Ice Fishing Panfish
If you go ice fishing panfish in mid-winter and you want to have more fun catching fish you want to be mobile and use the tools that help you accomplish that.
by Jim Uran
The mid winter doldrums as they call it, have set in! But in reality most of the fish out in the lake don’t know that. I’m not sure where that term mid-winter doldrums came from, but in all honesty there are ways to deal with them. By now, on your local lakes you will find those out ice fishing panfish at the usual crappie towns located in the same spot year to year, this is the time of year that things slow down for them, not because the lake is slowing down, it’s because their spot is slowing down. A spot like that is a good place to fish, but the inevitable happens every year.
The aggressive fish are caught and brought home and turned into fish tacos, or however people choose to eat them these days, leaving the community crappie hole with less fish to catch and with the cold and the snow making it harder to move to a new spot, they sit and wait it out, ice fishing panfish in an unproductive spot. Which ultimately leads to less minnow sales, and more beer sales, don’t be those guys!
Mobility and experimenting really are the ticket to becoming a successful panfish angler. Over the last decade of ice fishing panfish, I’ve learned from my own, and from others’ mistakes. We have all heard it over and over again, don’t fish in the crowds. That is such solid advice, but at the same time take a look at that lake map and see where that crowd is set up, it’s amazing how much structure and areas out on that lake that have the same look as the spot that is crowded every year that are untouched, isn’t it?
Having the keys to mobility are a big part of my angling success, having the right gear and knowing how to use it when ice fishing panfish put fish topside for me almost every trip. Starting out with the right clothing, a good polypro base layer and a fleece hoody and some jeans, and I’m always topped off with my Striker Ice Suit, I prefer the Striker Lite suit, and have been suiting up with it since last mid winter and have zero complaints yet.
It has held up to tons of trips on the ice so far and it’s ability to fight off the wind, the ice, and the cold is second to none! Extra padding on your knees and your behind helps fight off the aches and pains that are associated with ice fishing. It’s just an all around excellent choice for an Ice Fishing Panfish Suit, which comes in more varieties than the Lite version. Give their website a look.
Weight is definitely key when considering your shack, I thought it over and over this year and before the season began I picked up a Scout TC from Clam, and I have been nothing but pleased with the ease of use and the dependability it brings to my game. Being able to move from spot to spot when ice fishing panfish hasn’t been easier, and with the addition of the FireBrite lights I picked up from the Outdoor Pro Store, staying on the move at night hasn’t been easier.
It’s amazing how much light these things produce and you can keep them running for hours and hours on a vexilar type battery. I installed my battery into a Clam Power Center that I picked up and fastened it right into the inside of the tub on my Scout TC. Set up the string lights so they are facing downwards towards the hole, secure them with zip ties and you are all set, no more messing around with headlamps and lanterns. When ice fishing panfish being able to move from spot to spot and simply flipping the shack over and having light is priceless!
A couple more tools that I have put to work this year are my Eskimo Shark Z-51 and my Vexilar Fl-22 HD! What a couple of awesome additions to the arsenal. The Shark rips through the ice just as fast as any other auger I have ever used, and so far has proven that it is dependable in every kind of condition mother nature will throw at you. On a new lake, I’ll pinpoint the areas that I want to fish on a map even before I get out there, I’ll start off by drilling out the edge of a good looking basin area with at least 15-25 holes.
I’ll come back through with the Vexilar, scanning each hole for those telltale suspended marks. I’ll drop down an OPS flutter Jig tipped with a few spikes or a big fat waxie and it’s game on. If I’m not marking any fish I’ll go through and fish the holes anyways, seeing if there is anything off to the side that will come in and take a look when I drop my Jig down, and at the same time being able to gauge the mood of the fish, after a few trips on the ice your Vexilar will be able to tell you what mood the fish are in depending on how they act to your presentation, or how tight they are tucked to the bottom.
From there when out ice fishing panfish you can adjust your presentation as you see fit. Once these holes are fished, and if you aren’t finding what you want, yes you guessed it, move again! If you can stay active and keep yourself on the move, you will be rewarded, and you will learn a ton!
The key again, is mobility. These are tools that help me stay mobile, without these things would I catch fish? Probably, but I wouldn’t stay as comfortable, I wouldn’t be able to catch as many fish, and I would probably be another face in the crowded community crappie hole.