Riege: Sight ice fishing in the weeds

Published 5:36 pm Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bob and Ginny Riege

Sight ice fishing has been around since the dawn of man who first ventured onto a frozen lake or river and chiseled a hole in the ice, then peered down the hole to see if he could locate any fish.

Sight ice fishing can be a good learning experience. You can learn more about your jigging action and how fish react to your cadence. You will also learn how fish bite and you will discover why you have missed a lot of fish. Sometimes the initial bite is so quick and so subtle you may not have time to react. Seeing is believing when it comes to the interaction of angler and fish.

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Today with the latest in technology we can still look down the hole in the ice and ice fish but our tactics have changed. We have sonar units, underwater cameras, GPS and electronic mapping. We can use this equipment to also help us find a very key element and that is location of specific structure known as weeds.

The sight ice fishermen should find a shallow bay or weed flat that has green coontail or cabbage. The greenest weeds will provide a number of elements that can help with sight ice fishing. The green weeds provide oxygen to help keep microorganisms and bugs alive. This in turn provides a place where smaller fish can come to feed and where predatory fish can lay in ambush to eat the smaller fish.

The shallow bay or weed flat will aid the angler by allowing them to have a view of what type of fish inhabits the weed bed, especially in clear water.

Once I have located my weed bed I will drill series of holes in and around the weed bed. I like to drill about an 8 inch hole that will provide me with a large enough window to see my jig and the surrounding structure.

Searching this area is done with my Vexilar Fish Scout Underwater camera and my Vexilar FLX-28. The Fish Scout is a color camera that will help me to identify the green weeds and the FLX-28 (on the low power mode will cut out the weeds) so I can see my jig.

One tip I should mention is that I also use my camera to help create a pocket in the weeds. I like to drop my camera down in the weeds and then spin it around to form that pocket I can fish in.

Fish are wary. This helps them survive and can also make them difficult to catch. They utilize their excellent senses of vision and hearing, detect motion with unerring accuracy using their lateral line, and also use their sense of smell. Therefore, a cautious approach is required of an angler.

Once I find the spot I will be fishing I pull my Fish Trap Scout over the hole and start viewing down the hole. I will use the Vexilar FLX-28 to see if there is any movement below the hole. Looking down the hole for a lengthy period of time can give you a stiff neck, so I use the sonar unit to scout for me. Once I see a line on my unit I will ease over the hole and see how the fish is reacting to my presentation. Again, a word of caution is to be very still and have very little movement.

With either natural bait or artificial lures, the presentation must be realistic. It should appear that the offering is part of the normal food chain. Hunger is certainly a major motivating factor, but fish also respond as predators and strike something that moves. At times, they even exhibit antagonistic behavior when biting an intruder to drive it away.

The key to triggering the fish to bite is a good presentation. If your jig is spinning it will scare the fish away. The correct line, jig weight and jigging motion will stop the jig from spinning and spooking the fish.

My jigs of choice are the new Clam Drop jig #10 in gold, glow white, and glow red tipped with maggots. I will also have a second rod tied with Duckbill Drop jig in gold and Firetiger/white glow bar. I usually start off with the gold and red jigs tipped with maggots or wax worms. I might even switch that to Maki plastics in the Jamei white or a red Spiiki. Another tip, when using wax worms T-bone them on the hook to give them a different action. T-boning or “wacky rigging” is hooking the waxy in the middle of the worm, both ends undulate. If the water is stained I will switch to all white, so I can visually identify the bite and set the hook.