Ice Team Digital Magazine | December 2021

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n my eyes, the main goal of ice fishing is to trick fish into biting. Sure there are days when fish bite nonstop, but often those days are few and far between. More often a guy has to work at making the lookers turn into biters to have a good day and this is where the trickery comes into play. Over the years, I’ve experimented with trickery, by accessorizing my lures to give them a little extra sound, flash or added visual effect. This is done with the intension of catching their attention, fooling them and in turn increasing my catch rate. I’ve done this by adding blades, feathers and beads to my lures. What I’ve learned through trial and error is that while an accessory can help you catch more fish, the more is better approach isn’t always best method to fool fish. If your accessory

addition is too big, it will change the weight and shape of your lure which will impede or completely change the presentation of how the lure drops or falls. If the accessory addition is too big it may also intimidate a fish from biting or impede it from inhaling the hook when it strikes. One of my favorite tricks to add a little extra flash and sound to a lure is to attach a spinner blade to the split ring of my lures. In terms of size, I’ll add a size 0 or 1 Colorado or Willow Leaf Blade. With many hooks on the market, the blade can be added to the top or the bottom of the hook, so experiment to see what works best. The small blade will give off flash and sound when being jigged and will also move gently in the current in a tantalizing fashion when the lure is suspended above the nose of a

fish. However, due to its small size, it won’t take away from the motion of the lure when its being worked. In clear water and on bright days, try using silver, brass or gold blades as they will reflect light similar to a small minnow. In dirty water or overcast days, try using florescent colored blades as they will be more visible under these conditions. When I was kid, we would use small feathered jigs to catch walleye and pike. The feathers on those jigs would spread apart and flutter as the jig moved so much so that we could catch fish without bait. Over the years, fishing lures have changed and new styles are available. For example, there is now a variety of jigging spoons and blade baits available. These lures really attract and catch fish and are prime candidates for >> Ice Digital December Issue >> 7

added feathered treble hooks. In fact, Clam makes several hooks such as the Leech Flutter Spoons and JM Rattlin Blade Spoons that come standard with feathered treble hooks. When fishing a feathered lure, I suggest tipping it with just a small piece of bait such a minnow head or a fish eye where legal to add scent to the action of the lures. In addition, a good presentation is to keep the lure moving at all times so the feathers work to their fullest potential and trigger fish to bite. If you have a strike and miss the fish, there’s no need to reel up quickly and check the lure for bait as the feathers will give you a chance at a second strike if the fish is hanging around.

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If you are creative, you can make your own feathered hooks similar to how one would make flies for fly fishing. When making your own feathered hooks use small lengths of feathers so that the fish are forced to bite your hook and not nip at the ends of the feathers. In terms of colors natural browns will work as well as feathers died yellow, white or red. The fun of making your own is that you can also experiment with combinations of different colored feathers. Another accessory you can add to your lures is a treble hook with an epoxy bead attached to the shank. The purpose of the bead is to add color to the offering and also add a strike point to the hook to give the

fish a target similar to an eye to bite. Clam makes the Dropper Spoon with an epoxy bead and the Time Bomb Spoon with a glow bead for further attraction. Creativity is the key to accessorizing fishing hooks. I can already envision trying adding some deer hair or synthetic materials to hooks in a similar fashion to feathers. I may just take a trip to the craft store to see if there are any other small crafty items that could be incorporated into my book of fish lure trickery.


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ver the last few years, we’ve been hearing about “ice camping” more and more. Now when I say camping, I don’t mean sleeping in the big wheelhouses with beds, stoves, heaters, and TV’s, I’m talking going back to the basics and sleeping in your hub or flip-over shack, right on top of the ice with nothing but the bare essentials to make it through the night. I’ll admit right now that I’m definitely not an authority on the subject. In fact, I haven’t even tried it yet. However, my buddy Brian and I have put a lot of thought into it over the last couple of seasons and decided that this will be the year we make it happen. Last summer, countless hours were spent watching videos on YouTube of people camping on the ice. As a result of all of that “research” we were able to develop a list of what we call “must-haves” to ensure a safe and comfortable experience is had. Thermal Shack: It goes without saying that a good/warm shack is critical for staying warm overnight. I am going to use my Clam Yukon XL Thermal. Although it will be a little smaller in size than a traditional hub shelter, I have come up with a configuration

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that should work good for sleeping, but also leaving enough room to have two holes to fish out of. Brian will be going with the Clam Thermal X400 Hub. He will have a lot of room in his, and the option of adding a floor was very intriguing to him. We figured with both of us running different style shacks, we will be able to see what works the best and adjust from there. Heater/Cooker: Like I mentioned above, the thermal shack is key to staying warm, but a reliable way of getting the shack warm is just as important. For this I went with the Mr. Heater Flex system. Not only because Mr. Heater the most popular name on the market, but also because it offers the cooker accessory as well. Although a cooked meal is certainly not critical, it is tough to beat a warm hearty dinner after spending most of the day outside fishing. Carbon Monoxide Detector: This is a must!! Once you have your shack and heater set up, you have to protect yourself from Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Most box stores sell a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector for around $20. Please make sure this is a priority

