First Ice Preparation
By Lance Valentine
Ice fishing season is just around the corner in most of the walleye world, and first ice can be some of the best fishing of the winter. After a long summer of open-water fishing, it is important to remember that ice fishing has a unique set of rules, especially when it comes to safety. Now is the time to be sure you have everything you need to be ready when first ice finally sets in.
As most of you know, I am not much of an ice fisherman, luckily, I know lots of experienced ice anglers. I had a chance to chat with a few of them about what they thought were some of the most important things to remember about getting ready for first ice.
1) Safety: Each one of my ice angler friends emphasized safety at first ice. Normal things like filing a float plan, having ice picks ON YOU PERSON AND EASILY ACCESSIBLE, wearing a PFD or Float suit and testing the ice before each step were all brought up. If going in a group be sure to spread out when traveling and fishing. First ice can be dangerous so be sure you are over cautious as you make your first steps onto the ice
2) Location: This was a fun one! Remember where you caught fish on your last open water outing and head right back there when first ice is ready. The fish usually haven’t moved far, if at all and are usually aggressive since they are still in fall “get fat” mode and probably haven’t been pressured in a few days or more as ice was forming.
3) Presentations: Just like location, presentations can be the same as when you last caught open water fish. Obviously, we can’t troll on the ice, but start with the same size, shape and actions that worked before you put the boat up. Aggressive presentations can be effective at first ice. Fish are still aggressive, focusing on feeding and haven’t been pressured. Action baits like jigging spoons, glide baits, rattle baits and other lures that have a lot of flash and sound can really fire up first ice fish.
4) Gear: Be sure everything is working before you head out onto first ice. This is not the time for an equipment malfunction. Tune up your augers, sharpen your spud, change fishing line and be sure rods and reels are ready to go. First ice can create opportunities for the fish of a lifetime so be sure you and your gear are ready.
First ice can be some of the best fishing of the winter, and by being prepared anglers can take advantage of hungry, unpressured fish during some of the nicest days of winter.