The first and foremost thing we need to talk about here is safety, and that is NEVER give the ice more credit than what it is due. Make sure to have crazy amounts of caution when fishing the ice, the last thing you want is to break through and risk hypothermia. That being stated, always remember the buddy system: ice fishing is not something I suggest anyone do alone. If you do go somewhere alone, make sure there are other people in the area and you tell people where you are going. It is always a good idea to wear flotation clothing just for ice anglers, or perhaps what I do and wear a life jacket. I know they are big and bulky, but its better safe than sorry. The suggested ice thickness that everyone I know abides by is 4” to walk on, 6” for an ATV or snowmobile, and 12” for vehicles. Always have a spud with you to check the ice thickness.
This is one of my favorite times of year to fish because the best eating fish can be caught. Those include the Panfish, Bluegills, Yellow Perch, Walleye, and Crappie. Yes, I know you will have to brave some crazy elements to make this happen; but it is well worth it when you can get on a good pile of them. This time of year; however, the fish have to eat to generate some sort of heat. So if you drill your hole around them and have a hardbait that is UV with rattles, it’s typically not hard to get them to bite.
What to target:
This is where experience on the lake you are ice fishing really comes into play and so does a good depth finder and mapping system. I typically want to target some piece of structure and weed lines, and fishing the warmer months in open water is really the only way to find this. You can certainly find some solid weed lines and edges in 6-12 feet of water that are holding fish. This is because the chunk rocks in these areas hold healthier vegetation and heat, which the fish will relate to. Structure though, is where I find the better walleye and crappie. So it pays off to know the best areas of structure of transitions off flats.
This is where it gets a little bit tricky to justify when the best times to go are, because it is always cold. As much as I hate to say it for the anglers that do not like the cold, the night time is the best time to get out there. The last few hours of daylight in the day into the dusk/night fall hours have always seemed to be the best for me. I believe this is because the moon and gravity force become less at night allowing the fish to move around a little easier in the cold conditions.
What to take with you:
Flasher/sounder/camera- a combo of a flasher and camera is pretty much all you need. I’ve found that an LCD display sonar is great for larger fish generally, as you have history on the screen which you lose when you use a flasher which provides real-time feedback on fish and lure location, but there is no history.
GPS – ideally you’ve done your homework ‘ground-truthing’ spots during open water with your boat – the GPS is also great for new spots, and finding your way to safety if you’re in whiteout condition.
Gas powered Drill with 24” bit- This is for drilling your hole to drop your flasher/ camera and fishing out of.
Biggest Mistakes by Beginners:
Panfish – line too thick, and lure size too big for the size of the presentation and the species target.
Larger predators – for walleyes – fishing the wrong times of the day or targeting them in water considered to be less than optimal in depth, there are always exceptions to the rule here if you have some history to go off of. Very common today for people to use a braid and fluorocarbon leader – often the fluorocarbon will be added to a swivel if you’re using a rotating presentation. Because of dropping strait down, this will create line twists. Braid can be problematic in very cold temps – if you’re in a hut, you’re in business. Larger fluorocarbon requires a larger size spool to manage the stiffness of the line.
Yo-Zuri Product to Take:
-Hybrid line in 4lb test, this is definitely a style of fishing that you want the smallest diameter line you can get away with.
-8lb TopKnot Leader, this is something I like to use when fishing for bigger walleyes. I also think it helps the bait sink faster when I see a fish on my camera or flasher.
-NEW Rattl’N Vibe Mini, this is a bait designed specifically for ice fishing anglers. I definitely love the UV colors since I fish so much at night, but also my favorites are Firetiger, Gold with Black Back, and Hot Perch
-3DS Vibe, this is a bait I catch a lot of bigger walleyes on and it seems to have a great falling action through the water column. Usually the fish eat this bait on the initial drop.
Pennsylvania is known for a lot of things: cheese steaks, America’s independence, craft beer, and the Eagles. But did you know they are also known for world classic trout and walleye fishing? Wait what…….trout and walleye fishing? Absolutely! Now to keep your optimism alive, let us explain what we are talking about here.
