Ohio’s ice fishing has been slow in coming this year.  Bitter cold days that see first a skim over local ponds and lakes, then thicker ice, then a warm spell that eats it away again.  But traditionally good ice of 5-6 inches comes sooner or later, and now it’s here,  and local anglers begin gathering gear and making the snow crunching hike out to fish country.  Why take the trouble?  Because it’s a fun and challenging sport, one that some anglers find addicting. 

I’ll be the first to admit that only a few of the hardy try their luck at ice fishing, and most prefer to sit near a warm fire and wonder why some of us are out there freezing solid.  There are some good answers.  First, we’re not freezing solid.  Warm clothing, insulated boots, and Gortex gloves keep us cozy, even hot.  Two, the fishing is GREAT! 

Our hio Division of Wildlife did a study once that showed ice anglers catch more fish per hour than are caught at any other season.  In short, while bad days do occur (they always will), you can usually fill a bucket with good eating in short order.  And coming out of ice water, those bluegill, bass, and crappie are going to be at their tastiest.

Maybe most important of all is the fact that ice fishing is usually a no-brainer.  It’s so simple and easy and requires such low cost gear that it’s hard to go wrong.  No  tricky tactics, no unusual rigs, a rank amateur can learn the basics in minutes and be busy fishing in minutes more.  Here’s how it works.

First of all, it’s best to concentrate on farm ponds, at least initially, and only partly because they freeze over first and have fair populations of fish.   Larger lakes have plenty of fish too, but concentrations can be harder to find, while on ponds you know where they’ll be at seasons beginning.  That’s in the deepest water they can find, and usually such water will be near a dam.

Gear?  You’ll need two short ice rods, 4-6 pound test line, and a selection of  half inch ice spoons available in almost any sporting goods store. Get a few each of white, red, yellow, and green (chartreuse).  That’s enough.  To make my rigs, I tie a quarter ounce sinker on lines end, and two spoons in different colors on short side lines above.  I like one to be white,  the other whatever, and the lower spoon should be inches above the bottom with the second maybe 8-10 inches above.

Maggots, mousies, meal worms, etc. will work, but I’ve found that waxworms almost invariably produce best.  Final step, after checking the depth of the ice near shore is to walk out to the deepest part, bore a hole with your newly purchased ice auger, clear the hole of ice and drop down a baited rig, adjusting your tiny float so it’s half submerged.  Then you start a slow, gentle jigging, a few twitches of the rod tip, then wait, more twitches, then wait. 

Pond fish love movement, and if they’re down there, they’ll start biting in minutes. If not, move 20 feet and bore another hole.  When you find action, drill a second hole, use two rods, jigging each alternately, and start filling that bucket.  Quick, easy, and effortless.  There’ll be days when nothing much happens, usually days when the barometer is bouncing, a storm is coming, or other factors intervene.  But most days you can catch all you want in an hour or two of early morning or late evening fishing.  Reason enough to be out there on the ice.

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