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Early Ice Ideas

Northland Bionic Bucktail Jig
We’re going to wake one morning in the not so distant future and discover our favorite pond has frozen over. The lakes won’t be far behind. I always used to think that early ice provided the best ice-fishing action. Now I know that there can be some fantastic ice-fishing throughout the entire ice season. However, early ice is still a productive and favorite time to get out. Here are some ideas for early ice success.


The most important thing to remember for early ice-fishing is that you don’t need to be the first one out there. The first angler on the ice is often the first one to fall through, and that’s no fun. Once you’re sure the ice is safe, you want to keep as quiet and still as possible on the ice. Later in the season it’s a good idea to keep moving in search of active fish. But early in the year it’s often more productive to sit and wait for the fish to come to you.

Early in the ice season, the ice is thin, and often there’s no snow on it. The fish can see you moving around right above them. This spooks them, and fish that are spooked aren’t interested in eating. If you know there are fish in the area, wait for them to come to you.

Northland Bionic Bucktail Jig
Northland Fishing Tackle Gill-Getter® JIG "Bro's Bug Collection"
Even though the weather can be quite warm this time of year, many ice anglers still like to fish from a shelter. The shelter appears to be a dark blob to the fish. If you’re in that blob, they can’t see you moving.


However, if you’re outside, you also appear to be a blob, but when you move, you appear to be a blob that’s moving. Moving blobs scare fish, stationary blobs don’t. Frabill ice shelters are black and camouflage your movements very well. That’s one reason so many of the best ice-anglers use Frabill shelters.

In many bodies of water early in the year, anglers do a lot of sight-fishing. It’s fun to watch the fish come up and look at your bait, then eat it. Sometimes it’s frustrating to watch them come up and look at your bait then swim away. If they are swimming away more than they’re eating it, you need to make some adjustments in your presentation.

Ice Fishing - Northland Fishing Tackle
If you know you’re going to be sight-fishing, tie on some light line. Light line allows tiny baits to be presented more naturally, and it’s harder for the fish to see. More and more, anglers are going to Trilene Fluorocarbon in two pound test for line sensitive panfish.


When the fish are finicky, small baits will usually be best. There are more and more tiny baits available every year, and that’s because they catch fish. The new ‘Gill Getters in the Bro Bug Collection are tiny, but they have great detail, and they get panfish to bite when nothing else will. Get your stuff ready, and get out there as soon as the ice is safe. If you keep the above ideas in mind, you’ll up the odds for a successful early ice outing.

For more fishing information visit and watch all the 2010 episodes of Fishing the Midwest television on in the video section and on

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