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The Boatless Angler - Chapter 10 - The Basics of Ice Fishing

Winter is upon us again, for some it’s a time for rest and relaxation, but for others it’s a time of pleasure and excitement! The cold weather is what a boatless angler waits for as the ice provides a gateway to a complete body of water. But where do you begin?

This chapter outlines some simple facts and techniques to have a successful day on the hard water:

Winter Fish Facts


Ice fishing can be a difficult time to put fish in your bucket for a few reasons, firstly, the cold slows fish metabolism. For some fish, this means a complete shutdown, no movement, no feeding, no activity.

These fish are basically in hibernation, making them extremely difficult to catch through the ice even when your bait is right in front of their noses. Some examples of these fish are carp, catfish and drum.

All other types of fish also slow down in the winter months but still remain active enough to feed and will provide great sport for a boatless angler fishing through the ice.


The popular active target species for ice fishing anglers are perch, pike, crappie, sunfish, walleye, whitefish and trout. Many of these fish like perch, sunfish and crappie are schooling fish, therefore often times when you catch one through the ice, there are more to follow!

However, even though there are always winter active fish, deep freeze cold fronts can and will shutdown even the most active winter fish (e.g. perch) and make for a really hard day out on the water.

Getting Started


Once your all geared up and ready to hit the ice (check out Boatless Angler chapters 6.1 and 6.2 for ice fishing gear tips) there are a few thing s you should consider before picking a starting spot.

First you want to have prior knowledge of the body of water that you are fishing. Know the deep points, weedy areas, the shoals and the drop offs.

This will give you a spot to aim for when you get out there. Deep holes (25 to 40 feet) often hold large schools of fish but sometimes they are not very active and are difficult to trigger them to bite. Weedy areas and flats in about 10 to 20 feet will hold a variety of game fish, and they often roam the areas slowly in search of food.

Shoals often hold larger game fish (walleye and trout) and can provide good sport fishing if you hit the right spot. Drop offs are prime areas as well especially if you are fishing the shallow side and there is a weed line.

Here you will catch a variety of big and small game fish!

More coming next week, so stay tuned!

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