With any luck from Mother Nature, the waters on Indian Lake will soon be solid enough for ice fishers to go have their fun.
The first ice watch is in effect from Dec. 14 through Dec. 16 according to Scott Albrecht, owner of icefishohio.com.
Ice fishing, commonly referred to as hard water fishing, provides many fishing fans the opportunity to pursue a favorite, the crappie. Ice anglers travel all over the ice belt in pursuit of the best crappie bite on the ice. For beginners and experienced ice fishers, safety should always be first. Albrecht gives his recommendations for a safe trip out on the ice.
“Walking on thin ice is risky business,” he said. “Don’t walk on less than four inches of solid ice, checking your own ice with a spud bar as you walk. Don’t ice fish alone and be prepared by bringing ice spikes, ropes and a change of clothes in case you do go into the drink.”
Albrecht gave pointers to both the experienced and the inexperienced on how to stay warm out on the ice.
“Avoid all cotton fabrics and and dress in layers,” he said. “Remember that thermal socks and rubber insulated boots are a man’s best friend on the ice.”
The act of ice fishing may sound difficult, but a few tools and some knowledge goes a long way to make a trip out on the ice worth the time and effort.
“You can fish predrilled holes, cut a hole with a spud bar or drill your own hole with an auger,” Albrecht said. “If using an auger, remember that sharp blades make a big difference.
“Once you drill your hole, use an ice scoop to remove the ice and slush from the hole” he said.
But how does one actually find the fish once they are trekking across a frozen pond or lake?
According to Albrecht 90 percent of the fish are in 10 percent of the lake because they are all searching for food, cover, oxygen and warmth. He suggests starting with the last place the crappie were biting in
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the open water season before first ice.
“A shallow flat adjacent to a sudden drop off is a good place to start if you aren’t familiar with the landscape,” Albrecht said. “Also, look for transitions in bottom composition, increased water temperature compared to surrounding areas, weed pockets and weed lines.
“Even transitions in ice color can hold fish due to how the sunlight penetrates through the ice” he said.
Some equipment to make your next trip to Indian Lake or Grand Lake St. Marys more successful includes the essentials, according to Albrecht.
Special, small jigs complete with glow patterns work well in low visibility. Ice line is smaller in diameter than line for open water fishing.
“Because fish analyze presentations more under the ice, a spinning jig is a clear indicator to a crappie that the presentation is artificial and they need to move on,” Albrecht said. “Products have been developed in the last couple years to address the issue.”
These products include an invisible swivel that anglers can tie to the line, made of fluorocarbon and called Invisaswivel.
Reels are other tools that have been reinvented to replace the stand ice combo.
“These reels utilize more of a fly fishing method and are called an inline reel,” Albrecht said. “I recommend the Razor Pro Series made by ice tech fishing systems.
“Another good option is the Tight Line Extreme from Ice Hopper at sportsmensdirect.com.”
If you are to get a new reel, then why not get a new rod? Ice fishing rods can run as short as 11 inches and as tall as 48 inches according to Albrecht.
“The average crappie ice fishing rod is around two feet in length,” Albrecht said. “Ice fishing rods are traditionally small due to the ability to have more control over your presentations on clear waters.
“For those who can’t stand the cold and use portable shanties, a shorter rod is necessary in those confide spaces.”
There are many other advances in ice fishing technology to make trips out on the lake more efficient, but Albrecht says despite the equipment he uses, his methods have remained much unchanged over the years.
“I still fish the same way today with the state of the art equipment as I did back then,” he said. “Start at the top of the ice hole, and move your way slowly down the water column, shaking your rod ever so slightly to make your presentation quiver.
“Stop and hold it still as certain depths for 10 second and continue moving down.”
Once at the bottom Albrecht uses a bottom pounding technique. After jiggling the presentation at the bottom for a few moments, he works his way back to the top, pausing every so often to jiggle the line, then starts back over once he reaches the top of the hole.
Whether you have all the state of the line equipment or just want to give “hard water” fishing a whirl this winter, Albrecht stresses getting a friend to go along and to consult the experts.
“If you are trying ice fishing for the first time, I strongly encourage you to go with someone who knows the sport,” he said. “IceFishOhio.com over 30 pro staff members that can help introduce a new angler to the sport.”