Published January 2005

Good ice has been slow in coming to area farm ponds this winter.  Snow and rain, freezes and thaws, but if that safe 4-5 inches of clear ice hasn’t arrived yet, it surely will soon, and when it comes, a small, but growing fraternity of ice walkers is going to be out there boring holes and hauling home some of the years best eating.

One of the best things about farm pond ice fishing is that it’s almost idiot proof.  You can be a local expert and catch fish or an absolute duffer who can hardly bait a hook and still catch fish.  Usually lots of them, because statistics show that fishing on frozen water is the absolute most productive way of taking pan and game fish. 

 So, how do you do it?  Remember that safety comes first, so you always fish with a partner or two and always bore a hole and check ice depth just a couple of feet off dry land.  There’s really no need to mention that you’ve got to stay warm, since chilled hands and frozen feet will drive you off the ice in a hurry.  Wear insulated boots, good thermal long johns, and carry a handwarmer or a source of heat, maybe a Coleman lantern or tiny propane stove.

Equipment is simple.  A couple of short ice rods available at almost any sporting goods store or section, a sturdy auger, some ice spoons, flies, and tiny jigs in various colors, and a container of waxworms will do the job nicely most times.  Place the lot in a five gallon plastic bucket, walk out to the deepest end of a pond that you know holds good bluegill and bass (usually near the dam), and bore two holes.

Next step is to let a pair of spoons, one on lines end and one on a short side line 6-8 inches above down to bottom, each with a waxworm, reel up a turn and adjust your float for that depth.  Add a splitshot if you wish to get the baits down quicker, use the smallest float that will hold the rig up, something around dime or nickel size, and start slow jigging.

You’ll jig one rod gently up and down just an inch or two, then let it rest while you jig the other rod.  Bites usually come at the rest as panfish swimming below are attracted to the movement, swim over, and suck the offering in.  That’s all it takes.  Deep water, ice spoons in white, red, yellow, and chartreuse, and jig just above the bottom.  It isn’t rocket science.

There are refinements, of course.  Like moving every  15 minutes or so if you’re catching nothing, until you find a cluster of hungry fish.  You might concentrate your fishing early and late, too.  I’ve taken pond fish at high noon and will again, but early and late always seems to be better.  Especially early when they’ve eaten little or nothing all night. And if you’re using several colors of spoons and catching all of your fish on white, for example, you might like to change other spoons to that color.

Most farm ponds have largemouth bass and you’ll catch these frequently on bluegill jigging spoons or flies, but if you ever get serious about catching bass, go to slightly larger spoons. maybe an inch long or so.  I’ve taken bass to four pounds plus through the ice, releasing most and sometimes keeping a couple in the 1  1/2 pound range, and even half frozen they’re a lively proposition on four pound test line.

Here’s a final thought.  As I’ve found out more than once, even basically dumb bluegills can wise up if you’re hitting the same pond hard again and again.  When that happens, give up the spoons they’ve been seeing repeatedly. 

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