for your setup, and don’t forget to replace the batteries regularly. Cot: This is more of a comfort over necessity item, but I feel that getting up off the ice will be a much more comfortable experience while sleeping. And also, when using a cot, you create more storage space underneath. Warm Sleeping Bag: I’ll be using a -20 rated sleeping bag. Although the heater should keep the inside of the shack plenty warm, I figured a warm sleeping bag will keep me comfortable in case of a catastrophic failure, or if the propane runs out. Clam Floor system if compatible with your shack: Having a floor between you and the ice will be beneficial for many reasons, but for me, the biggest advantage will be having a dry spot to store things, and also to stand when getting out of your sleeping bag. Not all shacks are compatible with Clam Floors, and I’ve found that although not perfect, interlocking foam mats will work. Milk Crate/5-gallon bucket: While it might sound silly to have these listed as a “must have”, I do have my reasons.

A: Safe storage while traveling across the ice. For as long as I can remember, ice anglers have made use of milk crates and 5-gallon buckets for transporting gear, fish, bait, and who knows what else B: Keeping your heater up off the floor. Keeping the heater off the ice will help distribute the heat more, but also keep the heat from being directed towards the ice and making a “pond” inside your shack

will be dark from approx. 5:30pm until 7:00am, you’ll want to have a good source of power for your lights. Several companies are selling power boxes made from plastic ammo cans that seem to work really well. I won’t be using one of those though. I run DeWalt drills for my K-Drill and will be using the battery converter/ adaptor to power my USB devices, and keep my phone charged.


Shovel: Shoveling snow and slush onto the skirt of your shack will help hold everything in place if the wind picks up and keep the draft down on the inside. I plan on clearing the snow out of the area that I will be setting up on to help reduce melt from my heater. Power Box/Battery adaptor: Since it

Food: I saved my favorite for last. Whether it’s a hearty stew, beef jerky, or fresh fish, food always tastes so much better on the ice. I think besides waking up to a fish making a run on the rattle reel, I look forward to the camaraderie and food that is shared while out on the ice the most. The above mentioned are what I consider 10 of the most important items for an ice camping trip. While

making this list we came up with several other items that we will call the honorable mentions. While these items here might not be as critical, they will definitely have their place in a successful, safe and fun camping trip on the ice. Rattle Reels Sleeping Pad Fan to circulate the warm air Headlamp Jump Pack for ATV/Snowmobile Extra Socks First Aid Kit Filet Knife iPad/Tablet with a movie/music downloaded on it Garbage bags (make sure to pack out what you pack in) I doubt this article will convince anyone to start camping on the ice, but with any luck, if you are on the fence about going, this will help with the preparation. The most important thing to remember is to be safe and have fun!


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remember like it was yesterday, the first time I was introduced to ice fishing. I was 11 years old and I was privileged enough to join my grandfather and his crew on one of their fishing excursions up north. Back then, there weren’t any electronics and gas augers were hard to come by, so it was an adventure to say the least. However, regardless of the available equipment or lack thereof, there was something magical about hand drilling my first ice hole and watching my ice float slowly start to dance around the hole and start to sink under. When that first fish hit the ice, it was a feeling like no other...and that still holds true every time I catch one today. Things have come along way since

then...with the introduction of flashers and live sonar, along with lithium battery powered augers and being able to use a cordless drill to punch a couple hundred holes a day if desired has made it much easier to have an enjoyable experience on the ice. In fact, I enjoy being on the ice so much, that I make it a goal of mine every year to introduce at least one other angler that has never been given the opportunity to do so. Each and every time I introduce someone new to the sport, they are hooked for life! Truthfully, what’s not to love? The fact that we get to play with high tech electronics, thousands of different tackle options, the opportunity to


have your very own custom rod built, warm comfortable shelters to fish out of and having the option of wearing a warm, yet secure float suit are only some of the attraction for someone new to the game. The other major benefit, and what I believe to be the most important reason for introducing someone new to ice fishing is...the actual magic of being out on a frozen lake and catching that first fish...there’s nothing like it! The smiles on their faces and the memories made are something that will stick with anglers young and old forever. I believe ice fishing to be a gift...a gift that we can pass on and help to grow are beloved sport. You never know when you will change someone’s life forever, being able to do so through the conduit of fishing is an absolute blessing. >> Ice Digital December Issue >> 13


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here are many species of fish that some anglers consider “rough fish” or “trash fish” depending on where you are geographically. Pike are a prime example of this. Some anglers consider pike to be a nuisance trash fish not worth anything, while others target (and eat) them every chance they get. White perch are another example if this. I have witnessed anglers across the ice belt display mixed sentiment toward white perch. Many coastal anglers look forward to the annual brackish water spring spawning runs, so they can

