Video Courtesy of Wisconsin DNR
When learning to ice fish, it's important to remember that fish do not exert as much energy or move as fast as they do in the warm months. Ice fishing techniques should all be conducted slowly as the fish will not move much to bite. In addition to little movement, fish do not bite as aggressively as in the summer, so a big part of technique is reading the bite.
If you are using an ice fishing rod and hook-and-line while ice fishing, then a good technique to try is jigging. You can use lures or live bait while jigging. Drop your line and let your jig hook sink to the bottom. Then slowly (very slowly) raise your bait up about a foot off the bottom. You can jig up and down, side to side or up and down and sideways. If you are moving your bait too much or too fast, the fish may think it is not worth the effort to go after it. Jigging works best for smaller fish like panfish.
Another technique to try is called tightlining. Tightlining is a technique where you do not move the line and lure once you drop it in the water, instead you watch the line for movement. When the line becomes "tight" you know you have something on it. When tightlining, remember to use a lure heavy enough to allow your line to drop straight down to your desired depth, but not heavy enough that the line will not move when a strike occurs. Many anglers use trial and error to find the correct lure.
Some folks also add a spring bobber to their line to help with strike indication. A spring bobber is a piece of metal or wire that extends off the rod tip. Any movement in the line will cause the spring bobber to move alerting the angler of a bite.
A tip-up is a technique as well as a piece of ice fishing equipment, more information can be found in the ice fishing gearsection. A tip-up is a device set on the ice above your hole that dangles bait beneath it with a flag as a strike indicator. When a fish takes the bait, the reel turns and releases the line and flag at the same time. The flag "tips up" alerting the angler something is on the line.Tip-ups work best with heavier braided line and a larger lure, and typically attract larger game fish.
Once your tip-up is set up on the surface above your hole, drop your line in the water until it hits the bottom (usually stirring up the water), then raise it slightly above the floor. The line can either remain still or if you are not in a shelter, the wind can provide a natural jigging movement.
Many anglers try all these above techniques simultaneously to see which works best for that particular body of water, the species available and the conditions of the season. If you plan to use multiple fishing rods or tip-ups, make sure you check the regulations from your state agency as some have limits on the numbers of rods an ice angler can use, or require permits.
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