Utah Fishing Guide
Ice Fishing Minnesota Style
This is a guest article by Minnesota angler Jeff Beckwith of Scenic Tackle and Guide Service
Hello in Utah. I just found your web site and it looks great. I am a very avid ice-fisherman and guide in northern Minnesota. I see there are several questions and people wanting information about ice fishing. Here in Minnesota, we spend about 5 months a year fishing through 8-10 inch holes in the ice. While your ice does not get as deep as our 35-50 inches ice, the fishing is still similar.
Up here we use a lot of portable shelters. Otter Outdoors makes some very good shacks that I prefer to use because of their portability and comfort. They set up in about 5 minutes or less and we use the snow and ice from the holes we drill to anchor our houses. They have a flap sewn on to the canvas that is designed to have snow placed on them. I prefer to put this flap on the inside of my house. This often times prevents the ice from freezing to the canvas and it also seems to block the wind out better.
On mild days (20º or warmer), I prefer to heat my shack with a heater called the "Heater Buddy." This heater is very safe and is made for indoor use. On days that are much colder, we use what is called a sun flower style heater but these units MUST be vented. We vent them by opening the zippers of our doors on the bottom and the houses have vent pockets on top. With both open, it is a safe way to heat your shack. We also try to open our doors about once an hour.
As far as electronics go, we get a bit crazy up here. A few of us mount GPS and locator units on the dashes of our trucks for use in ice fishing. For locators, I prefer the Vexilar FL8 unit for several reasons. I like the floating self leveling transducer and I also feel this unit gives me great separation. I can generally see a fish within a couple inches off the bottom. This unit also allows me to see even the smallest jigs or spoons when used with a 9 degree cone. For my fishing, I prefer the duel beam that gives me both the 20 and the 9 degree cones. I feel that you have to know what is happening under that ice.
You have to know that fish are in the area, how they are reacting to your presentation and what the bottom is made up of. You can tell all this by using the Vexilar FL8. When a fish first enters the cone area, it will appear as a light orange mark on the screen and that mark continues to get darker the more the fish becomes located directly under you. Your presentation will show as green. When that orange mark turns red it is time to set the hook. With some time on this unit, you will often times be able to read it well enough to know when a fish has your presentation in it's mouth.
Another benefit of these units is that if you carry a water filled soap bottle with you, it will allow you to tell the depth of the water under the ice. Simply brush away any snow on the ice and squirt some water on the exposed ice. Place your transducer on this spot with your gain or sensitivity turned up until the unit reads. On very clear ice, it is even possible to mark fish thru the ice using these units without drilling a hole. This method really saves time when you are searching for structure.
Many ice anglers feel that drilling a hole through the ice is going to be a grueling process. Some people go out and only drill one hole each time they go fishing on the ice. That to me is like parking your boat and fishing the exact spot all day long. On a normal day of fishing, I may drill 30-50 holes. Today augers are so much better then they used to be. The lazer series by Strikemaster cuts through ice unbelievably quickly. Get either the gas power or the hand model depending on how thick the ice gets in your area.
Rods...touchy subject here. Everyone has their preferences for feel. The way I look at my ice rods is a lot like I look at my summer rods. If you were going whale fishing you would not use an ultra lite rod or if you are perch and bluegill fishing, you would not use a broom handle. While there are lots of rods on the market, I feel that quality rods are important. Fish in the winter often times bite much lighter then those in the summer. You need to feel those light biters and a rod needs to match what you are fishing. When I am perch or bluegill fishing, I use a VERY, VERY light rod such as that made by HT Enterprises. This rod, as we call it, is a noodle rod. The tip end is about the size of a piece of spaghetti and will detect even the lightest of bites. When Walleye fishing, I use the Dave Genz series of rods. They are a quality graphite rod that matches my presentation.
To begin ice fishing, start with a few basic lures. As an owner of a tackle manufacturing business, I am pretty partial to what we make here in my shop but there is lots of quality fishing tackle out there to use. If I were to recommend what a person should take with them to fish, I would begin with Scenic Tackle's Glow Devil Jigging Spoons in an assorted color and the Angel Eye Spoon also in assorted colors. Both of these are made for vertical jigging and have been tried and proven lures. JB Lures makes very high quality fishing tackle and that company excels when it comes to ice fishing. If you are panfish fishing, try JB's Glitter Glows, the JB Ants or try their Luner Grub Jigs. All of the above presentations have Glow Paint on them. We have found that the glow in the dark lure really out fishes the nonglow many times in dark water.
Ice fishing has changed a lot in the last few years. Many advancements have been made in everything from clothing to electronics and continues to get better all the time. The day of sitting on your bucket and watching a bobber for hours has changed. Quality equipment is available out on the market now. Up here, we probably spend as much or more on our ice fishing equipment as we do on our summer equipment. You do not have to spend a lot but just be careful what you buy. Buy quality equipment up front and you will be happy in the end.
If anyone has any questions, please feel free to contact me by any of the below methods under Scenic Tackle. I by no means know everything there is to know about ice fishing but it is something we here in Minnesota do a lot of and we try to stay on top of the current equipment. Remember that no fish is worth putting yourself or others in danger. This can be a very fun sport but common sense goes a long ways to keep it that way.
Good Luck to all,
Scenic Tackle and Guide Service
1113 America Ave
Bemidji, MN 56601