds of a feather
Many anglers tend to head towards groups of permanent houses as a starting point because they have no clue on where to go in the first place. Because of this, these community spots tend to get noisy and full of vehicles and activity coming and going throughout an evening or morning. Nothing worse than the whine of augers when you are approaching prime fishing time. These community spots are always good the first couple weeks of the season and then detoriate as the legions show up. My advice – head elsewhere!
These community spots are always easy to pick out because you see clusters of houses gathered by the score. These clusters are actually a starting point to get you in the right area but I have found fishing the outskirts or areas beyond the houses can be good. Gamefish tend to get spooked and they move to the outskirts of these clusters and can be caught within 100 to 200 yards on the outskirts. Always probe with your electronics around these clusters and look for suspended fish loafing well outside the groups of houses. Many times I can pick off some fish well before prime time on the outskirts while the clusters of houses wait for prime time.
Keep a low profile
I always make it a point to move around any given lake with a low profile. This means trying to move about creating as little notice as possible that I am angling. This means I occasionally switch colors and brand names of my portable ice house to attract as little attention as possible. If you fish the same spot night after night you will attract attention because you are in the same color house day after day and you can bet you’ll have some company. The idea is to hit your spot, catch your fish and move on with as little fanfare as possible. Believe it or not it is the cabin people that are constantly watching your movements not necessarily the other anglers. Cabin people tend to monitor their lakes very closely and you can bet you are being watched night after night. Nothing attracts attention than a portable ice house on the same spot night after night.
The blab factor
The blab factor has killed more of my fishing spots over the years than anything else. If you are on fish, keep it on the QT. I share my spots with a close group of cronies that I trust. This trust has developed over a period of years and they know the code of silence. Proven ice fishing spots are too valuable to be bragged up or boasted about. If you happen upon a great walleye spot, part of the fun and excitement is sharing it with people you love and trust… go get ‘em!
Jeff Weaver is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.