The beginning of another hard-water season is underway, and for me that means some of the year's best fishing has arrived!
Early ice provides some of the best hard-water fishing of the year, but to
be successful, we need to understand the mood of the fish for not just one,
but all species of sportfish.
Fish mood affects the size of lures and the jigging actions we employ. If we
understand the moods of fish, we've cracked the fishing code!
I believe fish mood is even more important during the winter, when the
metabolism of these cold-water creatures has slowed. They're less active and
eating less, so they're trending toward a neutral mood before you even hit the
Think scent. Fish are very wary of unnatural odors right now. The growing
season has essentially halted, so there are fewer natural scents overwhelming
the olfactory abilities of gamefish. If you've
screwed up and a nasty scent encapsulates your lure, you're probably not going
to catch fish.
Negative or potentially repelling odors are big factors in ice fishing. Fish
will approach a bait, then apply a taste or smell
test. They'll mouth or bump it before committing to a "strike." Walleyes, for
example, don't have the nose of a catfish, but odor detection still plays a
major role in whether they're comfortable with a food source.
The bottom line: avoid unnatural odors on your hands
and lures. Avid anglers know the obvious ones, but here's a hidden fish
repellent: grease under your spool. Cut your line if it gets caught in that
area and picks up any grease.
If it doesn't smell right, you've just lost the bite, and if you can smell
it, fish definitely can smell it. They weigh every food source, and that's why
it's so important to monitor their mood.
Your sonar and underwater camera provide logical ways to study and learn
fish moods. Use visual and auditory aids, and watch how fish react to different
colors and sounds, such as rattle lures. Monitor weather conditions and fishing
pressure closely because both also affect fish behavior.
I sometimes fear we're losing track of the basics of how fish behave and
react. We're becoming more "fashion" fishermen. I want to see us get back to
understanding simple factors in all species of fish.
For a fine assortment of Ice Fishing gear, click here.
One of the most popular ice-angling seminar speakers in the country, Minnesota-based "Tackle" Terry Tuma was catching big fish through hard water before it was "cool." From border country walleyes to farm pond panfish, Tuma explains his ice formula for catching winter fish.