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stock up on what they consider great table fare. Anglers in the Midwest often refer to white perch as trash. The lesser cousin of the often larger white bass, white perch are considered a nuisance due to their usual small size and the fact that they are egg predators, specifically targeting white bass and walleye eggs during thei respective spawns. In New England however, and especially on Lake Winnipesaukee, white perch are an important and highly sought after gamefish species. White perch are a brackish-water

fish that are believed to have first migrated into the great lakes during the construction of the Erie Canal. From there, they have dispersed across much of the northeast, and beyond. Despite their name and perch-like appearance, they aren’t perch at all. (Kevan Paul, that line is for you.) They are temperate bass and are often confused with white bass. They are considered invasive in many parts of the United States because they are prolific breeders and feed almost entirely on white bass and walleye eggs at certain times of the year. Today white perch can be found

in waters throughout the northeast and New England certainly has its share. Sebago Lake in Maine and Lake Champlain in Vermont both hold huge numbers of white perch, New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee is wellknown for producing some of the largest white perch in North America, with fish weighing 3 lbs. and over caught on a regular basis, and the current Massachusettes state record, a 3 lb. 8 oz. chunker, was caught on October 16, 2016 in Wachusett Reservoir. They not only seem to be increasing in size, but also in popularity due to their larger size, strength, and flavor. I personally hold the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame’s ice fishing tip up world record (2lbs. 12oz.) that I caught in 2017. White perch are nomadic and travel in large schools. They feed aggressively during the winter, especially late-winter. They are usually easier to find in smaller ponds, because they feed on plankton and small baitfish, both of which tend to congregate in basins. I have also fished some small ponds and had a difficult time fishing white perch in the winter. Fish the basins during low-light conditions and be ready when a school moves in, because they can vanish as fast as they appeared. Larger lakes are more challenging due to the amount of real estate and the nomadic lifestyle of the white perch. While they sometimes habituate certain areas, they will move if the weather, fishing pressure, or baitfish pattern changes. The key to finding white perch in large water bodies is to figure out what they are feeding on and where that food will be. If you find the food and you will almost certainly find the white perch. I target basins, inside turns, and along steep breaks that lead to inside turns. I start in 30’ of water and work shallower until I find fish. In smaller ponds the basins might only be 15’ deep. In that case I start in the deepest area and work my way into shallower water until I find them. Expect the fish to be suspended, but that isn’t always the rule.

often attracts other fish, such as lake trout, making for some great fishing action. If they can, the perch will reorganize and repeat the process until the bait moves on. If you can find fish in an area where a steep break starts as a point and leads to an inside turn, you might be in for some of the best white perch fishing there is, especially during the last hour of daylight when whites feed most aggressively. The perch will push bait toward the break, which forces the baitfish to filter out to the safety of shallow water at the inside turn. Lake maps, such as the Navionics Boating app, will help you locate key underwater structures, such as breaks, basins, and inside turns. You can also mark waypoints and track fish movement. You will learn a lot about what areas the white perch are frequenting. Make use of digital lake map technology and you will catch more fish. White perch patterns change throughout winter. First ice is fun because oxygen levels are high and whites will feed regularly. Sometimes you can just wait for schools of white perch to show up, and less chasing is necessary. During mid-winter, decreased oxygen and colder water will cause white perch to become more sluggish and feed less aggressively. You will go from catching 25-30 fish per trip to under a dozen, but don’t worry, it’s only temporary. As daylight increases, snow-pack will begin to melt and precipitation will start falling in the form of rain rather than snow. Rain and runoff is oxygen-rich and invigorates the white perch. Longer days and higher oxygen levels also tell the white perch that it’s almost time to spawn. Smaller schools often join together to form larger schools. In mid-March, white perch will feed more aggressively than at any other time of the year. Some days the fish bite all day. Avid winter white perch anglers wait all winter for this late-season action. The fish are bigger and there seems to be more of them.


White perch often try to trap baitfish in basins. They will try to keep the bait in the basin and gorge themselves for as long as they can. When they succeed, they will sometimes stay there for hours, offering consistent and often furious action. When the bite slows, all you need to do is wait a few minutes for the school to cycle back around, but don’t wait too long because these schools are constantly on the move. If the bait leaves, the fish will often leave with them. If the bite dies off for more than fifteen minutes, I make a move to another area, such as another basin or an inside turn. The perch will also use inside turns to their advantage. The entire school will work together to coral baitfish and push them into inside turns, much in the same way that their cousins the striped bass do. Once the perch have a school of bait in a tight ball, they will go into a feeding frenzy that

Regardless of the time of year, early morning, late afternoon, and cloudy days are always going to be your best bet. On cloudy, rainy, or snowy days the whites will sometimes bite all day. On sunny bluebird days, focus on the hours around dawn and dusk. Be prepared to do a lot of moving around during the mid-day period because the fish will be less active. Mobility, efficiency, and having properly matched rod and reel combos are important factors when fishing for white perch; sometimes even more important than what lure color to choose. Since white perch are nomadic they can be there one minute and gone the next. You need to be able to move quickly and often. Only bring what you need and don’t leave all your gear on the ice while you are fishing. This will allow you to move when the fish do. Mobility and efficiency are key elements to finding and >> Ice Digital December Issue >> 17

