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Mid-winter ice fishing tips

January 19, 2010 at 02:51 PM

In the middle of winter, ice fishing can be hit or miss. After a flurry of activity just as the ice forms, fish settle into a more dormant state as the water temperatures stay just above 32 degrees. That’s when a little more strategy sometimes pays off.

“There really isn’t a bad time to fish, even in the dog days of winter,” said Joe Larscheid, chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ fisheries bureau. “But the most productive times during midwinter are the first light and then last light of the day. Fish will bite all day, but you’re going to catch the most fish in those ‘low light’ hours.”

Another midwinter tip Larscheid offered was to find deeper water with some structure nearby.  “Look for water depths of about two-thirds, maybe three-fourths of the maximum depth of the lake as a starting point.  This deeper water during the midwinter is usually holding fish. Once you’re out there, look around to see where other anglers are going, then make any changes in strategy depending on your results,” he said.

As for structure, you take what you can get. It might be the outside of a creek channel; where the contour drops a couple feet. Deep brush, pallets or stake beds are also spots that will hold fish; looking for water that is a degree or two warmer than the stuff closer to the ice…and where smaller baitfish or other snacks will be seeking cover.

To catch fish in the middle of winter, there are no surprises. No wonder-bait. Just plugging away, keeping the bait, hooks and line small.

“Smaller is always better. Use the smallest hooks, lightest lines; then wax worms, maggots, that sort of thing,” suggests Larscheid. “Use the smallest you can find, to get the job done.”

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