Once you have bundled up and made it out to your lake or river of choice, it's time to determine where on the ice to set up. Before you get settled and drop your lines, make sure to thoroughly check the ice thickness around you to ensure it's a safe location of the body of water.
Generally, if you can find the fish, you can catch them. Many people use fish finder technology to determine where the fish are below the ice. Most electronic depth finders can be used above the ice without making a hole. Simply hold the transducer tightly to the ice and shoot directly down. You should be able to see structures and groups of fish as marks on the depth finder. Most likely you will find a school of fish here and a school of fish there, so remember to mark the spots as you go, as you may want to create multiple holes.
If you prefer to use natural cues to find fish, here are some indicators that will help:
Panfish are relatively small fish such as bluegill, yellow perch or crappie that live in lakes or ponds. You can also find them in rivers. They tend to stay in shallow weedy areas or in areas near structures for protection and food. In the winter months, they will stay close to the bottom or just a bit above as the water is typically warmer. Some panfish, like crappie will stay fairly still, seemingly suspended in the water. Others will move about, but with slow movements. Also, in the winter months, panfish school together. Larger panfish will make small schools, while smaller panfish will make larger schools.
Game fish such as walleye and Northern pike are highly sought-after species in ice fishing. In the winter, nature and cold temperatures slows their metabolism and they do not feed as often. When feeding does occur it is typically in low light,like sunrise or sunset. Game fish will also often seek out weed beds and structures for food. They tend to stick to the bottom of lake or pond and typically do not school. As winter progresses these fish will seek deeper waters as deeper water is typically warmer and more comfortable for the fish.
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