Monday, January 7, 2008

Ice Fishing Tips for Pike, Walleyes, Perch and Bluegills

If you icefish with wooden tip-ups, take a tape measure and permanent marker and mark out a fish-measuring ruler on the spine of your traps. This way you will be able to measure your fish quickly and can return the undersize ones to the water without having to lay them on the ice and risk freezing their skin.


For Northern Pike which are difficult enough to catch when you're retrieving plugs in fluid water, the best setup through hard water is the tip-up. Try a tip-up rig that includes a 36-inch, 12- to 15-pound-test monofilament leader attached to a shorter steel leader with a round hook. The hook is then threaded under the dorsal fin of a 4-inch shiner or 10-inch sucker. A split shot can be attached to the monofilament just above the steel leader if weight is needed to get the rig to the bottom. If you're fishing waters known for trophy pike, consider making a large sucker your standard bait. Keep your bait near, but not directly on, the bottom. Because pike generally look up when they feed, start most baits about three to four feet off the bottom. But you shouldn't be afraid to work baits higher in the water column.

One of the best methods for walleyes is to fish brightly colored jigs near the bottom of a lake or river. Capitalize on Walleyes need to feed during the winter by dropping a No. 5 Jigging Rapala tipped with a minnow. In the winter, more strikes are due to eating behavior than to aggression. Tipping that jig with a minnow adds the taste and smell of fish. To properly rig the jig, put the treble hook through the lip of the minnow and add a single trailer hook through its tail to increase hookups. Fish the rig eight to fifteen inches off the bottom, slowly raising and lowering the combination. Walleyes usually take the bait on the drop, so you won't feel the fish until you raise the rod tip. In turbid waters, you can use line as heavy as 10-pound-test, but go with 4- or 6-pound-test in clear waters.

When it comes to perch, numbers are the name of the game. There's one rig that gives you a huge advantage: a perch spreader. Relatively unknown outside of the Great Lakes, this rig is a great way to double your hookup odds. It consists of a thin horizontal wire approximately 13 to 16 inches long, with attachments that allow you to tie snelled hooks on each end. With a swivel in the middle, you can add a ¾- to 1 1/4-ounce weight. The wire spreads the two snelled hooks apart so that you can dangle two shiners or minnows without fear of their tangling. The key to successfully working the rig is determining where the fish are located and keeping it in front of them. Typically, winter perch will hug the bottom, but occasionally they'll suspend in the water column. Lower the rig to the bottom or to the depth at which you see fish on your graph. Then slowly raise and lower it.

The beautiful thing about crappies is that hard-tugging slabs can be tempted with both live and artificial baits. Use a size 6 to 12 teardrop jig tipped with a minnow. Chartreuse is his favorite color, but anything bright will do. In addition to jigs, attract slabs with a minnow on a light wire hook. Place a 1/32- to 1/64-ounce split shot 6 to 12 inches above the hook for weight. Start your bait about 12 inches off the bottom and work toward the surface until you find fish--which may be as shallow as 12 inches beneath the ice. A slow, steady jigging action will catch fish most of the time, but there are days when no action is needed.

Diminutive bluegills can also be taken with teardrop jigs and bait. While the same bright colors that are effective for crappies will work for bluegills, it's best to use smaller jigs in size 10 and 12, and to tip them with wax worms or mousies. A slow jigging motion will produce bluegills, but sometimes a still presentation works best. Adding a small bobber will help hold the bait relatively motionless in the strike zone. A lot of anglers will have more than one hole, so they can fish a jig in one and leave a bobber and jig in the other. When you tip with a wax worm, you'll get some wiggle action from the bait, and sometimes that's all it takes to trigger strikes.

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