Ice fishing conditions Qs

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Heidi's picture
Ice fishing conditions Qs
I'm trying to plan an ice fishing outing for my students around the brutal windchills plaguing many of us so far this winter. I have the cold weather gear, but my students from much closer to the equator do not. A shopping trip to any local megamart can solve that problem. However, I'm more concerned about the effects the extra thick ice this year is having on local (Twin Cities metro area) fish populations.No matter how prepped for the cold first-time ice anglers are, it just ain't no fun if the fish don't show up for the party! So my Q is: Are ice conditions this year causing higher fish die-offs, and if so, will the odds of angling success (landing anything at this point) possibly increase later/near the end of the season as the ice thins? Thanks
smurph's picture
I thinks it depends on the lake and the kind of fish being targeted
Deftik's picture
Yeah, they all died.

Yeah, they all died.

TonyS's picture
Fish die offs are higher towa

Fish die offs are higher towards spring (usually).  Late ice fishing can be a lot better than Feb. ice fishing but if you aren't really familar with ice conditions you might run into questionable ice as it starts to melt.  Best bet (in my opinion) is to find a shallow-ish/smaller lake with lots of small panfish and pike.  pike usually very angler friendly in winter. 

Heidi's picture
Thanks Smurph and Tony Sorry
Thanks Smurph and Tony Sorry to annoy Deftik or anyone else if this is a stupid question ~ didn't think it would hurt to ask...

"Can you pull the leviathan in with a fishook?" Job 41: 1


Deftik's picture
It's not a stupid question pe

It's not a stupid question per se. I just wouldn't lead a large a group of people onto the ice if you need to ask that. I'd inquire into ice conditions, temps, wind chill. I personally wouldn't attempt ice fishing without a seasoned vet, too dangerous, too many variables.

zippyFX's picture
I agree sounds like you shoul

I agree sounds like you should get a guide.

kernel j
Yeah, a good guide...

And one with some sharp auger blades.

(toughest part's the drillin' and you ain't big so bring someone who is)

Jason E.
Jason E.'s picture
These are just the lessons I'

These are just the lessons I've learned, but I suck at ice fishing, so take these points with a grain of salt:

1. Ice fishing is not as fun as open water fishing.  I know some people will disagree, but about the only advantage to ice fishing is no bugs.  Otherwise, you are less likely to catch fish and less likely to catch many different species from a single spot.  For me, it's a way to get outside during winter but it does not compare to the fun of open water. All of which is to say, when I've taken out guests or first-timers, I try to set the bar super low, so they are not disappointed.

2. When in doubt, head for shantytown (where the other ice houses are).  Yes, it can be fun to explore your own spots, but esp. as a first-timer, the odds of success are slim.  Those people are at that spot for a reason (because fish are present) and while your odds of catching something special in shantytown are small, your odds of catching at least something are decent.

3. If you are using a hand auger with thick ice, pull it out a few times while drilling.  Otherwise, the auger can get stuck and you won't be able to pull it out.  Basically, drill a foot or so, pull out the auger, drill a foot or so, pull out the auger, etc.

4. If you don't have sonar, your odds of success are low, especially if the fish are suspended (hanging out several feet above the bottom).  Otherwise, a good place to start with your bait is just off of the bottom (within a foot or so of the bottom).  This is esp. true when fishing for sunfish or perch, a common target of beginners.

5. This doesn't matter much now, given how cold it's been, but a decent rule is 4-6 inches of ice is "safe" for walking, 12-18 inches of ice is "safe" for vehicles.  Hard, clear, black ice is strongest.  I say "safe," not safe, because no ice is 100% safe.  Rivers are especially sketchy in terms of safety.

6. Hand warmers can help a lot, esp. if you plan to handle wet fish during your trip.

7. Good boots and socks are a MUST.  Your feet will be on the ice, so cheap crappy boots and thin socks are a recipe for discomfort at best and frostbite at worst.

8. If ice fishing in March on a sunny day, watch out for sunburn.  This sounds ridiculous, but snow and ice reflect the sun, so you are getting a double dose, esp. around the noon hour.  Your face is about the only skin that will suffer, but I've gotten burned in the past by sitting outside in the sun while ice fishing.

9. While ice-fishing, you will probably hear loud noises from the ice (cracking, popping, etc.).  This often freaks out first-timers.  It is normal.  It will happen when people walk around or vehicles drive by.

Have as much fun as you can, given that it's ice fishing and all.

Heidi's picture

Thanks for the input. However, I do already have a "guide," all necessary standard ice angling gear and equipment, and a designated metro-area lake. Also, it's not a large group - six total including myself and the "guide." All other logistical plans were well thought out and organized in advance (two months ago). I took 15 students on the same outing twice last year (30 total), and even I drilled several holes with a power auger, as did all the students who wanted to give it a try. Both were well attended, very successful outings as all the gals caught fish while the guys were totally skunked on the first expedition, and all the students - guys and gals - landed at least one sunny or pearch on the second outing. The weather was great, and ice conditions then reflected the much milder winter experienced here last year.

The weather - and ice thickness - are more problematic for catching as many fish this year. But, as per last year, this year's ice fishing expediton(s) are also well planned for and organized - even by a puny novice like me.

I just wanted to know how extra thick ice condtions - epecially on shallow (10-25 fow) metro area lakes - were affecting local metro fish populatons so far this season so I can plan accordingly to change the dates - that's all. I get the same skeptical, raised eyebrow reactions from denizens of local baitshops, so I thought I'd try posting my question here as well...shoganai

Thanks again

"Can you pull the leviathan in with a fishook?" Job 41: 1


Deftik's picture
Well then best of luck, make

Well then best of luck, make sure you report back on your catches!

Outdoors4life's picture

I looked it up and pretty much true in this instance.


Sometimes it is best to lay the plan and go. Just like last year going to meet Mags and chase whitefish. Fishing sucked, weather sucked but a number of us went adn had a great time. I wish I had time to do it again this year!

It is all perspective!

Acer Home Inspections

Dr Flathead
Dr Flathead's picture
Its fishing afterall.  Seems

Its fishing afterall.  Seems like no trip ever goes as planned out in your head.  I've punched holes in lakes that were in the middle of taking a hard winterkill.  First time it happened, the minute the auger punched thru and I pulled up and out, the smell of death hit me.  The water was brownish and smelled like dead fish and that stinky boggy smell.  And I still spent a couple hours out there fishing.  You live and learn.