BEGINNERS GUIDE TO ICE FISHING FOR PANFISH
Each year the interest in ice fishing continues to grow so today we want to look at 3 basics that beginning ice fisherman will find useful when targeting bluegill, crappie, and perch. Safety, location, and equipment.
Safety must always be your #1 priority. We encourage you to fish with a partner and always remember that no ice is ever completely safe. Always approach all ice with caution and use a spud bar when venturing out to check the ice. You will want hard clear ice that is at least 4” thick Pay close attention to prior and extended weather forecasts. Remember that snow insulates ice and keeps ice from forming quickly. Travel light and always take your ice picks and a personal flotation device.
Bluegill and perch will normally congregate on shallow flats with vegetation while crappies will normally group up and suspend near the edge of a grass line. If you targeted any of these in the fall, they will usually be near the same location you located them in the fall. Drill at least 3 holes about 20 yards apart to take advantage of different depths. Chances are great that if you catch one there are many more nearby as these fish school up in the winter.
All 3 species can be caught using the same rod, reel, and line set up. A good choice is an ultra-light combo using 2-4lb test line. This set up will allow you to detect the lightest bite from a finicky fish. Our favorite bait is a 1/64 -1/32 oz tungsten jig tipped with a wax worm or plastic lure of similar size when fishing for perch and bluegill. For crappie tip the jig with a minnow. Lift and quiver the bait slightly above the fish to trigger a bite.
If you prefer to fish a bit more aggressive use a 1/32 or 1/16 oz rattle bait or spoon. The extra vibration in the water column should attract a fish’s attention. This normally works better on perch and crappie.
Also having a flasher or graph will be a huge asset in being able to identify depths, grass lines and actual fish. This will allow you to be certain you are fishing in the correct location and fish are present.
Hopefully the tips above will help you get on the ice and successfully catch bluegill, perch, and crappie! Regardless of your previous experience on the ice always make safety your #1 priority. We hope you have an action-packed time on the ice.