You never know what might come through the ice while fishing it. That’s part of the pleasure, and a reason to get out there these winter days. (Clam media photos)
by Steve Hickoff
Transition time has arrived in Yamaha Outdoors country. Where snow and ice provide recreational opportunities, some safety reminders are always vital.
Rule 1: Drive your Yamaha ATV or Side-by-Side to the shoreline fishing access, and park it just as you would your truck. Sure, you love to ride, but edge ice—not to mention surfaces over deep waters—can be uneven, cracked and even “punky” (sloppy and squishy). Keep your wheels on shore. Walk to fish. It’ll do you good.
Rule 2: Avoid ice time during lengthy thaws. Dark spots on the surface can indicate springs, which erode ice quality. Small ponds, where panfish often live (those fryers you want), often freeze up first, and ice quality is sometimes thicker.
Rule 3: Rivers and moving currents in streams and creeks should be avoided as ice angling goes (water movement weakens ice), though winter fly-fishing opportunities abound nationwide. You can fly-cast from shore, again, parking your four wheels nearby. Mobility increases success.
Rule 4: While ice fishing provides a sense of community out there on hardwater, as bobhouses create winter villages, large gatherings of people sometimes stress supporting surfaces. Keep activity to a minimum as groups go. Visit spot to spot for the safest approach.
Rule 5: You can also prepare should something go wrong. If you’ve ice angled long enough, you may punch through the ice surface no matter how careful you are. If you do, don’t over-react. Try to “swim” or work your way back to the edge of where you went in. Lean back, both arms on the hard ice, and kick like an Olympic swimmer. You should lift right onto the ice.
Rule 6: It doesn’t hurt to plan ahead by stashing a blanket, container full of hot soup or a warm drink, and other supplies back at your rig on the shoreline (assuming you haven’t brought those supplies with you on the ice).
Rule 7: Ice picks (to assist with the Rule 5 challenge), are available at many tackle stores in north-country locations; take this tool along, especially if you fish alone—even if you never need them. Stash one in a pocket, or wear it around your neck on a lanyard.
Rule 8: Fish the margins of the day, as early and late periods often see feeding activity increase, especially with trout. Warmwater fish such as pickerel and panfish (sunfish, bluegills, black crappie, etc.) can turn on as days warm a bit. You’ll never know unless you get out there.