Also available in: French
The Wildcats team shares 5 tips for making your next fishing trips even more enjoyable, and successful!
Tip #1 – Organize your gear optimally
Before heading out ice fishing, it’s very important to organize and prepare your gear in the most optimal way possible. Get it ready in your sled in order to be able to pitch your tent and drill holes quickly and efficiently once you arrive at your fishing destination.
Make sure that your ice auger works well and that the blades are sharp and pierce efficiently. Either a couple of days prior, or the night before, think about sharpening the blades with the proper tools or getting them replaced if they are too dull. Believe us: without a hole, ice fishing will be quite the challenge!
Store and organize your lures and hooks in a tackle box and make sure that they’re in good condition and that they have not rusted.
A soft bag including storage compartments, such as the ones offered at SAIL will allow you to store a lot of material in addition to making transport easier for all your fishing supplies.
Place your fishing rods, reels, boxes and fishing accessories covered and secure in a carry bag; you will avoid damaging your gear.
Finally, the evening before your ice fishing trip, make sure that the batteries in your sonar and ice auger are charged. Make sure the fuel in your ice drill is at a good level if you have one with a motor and that the propane you’re bringing is enough for your heater.
Tip #2 — Scope out prime fishing spots
Being able to identify the spots where fish are hiding is essential in order to have a successful outing. No matter the body of water from which you are fishing, target the places where fish tend to gather: river mouths, rocky cliffs, deeper seabeds, ditches and trenches, large rocks, etc. Your catches will be more fruitful if you are able to scope out these spots before beginning to fish.
Using a sonar can help you find these spots. As well, a topographic map of the waterbed from which you are fishing is a truly helpful tool that’s super efficient and less pricey.
Moreover, using an app such as Navionics Boating can save you a lot of time as it allows you to track yourself in real time on marine maps on the body of water on which you find yourself. By using the SonarChart mode on the app, you’ll be able to see water depth as well as track a couple of perfect sports to fish.
Depending on the waterbed underneath you, you may opt to add between 1.5 to 3 meters (5-10 feet) of fluorocarbon line at the end of your fishing line if you’re fishing in clear water, as fish can see better closer to the surface of the water. Consequently, you should fish at a distance of about 60 to 90 cm (2-3 feet) from the waterbed so that the fish can more easily spot your lures.
Tip #3 — Do some prospecting
We suggest that you begin prospecting in the fall, by navigating the water by boat to find some good fishing spots. This will allow you to save time in the winter when ice fishing seasons opens.
Study the habits and way of life of the fish that you will target, as their movement varies from species to species.
If you haven’t had the chance to do some prospecting during the fall, opt for a sonar, a primary time-saving tool, or head out walking or on a snowmobile to explore. Drill some holes here and there, and analyze each spot with your sonar. Don’t overuse it, however, so that you still have enough battery power for your fishing outing.
It’s important to note that it’s a good idea to avoid fishing near other anglers. The fish aren’t naïve – they’ll be able to detect fishing rods as well as the presence of many humans, and will likely distance themselves from groupings.
What are the benefits to prospecting? It will help you be sure to find the “fishiest” spots, even in the heart of winter. Most important: don’t forget to take note of your newfound fishing spots.
Tip #4 — Keep an eye on the weather conditions
Sometimes, you can have the best lure, be at the right place at the right time, have the right technique, and still…no bites! Frustrating, right? To increase your chances of making a catch, keep an eye on the weather conditions, the time of day, the moon, the tide (if applicable), as well as every other little detail that could put the odds of a catch in your favour.
Keep a fishing journal where you can take note of precise bits of data, as well as the results of your fishing excursion. After a while, re-read your journal and you’ll surely get a sense of which conditions are the most favourable.
Your results will be affected greatly by the time you fish as well as the location. In general, the morning is the best time for making catches. Additionally, if you fish in the Fjord in the Saguenay region of Quebec, be sure to check out when the tide is high or low. Our tip is to go when the tide is either coming in or going out to put all odds in your favour.
As time progresses, you’ll be able to plan your ice fishing trips according to the best conditions that you have observed.
Tip #5 — Stay safe
Safety is the word of the day when it comes to ice fishing. Of course, the goal is to have fun, but you should always be careful to avoid accidents by checking the width of the ice before proceeding. Make sure that the layer of ice is thick enough before heading out onto the lake safely:
- At least 10 cm (4 inches) of blue ice if you are heading out on foot
- At least 12 cm (5 inches) of blue ice if you are heading out on an ATV or snowmobile
- Between 20 and 30 cm (8 to 12 inches) of blue ice if you are heading out in a smaller car
- Between 30 to 38 cm (12 to 15 inches) of blue ice if you are heading out in a larger, heavyweight vehicle
Never venture out onto the ice if its thickness is less than 7 cm (3 inches) and don’t begin your season too early or end too late; no point in taking an unnecessary safety risk.
Always have a rope in your bag. It can come in handy in a multitude of situations from repairing equipment or helping someone who has fallen.
Plus, bring along a change of clothes; this can save your life if ever the temps become icily cold and you need to warm up quickly. If you’re the type of person who loves exploring and always pushes it one step further, bring along a compass or a GPS to help you find your way.
- Never miss a bite: tie a bell to the end of your fishing rod when it’s on a support stand. Use tip-ups with covers so that the water in the hole doesn’t freeze and your line doesn’t get stuck in the ice.
- Don’t let your line rest for too long. Move it around as often as possible to attract fish. Be patient and don’t rush.
- You can also use fluorescent fishing line. A fluorescent flashlight will help brighten it even more and attract more fish.
- Consider using attractants (gel or spray odours) on your lures to peak the fish’s interest.
In conclusion, we hope that our tips will prove fruitful for you and that you’ll have successful ice fishing adventures this winter. Get out into nature and explore, there’s no reason to stay cooped up inside this winter!
Article by Jérôme Charest et David Tremblay, from the Wildcats team
The Wildcats group consists of fishing enthusiasts who are, above all, friends first. With a thirst for discovery and sharing their knowledge about this winter sport, Jérôme Charest and David Tremblay explore lakes and rivers to share their unique perspective about the best spots for casting your line.
Also available in: French