Rese McGaughey has been on the Yo-Zuri Prostaff for a little over a year now. He is also a native to PA and knows a thing or two around the streams and rivers there to catch some of the biggest Trout, Largemouth Bass, and Walleye. Not only is he catching them, he is catching “megas”. Looking at Rese takes you a step back in time to what the old moonshiners looked like running in the mountains of the smokies; but no, he is not a relation to Popcorn Sutton. Don’t let the awesome red beard fool you, this guy knows what he is doing.
Rese is an expert at fishing the simple way; either in a kayak or in waders. You will not find much else in his fish arsenal because of one simple reason, it works! Studying his social media presence you will quickly see the size of the fish he is catching, how many of them he is landing, and how often he is on the water. And he is always offering up advice and will tell you the exact truth to how he is catching them.
“In the summer months I really spend more time in the kayak because I can cover a lot more water than when I am wading. I really enjoy targeting the big walleye when the water temperatures are in the high 70s and low 80s,” he says.
Now the key to how he is fishing is to down size, down size, down size…
“The 3DS Minnow in the smaller size or the Pin’s Minnow offer the perfect size baits to mimic the size baitfish we have in the local streams and rivers in Pennsylvania where I fish.”
Rese also adds that color is not too important but stick to something that looks more natural such as Peanut Bunker, Baby Bass, or Brown Trout.
“Small bait fish are very translucent, so you want that clearer color that looks like the water and matches the bottom colors as well,” Rese suggests.
“When I am fishing the best time is post-frontal and a lot of sunshine in the sky. This causes bait fishing to swim around a lot more which will attract aggressive fish,” says Rese.
Thanksgiving Dinner around my house is always a very busy time of year. The food, the family, football, hunting season, decorating, and then there is the day-to-day chores to keep up with. This is also a great time of the year for me to start thinking about the upcoming fishing season and keeping my body and mind in tune to being a competitor and chasing my dreams. While most anglers are breaking in their new boat for the upcoming year or just trying to escape cabin fever, there is still a good chance to catch a nice bucket mouth.
During the winter I usually try to keep things simple throwing jigs, swimbaits, and of course hard baits. There are usually three baits I always keep tied on the deck of my boat and match the colors according to water color and visibility outside. In clear water and sunnier days outside I prefer more translucent colors. On darker days and dirtier water I like more solid colors and always follow a shad pattern. The exception is sometimes I prefer crawfish colors depending on the structure I am targeting.
The Hardcore Flat Minnow, Yo-Zuri 3DB Shad, and 3DS Mid-Crank are my most trusted arsenal this time of year. I always try to fish areas that have a rock bottom or have close relating rip-rap around them; throw in some brush to the mix and you have pot of gold sitting in front of you. Generally the water temperatures are anywhere between 48-53 degrees here in the state of Alabama. When temperatures are this cold largemouth are usually not very aggressive but they have to eat to stay warm. My favorite bait is the 3DS Mid-Crank in a shad or crawfish pattern, I’ll always have the fish tell me what they want. This is a great bait when targeting fish in 4-8 feet of water. I generally throw this bait on 10lb Yo-Zuri TopKnot mainline fluorocarbon and use just a slow steady retrieve to the boat. The key here it to have the bait bumping the bottom since the fish usually are not high in the water column. On slick sunny days I have caught some of my biggest winter time bags on the 3DB shad. I love throwing this little bait because I can use light spinning tackle and catch everything from 12 inchers all the way to 6 pounders. Make sure your using a long fast action spinning rod with a high quality spinning reel that has a good drag system. For this technique I will use a 15lb Yo-Zuri SuperBraid with a 8lb Yo-Zuri TopKnot Mainline Fluorocarbon leader. The Hardcore Flat minnow is just tried and true bait any time the water is cold. It always catches a few more fish for me throughout the day because it resembles a dying bait fish and will be an easier meal for the fish.
When trying to locate good areas of the lake to fish try to keep in mind where the warmest water will be. Generally the areas with darker water color or middle sections of the lake with the deepest water are a safe bet. You will almost always find my boat up a river where the water is dirtier and warmer or fishing down the bank of rip rap in the middle sections of the lake where there is deep water relating.
Always trust in Yo-Zuri and happy fishing!!!