Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Ice-Angling Tips for the Yamaha Off-Roader

Weather (and daylight, or lack of) can influence fish feeding binges. Steve Hickoff photo

Weather (and daylight, or lack of) can influence fish feeding binges. Steve Hickoff photo

By Steve Hickoff

Okay, you’ve driven your Yamaha utility ATV to the frozen pond or lake you want to fish through the ice. Angling gear is stashed in the back of your rig. And if you haven’t had enough fun just riding to the location, here are some tips to help make that winter day angling outdoors even more enjoyable and productive: 


Depth maps detail maximum and minimum distinctions in water levels. As an angler, you can use this information to target drop-off locations where some game fish tend to stage in winter. Other species you’ll find in shallower waters.


You can gamble, and just drop bait through the hole, and wait passively. Or you can fish for a particular species with deliberate intent. Rainbow trout seem to prefer bait lowered just several feet below the ice, even if the maximum depth is much deeper. Opportunists that they are, lake trout (or “togue” to you New Englanders), tend to take big baitfish just off the lake bottom.


Panfish such as bluegills and crappies (pronounced crop-pees) often provide consistent winter action when others won’t. Still, this doesn’t mean they’re pushovers. Use thin 2-pound test lines, small hooks, and tiny baits (bits of worm or small shiners) to fool this tasty quarry.


Legal keeper limits vary between frozen waters in some cases. Only haul home what you can eat as well. A half-dozen panfish per person is a good number to go by for weekend fish fries. One five-pound lake trout will feed several people. Release the rest through the same hole from which you caught them, and do it promptly.


Certain ice-fishing species hang in the same habitat as others. Crappies, bluegills, and even chain pickerel hold in the shallows, often in spots that revealed weedy cover in open-water season. Northern pike and walleyes share space. Largemouth bass can be found on lake drop-offs where the depth shifts suddenly, and smallmouths hold there too.


Weather (and daylight, or lack of) can influence fish feeding binges. A mild day above freezing temperatures with solid ice can put fish on the bite, while a lingering deep freeze can put them off. Heavy snowcover piled up on the ice overhead sometimes sees winter fish feed during brighter daylight hours. Alternately, clear ice on sunny days might reveal low-light biting tendencies.


You’ve got your Yamaha wheels parked nearby, so if fish just aren’t biting through the ice that day, haul your gear to the shoreline, load it up, and try another spot. This ride-and-fish technique will sometimes put you into trout and panfish that do want to play. If not, four-wheeling around outdoors on a weekend day is still lots of fun.