catching white perch. Many ice fishing gear manufacturers make equipment designed to make you more mobile while still fitting your budget. Clam Outdoors offer products specifically designed to make ice fishing easier, keep you mobile, and make you more productive. The Scout XL, Dave Genz Legend Thermal, and the new X100 Fish Traps are great one-man shelter options that will increase mobility and efficiency by letting you stay light, keep all your gear in one place, and quickly get out of the elements. Your auger, heater, rods, and Vexilar will easily fit inside the tub allowing you to move from hole to hole and stay on top of the fish as they move. Without some of the modern tools available you will be colder, move less often, switch jigs or baits less often than you should, and catch fewer fish. Keep it easy. If it’s easy, you’ll do it. Two or three 26”-28” light action or medium/light action rods with fourpound test line will suffice. Having multiple rods allows you to tie a different lure onto each line. Then you can cycle through your set-ups until you find the one that works best, rather than re-tying every time you want to switch lures. It’s important to get your lure back down to the fish to keep their attention. The lighter your line, the faster your lure will drop down to the fish, which is important when the perch are on the move. If you go too light with your setup you will spend most of your time fighting one fish, while the rest of the school swims away. Electronics play a vital role in finding and staying on fish. A Vexilar sonar flasher will allow you to pinpoint specific depths and show you where the fish are in the water column, in real time. For instance, if the white perch are suspended twelve feet off the bottom in forty feet of water, your Vexilar will instantly show you that, saving valuable time and keeping you catching fish rather than looking for them. You can also use your Vexilar to read how the fish react to your jig, or the mood of the fish, as we say. Most importantly, when the school moves on you will know it. Then the trick is to figure out which way they went and follow them. Knowing the forage in the water you are fishing is important when selecting lures. You can get an idea when you fillet your catch by checking the stomach contents. 18 >> >> Ice Digital December Issue

The number twelve white/orange and white/red Epoxy Drop from Clam Pro Tackle tipped with a small piece of worm is one of the most effective lures, especially when the perch are feeding on plankton and bugs in small ponds. Sometimes the whites are keyed-in on smelt and won’t eat anything else. This is when the epoxy drop really shines, because you can tip it with a small smelt and get it down to the fish quickly. When the perch are feeding on bait fish, or you need to get your jig back down faster, a 1/8-ounce (silver tiger) Blade Spoon tipped with a small piece of worm works great. Be sure of your state’s regulations, as they differ throughout the northeast. New Hampshire only allows a single hook with a single hook point with bait when ice fishing, so I either clip two points off the trebles or change out the hooks with a size 10 siwash hook. Cadence is important, because every lure is designed to produce a certain action. Vary your cadence until you find what works and stick with it until it doesn’t. Sometimes a jig or spoon ripped through the water column a few times will call fish in from a distance, either from the flash or the vibration the lure creates. On sunny days when fish can see well, take advantage of the available light with something shiny. On cloudy days, or in stained water, when fish are relying more on their lateral line system, use a lure that displaces more water. You often hear anglers refer to “pounding the bottom” to entice perch to bite. Pounding refers to ripping the jig up a foot or two and letting it free-fall back to the bottom a few times. This creates a cloud of silt as though a dobsonfly or mayfly nymph were rising out of the substrate and will almost always trigger bites from finicky fish. If a school appears to be thinning, or suddenly disappears from the screen of your Vexilar, try dropping your jig to the bottom and pounding it a few times. Then lift it a foot or two off the bottom and resume your normal cadence. Regardless of your jigging technique, playing keep away

never fails when a white perch chases your lure. On most days, one angler with the right gear and know-how can catch twenty or so white perch. On a really good day you can catch upwards of a hundred. Stay mobile and efficient, and keep it easy, but be willing to think outside the box and try new lures or techniques. White perch are a lot like striped bass; sometimes they will hit a lure they have never seen before with a vengeance. Also pay attention to changes in weather and fishing pressure, as they will always have a significant impact on white perch locations and behavior. If you find yourself struggling, stick with it and before you know it you will find that you have turned the corner and are catching rather than looking. Me, I’ll be out there chasing these diamonds in the rough every chance I get. If you’re ever on Lake Winnipesaukee, be sure to stop and say hello!





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o you’re headed North to Lake of the Woods and you have walleyes on your mind and without a doubt for good reason. LOTW is the Walleye Capitol of the World and in Minnesota there is 317,000 acres of walleye filled water. I can tell you I fully enjoy chasing those marble eyes and with so many other species like Northern Pike, Muskies, Smallies, Lake Trout, Eel Pout, Whitefish and Crappies. I could go on and on but when the winter doldrums hit and the walleyes slow my go to is to pack the sleds and head North of the border to find a school of the abundant amounts of Crappies that roam under the frozen ice. Below I will share with you some of my favorite locations and tactics to put some Slabs of the North on the ice this winter. In total, Lake of the Woods is 950,400 acres of water with 25,000 miles of shoreline. The lake is a monstrosity and very intimidating but when thinking crappies they are literally all over the Canadian Region. I have caught them in the NW Angle, South of Kenora, all they way over to Morson and many spots in between. Where do I Start? My recommendation always when dealing with a large complex body of water is to pick a region of the lake and focus on that area. Once you decide on a region start to study that lake map. That could be on your Lakemaster Chip on your Humminbird GPS or by your phone using one of the many mapping apps. I like the Lakemaster Chip as it tends to have more detail. I start to focus in one small holes or deeper basins next to islands or reefs. With sharp auger blades I’m prepared to drill holes and go on the search aforementioned areas. I typically won’t start fishing until we mark the school. Mobility is key here. Of course this style of fishing requires a snowmobile or some type of machine that will operate in snow. With my set up I can literally cover a spot in no time. Using my Humminbird GPS I drive to my spot, hope off, drill a hole, drop my transducer and analyze. If I mark fish I will drop down on them, if not I’m on my way.

