Hardwater tips from the Canadian Ice Fishing Expo’s founder
Living a block away from Lake Simcoe in Innisfil, Ontario, Mike Magill takes full advantage of his easy access to one of the country’s premier ice-fishing destinations. “I hook up my sled and hut in my garage and I drive right down the street and onto the ice,” he says, revealing his passion for hardwater fishing. It was that passion, in fact, that inspired him to launch the annual Canadian Ice Fishing Expo in nearby Barrie in 2016.
While COVID-19 restrictions forced Magill to cancel the 2020 show, he is already planning the 2021 edition. “The show is like a one-stop shop,” he says. “You come in, listen to professional anglers give seminars, buy updated gear, see the latest and greatest technology, then book your next ice-fishing trip with local operators.” With Magill so plugged in to the world of ice fishing, we recently asked him to share his insider’s take on the latest hardwater tech and trends.
Since fish are constantly moving, you can follow them and increase your catch rate by running-and-gunning, says Magill. To do that effectively, however, he says you need to think light when it comes to gear. In his case, he’s replaced his 15-pound flasher with a Deeper sonar unit that’s the size of a tennis ball. “It fits in my pocket and hooks up to a cell phone,” he says. “I find it’s fantastic.” As for his auger, this year he’s planning to replace his heavy gas model with an Eskimo pistol bit that attaches to a brushless drill.
The number one mistake ice anglers make is overworking their lures, Magill says. When using a Badd Boyz or Meegs jig to imitate a fish digging on the lake bottom, for example, too many anglers become impatient and jig too much, he says. “You really have to get the motion down,” Magill says, explaining that you need to get the jig in a rhythm and not move it too much, then change up the rhythm as needed.
WATCH YOUR ELECTRONICS
As for knowing when and how to change up the rhythm, Magill says to watch your sonar to see how the fish are responding to your technique. “If you can see fish, but they’re not doing anything,” he says, “you can tweak your presentation a little bit until you provoke a bite.”