It doesn’t matter whether you enjoy catching crappies, pike, saugers, walleye or yellow perch, if you search YouTube or Vimeo for underwater winter footage of your favourite fish, you’ll find something to watch. And when you do, take notice of when the fish hit the lure. As you’ll likely see, they invariably bite when the angler pauses the bait and lets it hang motionless in the water column. When the angler keeps incessantly jigging the lure, however, the fish grow tired of the constant movement and swim away.
As I’ve long been telling anglers, there are two phases to almost every successful ice-fishing presentation for crappies, pike, saugers, walleye and yellow perch. The first is the attracting phase, when you move your lure and call in the fish. The second is the triggering phase, when you pause your bait and let them eat it. While you can often fool lake trout and whitefish with this attract-and-trigger trick, you can also entice those two aggressive cold-water fish to chase after your escaping lure when you see them appear on the sonar screen.
Bonus Tip: Heads Up!
Most anglers know how important it is to keep their lures above the fish. So what do they do when they spot a big black crappie, trout, walleye or yellow perch swim across the sonar screen and hover below their bait? Typically, they drop it down to put it in front of the fish’s nose, only to watch the fish swim away. Why does that happen? Because that’s not how predators and prey interact.
Instead, when you can force a fish to commit and rise up to your bait or lure, you can almost guarantee it will bite. Part of the reason for this is pure fish biology at work. Look at the head of a crappie, for example, and you’ll see that its eyes are positioned above the lateral line. See what I’m saying? The fish want to swim up to attack your offering, so by keeping it above them, you can excite the entire school.
Every Friday this winter we’ll be sharing Outdoor Canada’s coolest ice fishing tips for 2018. Check back regularly to learn about the latest tackle, tips and techniques for icing more walleye, perch, northern pike, lake trout, crappies and whitefish.