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Presentation Considerations My go to presentation as been the Clam Pro Tackle (CPT) 1/16th oz Blade Spoon rigged with a Maki Spiiki. This combination has put my largest crappies on the ice and will catch the bonus walleye. My other go to is a CPT Drop Jig XL rigged with Jamei XL and/or the Matdi. This combo catches crappies all across the ice belt. I like the XL size hook which tends to keep the paper mouths pinned. The Trigger I have written articles and have done many seminars on the trigger but learning how to get a crappie to move in the water column and crush the bait is what makes crappie fishing so fun to me. In short, once I mark a fish, I get the fish to move up to my bait but continue to pull it away triggering the crappies instinct to chase and attack. Look back into the Ice Team Magazines and find my article “The Trigger Factor” for a complete break down. Ice Safety When going out on the vast and sometime mean body of water be prepared for the worst. That means you should have some survival items like fire starter, flashlights, battery pack, extra food, etc. This isn’t intended to scare anyone but it’s always worth mentioning when talking about an adventure up in the Islands of LOTW. Kids Hopping on the sled and ripping through the islands making tracks where no one has been makes for a fun adventure. Adding to the experience is a graph full of eager crappies is something my 12 year old Son Gavin loves. This is the perfect trip to get kids some action and have a fun adventure. if you need an extra hand in navigation and equipment there are many fishing guides you can find. I would highly recommend that route if your not very experienced on a trip like this. Slabs of the North have a piece of my fishing heart and something I look forward to every year. Love The Chase Jeff “Jiggy” Andersen >> Ice Digital December Issue >> 21


hould I stay or should I go? That is the biggest question we probably ask ourselves each day on the water. Should I sit in a spot or should I keep moving, keep looking? There are plenty of adages like never leave fish to find fish. Over the past few decades, mobility has been a mantra preached in ice fishing. People brag about drilling a hundred holes per day. People talk about the importance of moving to find fish. If you are not catching fish, it must because you are not moving enough to find the active fish.

Here is what I can also tell you. The worst days I have

22 >> >> Ice Digital December Issue

ever had fishing were indeed days where I drilled well over a few hundred holes. The toughest days on the ice are often the days where all you do is drill holes and move. Some of the very best or most memorable days were days where I drilled a few holes and sat in those same holes all day catching fish. So, when do you drill holes and when do you sit? We obviously sit when we feel like we are on top of fish. In order to sit in one location and catch fish, we need to be able to run traffic

out of a few holes. Two things often need to happen. There must be a lot of fish moving and usually, you must be alone or have very few people fishing around you. If the fish are not moving and you are not moving, and the fish are not right below you… you will not catch them. If fish are moving and you are in a key location where these fish will move through, you can run traffic and catch them. If you are surrounded by several anglers however, many of those fish will get caught before they ever get to you. These movements

can also be dictated by timing. Walleye for example might only move through a spot in the mornings and evenings and the middle of the day might be slow. Sitting works best when you are on a good location when the fish are moving. If you are alone, sitting works that much better. What are factors when sitting doesn’t work so well? Realistically when you are not on fish. When the fish are not moving and if you have a lot of people around you. About mobility and the notion of drilling a lot of holes to find fish, remember that the big moves find fish whereas the small moves catch fish. Catching fish is often about

sampling water. We can often create bites by simply working hard and dropping a line down as many different holes as we can. Drill grids of holes and move until you contact fish. There is a time however when this run and gun mentality of aggressively drilling holes can work against you… shallow water with spooky fish. One of the most difficult situations for catching fish regardless of species is shallow clear water with thin, clear ice. Every time you move, every time you drill a hole, you just push these fish further away. We have seen this same situation unfold in several states on several different bodies of water for several different species of fish. Reclamation lakes in Iowa, perch sloughs in South Dakota, walleye backwater

river flowages in Illinois and Wisconsin. If you don’t identify these factors and make the right adjustments, catching fish in these shallow situations can be extremely difficult. Finding fish when fish are spooking from overhead noise is more methodical. You must slow down and give a spot half an hour. Let the area settle down and let fish come back to your hole. At times, these situations create low light bites but not always. The degree of just how spooky some of these fish are can vary. We have seen the typical light line requirement but besides the finesse of the presentation, there are also some other adjustments. We have seen

shallow bites where we couldn’t catch fish inside a flip over shelter or near a large sled that could be seen from below. We have seen situations where long rods were necessary because the long rod positioned the boots and angler further away from the hole. We have seen situations where we had to leave slush in the hole. We have seen walleye bites where we had to use tip ups set away from where we physically sat and waited. Running and gunning in the conditions described above can leave you fishless. On the flip side, not drilling enough holes and finding active fish can often be the kiss of death when the circumstances or conditions change. Let the conditions dictate your strategy. >> Ice Digital December Issue >> 25

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28,000 acre reservoir cradled comfortably in the confines of Long Valley, West Central Idaho has recently gained tremendous attention throughout the North American ice fishing world. The yellow perch of Lake Cascade are widely recognized in photos by their sumo egg-sac bellies and wide banded stripes. A measurement is more accurate by weight than length to fully grasp the entirety of these fish. Credit Idaho Department of Fish and Game spearheaded by Paul Jensen for formulating a plan to address water quality issues plus innovate new strategies in dealing with a half million Northern Pike minnows that were preying on yellow perch, thus decimating the population by the late 1990’s. Incorporate a robust stocking program with Paul’s recovery plan placed in a fertile mountain reservoir (elevation 4.800 ft.) where these perch can live to be 10-15 years old and BOOM, monster yellow perch! Since 2016 Lake Cascade has produced three catch/release state records and two certified hook/line state records. The 2016 hook/line record of 2.96 lbs was smashed in March of 2021 by over 5 ounces. Adam Mann of Mosinee Wisconsin currently holds the ID state record hook/line Idaho yellow perch at 3.22 lbs. This fish was 16.25 inches long with a 13.5 inch girth! In 2015 National Fresh Water Hall of Fame recognized a 2lb. 11.68 oz. world record “tipup” Lake Cascade yellow perch caught by (at the time) 12 year old Tia Wiese. As enticing as a Lake Cascade monster perch may be, it’s not always Sinatra and Sarsaparillas. For those not familiar with ice fishing the Rocky Mountain West there are more than a few pitfalls managing this region. First and foremost is snow. Long Valley receives over 100 inches annually and we all know what that means when it piles up on ice. Compounding the slush problem, as an irrigation reservoir, the Bureau of Reclamation may continue adding water throughout the winter. Ice conditions can change within hours. Long tracked mountain snowmobiles with large paddles and lightweight features are the most reliable transportation on the lake. Snowdogs have also found their way to Idaho and are light enough to navigate some fairly sloppy conditions. ATV/UTVs are allowed for ice transportation on Lake Cascade however the experience can be less than desirable even with a tracked vehicle due to the constantly changing 28 >> >> Ice Digital December Issue

conditions. A stuck UTV in two feet of slush under three feet of snow takes a team effort and several hours for extraction. Snowmobile rentals look very economical under those circumstances if you have limited time to fish. By the way it’s not unreasonable to walk, snowshoe, or cross-country ski on Lake Cascade and still have a legitimate shot at a perch of a lifetime. Listed below are license and registration fees for ice fishing Idaho waters in 2021 relevant to location and mode of transportation. Fishing License Resident Day $13.50 first day and $6 each consecutive day after. Resident Annual $ 30.50 Non-Resident Daily $ 22.75 first day and $7 each consecutive day after. Non-Resident Annual $ 108 Snowmobile Registration Resident $45.50 annual. Non-Resident $59.50 annual. OHVs Registration $12 annual fee. Registrations may be purchased through vendors or an Idaho State Park Office. Lake Cascade State Park Office, 100 Kelly’s Parkway, Cascade Idaho, 83661. 208-382-6544. Open 8 – 4 Mon – Fri. Vehicle Park Pass Non-Residents only $7/day, $80 annual. OHVs Park Pass Resident $10 Non-Resident $20 The entire process can be somewhat daunting the first time through. Here is an example for a non-resident fishing for 5 days, riding their own snowmobile and using the state park access with a pickup and trailer. Non-Resident fishing license 22.75 + 28 = $50.75 Non-Resident snowmobile registration $59.50 Park Pass $7 x 5 days = $35 Total = $145.25

Lodging, Parking, Lake Access. Most of the time these would be separate topics but in this case it’s all relevant. Lodging is fairly abundant between area motels, vacation/rental homes, and a ski resort adjacent to the lake. The largest hurdle is parking and that includes the place you are staying at in some instances. Multiply one hundred inches of snow times the fifth largest county in Idaho and then divide a mere eleven thousand or so residents in the county equals a lot of snow that never moves from its landing zone until spring. With only four public launch sites on a twenty three mile long lake, it takes a plan to access Lake Cascade. There are private access points that require permission to utilize, as such are prone to fines and towing if violated or abused. Public Access and Parking Blue Heron near the town of Cascade Van Wyck in the town of Cascade Boulder Creek near the town of Donnelly Poison Creek near Tamarack Ski Resort With reasonable flights into Boise it’s not unheard of to fly in from fifteen hundred miles away, rent a car to get up the hill, rent equipment plus lodging and still have less invested in the trip than by driving that 1.5K miles packing your own equipment and then turn around and going back home again. What is even more outstanding is having the opportunity to tangle with one of those sow belly monster yellow perch on a travel day. In other words that morning eat breakfast at home, clean up the yard after letting the dog out, haul trash, jump on a plane and

start flopping orange finned, white blob bellies before the sun sets on the day. Tackle Tom’s Outdoors Store in Cascade has designed their winter rentals for that exact scenario. Everything from snowmobiles and Snowdogs to augers, electronics, shelters, rods, buckets and bait. If the Motion Float Ice Armor suit wouldn’t fit in the suitcase, they have some for sale to keep you warm and on top. Tackle Tom’s can also provide lodging. It sleeps eleven with access to an indoor building for all your equipment. Valley Bait and Tackle are the new kids on the block opening their doors in 2020, although owners Michael and Debora Powell have rented snowmobiles at Cascade for a few years and know the area well. Both stores have recommended fishing guides they work with. There are also several other snowmobile rental businesses in Valley County if needed, but if you are going ice fishing I would start here first. Tackle Tom’s 304 N Main Cascade ID 208-382-4367 Valley Bait and Tackle 808 S Main Cascade ID 208-971-1453 We are driven to Lake Cascade by images of beautifully colored monster yellow perch but return because of the people that live in Valley County Idaho. While visiting please respect the people and the resource. Enjoy your trip! Don Cox Mullen NE


hallow is relative. Ten feet might be shallow on some bodies of water where there are other fisheries where the basin or deepest water available might only be ten feet of water. We often catch walleye at early ice in shallow water but how shallow? A mistake I have made over and over in my own life is sometimes not fishing shallow enough. Can’t tell you how many times in my life where I tried to drill holes in say ten to six feet of water but a few holes were drilled even shallower by accident… a mistake. Can’t tell you how many times when we caught fish out of these shallowest of holes, sometimes in two or three feet of water. The fish felt like an accident. Sometimes we make up our minds as anglers where

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fish are supposed to be and we get lucky enough to stumble onto fish what feels like accident. Over time, we realize these shallow fish are not accident and there are situations where we better look for fish in less than five feet of water. In both North and South Dakota, we have many shallow natural lakes with big walleye populations. These slough fish are notorious for running shallow, less than five feet of water. What we also see happen is skinny water patterns develop through the winter where we might be in six or seven feet of water but since we have four feet of ice, the amount of water below the ice might only be two or three feet. Have also seen walleye in less than five feet of water on many natural lakes in Minnesota. Leech Lake immediately comes to mind where we often find walleye roaming shallow sand flats. Flowages and river systems can also produce shallow walleye patterns.

These shallow fish can be spooky. How spooky can depend on a lot of factors. There are other situations however where the fish will let you get away with a surprising amount of commotion. The amount of ice can really seem to influence how much you can get away with. When you are in three feet of water on top of four inches of ice, you won’t get away with as much noise as when you are in six feet of water on top of three feet of ice. The toughest conditions seem to line up with a little bit of clear ice in clear water. These fish seem to be the most sensitive. Catching fish in shallow water during these conditions is often a low light affair and you must make a conscience effort to be quiet. Drill your holes ahead of time and keep your lights limited to head lamps that you can turn on and off. Take your ice cleats off and try not to make a lot of noise, settle down into an area and let the fish come to you. Tip ups and extra lines set remotely can be important. The bite will often occur in the dark.


As a rule of thumb, every ecosystem is going to have different forage, different personalities. Each system will fish slightly different but if you see extremely shallow patterns unfold on a fishery during the open water period, you better anticipate some of the same skinny water patterns under the ice.

Stained water, cloudy ice and simply more ice however can make these fish much more tolerant of noise and

what you can get away with. Not all shallow walleye patterns require stealth mode but universally, a lot of big vehicle traffic seems to shut down every shallow walleye bite we have ever seen. Therefore it is so important to be the angler that finds the fish first. With shallow walleye, you won’t get their in time if you are waiting for reports. Besides being productive, what makes these skinny water patterns so fun is that these fish are often simply aggressive. You are not working with much water so when these fish come in and punch a spoon or glide bait three feet from the end of your rod, the hits feel electric. The fish fight hard and are still full of energy when you bring them topside. A challenge when fishing for walleye in such shallow water is simply dumping fish at the bottom of the hole when they hit the ice. Can also be a challenge navigating big fish up a hole when dealing with less than six inches of ice. These fish can back up and leverage their tails against the bottom of the ice. Almost must just plan to get your hands wet for big fish where you reach down below the ice and simply pin them to the side of the hole or get ahold of the gill plate. Across the board, when fishing in really shallow water… upsize those treble hooks on your lures. Take about any spoon or glide bait and double the treble hook size. Seems like overkill but that larger hook and wider gap will keep fish pinned

up much better when they hit the bottom of the ice. When dealing with a few feet of water, these fish will often hit the bottom of the ice basically when you set the hook. This isn’t a situation necessarily for finesse unless you are using live minnows below tip ups and are simply letting the fish swallow the minnow. Because these fish are often so aggressive, match your presentation and cadence to the attitude of the fish. Ring the dinner bell. Pound the lure with hard cadences. These fish are looking for a meal, they are looking for you so make sure fish can find you. My favorite shallow water walleye lures include flutter spoons like the larger Clam Pro Tackle Leech Flutter Spoons, the Super Leech Flutter Spoons and glide baits like the Tikka Minos. Use a rod with plenty of backbone just you can get the right pound on the lure and drive the bigger hooks into fish. In such skinny water, my best cadence is often just a hard six-inch knock where the lure bounces hard in a tight area.

Marking shallow fish with electronics can be tricky and some of these fish will just blow you up and surprise you where you don’t see them until they hit. Get your transducer as high as possible and learn to look for water displacement. Sometimes (especially with bigger fish) fish will dart in and out and as they move water and stir up sediment on the bottom, that commotion can show up on your Vexilar as thin, choppy lines. Get ready. Even in three feet of water however, you are still going to have about a foot of cone angle so get your transducer high, use the lowest power setting and you will be able to mark many of the fish. A cool sidebar we have noticed at times with shallow water walleye, especially in stained water… is how much fish can be attracted to the auger. Not sure if the current from drilling a hole moves water around and creates a commotion that attracts fish or stains the water that the fish like. Might even be some flash and reflection from the blades turning

but we have seen situations where the auger seemed like a fish magnet. Something else we notice a lot is that if the fishing does slow down, simply drilling a bunch of holes seems to stir things up and moves fish around where they become active again. So there are times when you have to be in complete stealth mode and drill your holes ahead of time but there are other situations in stained water where drilling holes seems to attract fish or turn them on. At early ice, we are often targeting shallow fish along shoreline structure. Sand with some type of rock, gravel or wood is often a magnet, especially if you have quick access to deeper water. If there is a mistake, I have made many times myself or a simple lesson I must relearn from time to time, that mistake would be simply not getting shallow enough at early ice. Some of the most fun, most aggressive bites that happen each winter for walleye often occur in less than five feet of water on less than six inches of ice.



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here are lots of things to consider when buying a new ice rod. One of the things that seems to cause the most confusion is what rod length to buy. While much of this decision is personal preference, there are several other factors that should play into the decision, such as what species you plan to target, what depth you plan to fish, and whether you will be fishing outside or in a shelter. For reasons I will explain shortly, my rule of thumb is to go with as long a rod as I can get by with. Size and Species of fish While the action of an ice rod (ultralight, light, medium, medium-heavy, heavy, etc.) is the most critical characteristic to match to the species targeted, length is also a very important characteristic to consider. The longer a rod is the better a job it will do at cushioning the attempts of a fighting fish to break your line. For example, I prefer a longer rod for walleye than I would for bluegill. I also prefer a shorter rod for crappie or perch than I do for walleye or lake trout. For bigger fish like walleye, pike or lake trout, I like a rod no shorter than 26 inches, but try to stay in the 28 to 30-inch range…even bumping up to 32, 36, even as much as 40 inches for BIG fish of those species. Sure, shorter rods would work for these species, but the longer rods give me more leverage when fighting these fish, so my success rate is also much higher with a longer rod. For medium sized fish like crappie and perch, I prefer a rod in the 24 to 26-inch range, unless I’m fishing deeper that 20 feet of water. Depth Depth is another important factor to consider when choosing the length of on ice rod. Essentially, for anything deeper than 20 feet of water, I will try to bump up my rod length an additional 2 inches or more. This additional length gives me even more leverage to bring fish up from deeper water, and more

hook-setting power without forcing me to lift the rod tip to the sky. Again, a shorter rod will still work, but the longer rods work much better here and increase your chance of success. Inside or outside? Another thing to keep in mind when selecting ice rod length is where you will be using it. Setting the hook inside a Fish Trap with a rod that is too long will result in a snapped rod tip almost every time. Because of that, I like to use rods that are 26 inches or less inside a shelter. Obviously for rods that you will use outside of a shelter there I no real limitation on length, but carefully consider if you will use a rod in a shelter before you make the final determination on length. Special purpose rods There are a couple of techniquespecific rods at each end of the rod length spectrum that I want to touch on. Each one exists in its current length, not because of the species targeted or the depths fished, but because the techniques require specific characteristics in the ice rods. Sight fishing – Sight fishing requires crystal clear water and a dark shelter. These conditions allow an ice angler to look straight down the hole being fished and SEE the fish that are being targeted. Often this technique is for fish like bluegill and crappie, but I have fished lakes before where perch, walleye and bass were the targets. Because of the posture an angler must maintain in order

to look straight down the hole, the rods must be extremely short…often in the 12 to 18-inch range. Long rodding – Long rodding is a technique specifically suited to shallow water fish that are very reactive to sound and is the ultimate in stealth. Rods used for this technique are typically in the 48-inch range and that length allows the angler to stand well away from the hole being fished so that fish are not scared away from the hole by overhead sounds. Long rods often have a small spool built into the butt end of the rod to serve as a line holder. The line passes through the blank to protect it from exposure to the wind and at the tip of the rod is a spring bobber to allow the angler to detect light panfish bites. The angler does not reel line in or out with a long rod as would be the case with typical ice rods. Instead, enough line is deployed to reach the desired depth and that is maintained until the depth changes. When a fish is hooked, the rod is raised straight up to lift the fish through the hole and then swung into the waiting hand of the angler.

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