Where to go Ice Fish

By Andy Whitcomb

Jan 16, 2017

Ice fishing time is here for much of the northern part of the country. Knowing where to ice fish is an important key to this fun winter activity.

It is the middle of winter and seriously cold now in the Northeast.  Some anglers, like me, may be suffering from fishing withdrawal from the lack of open water. Others actually look forward to these conditions and can’t wait to get out and “walk on water.” If you were “good” and Santa brought you some ice fishing equipment, do you know where to start?

Here are some tips on where to ice fishing:

1. Safe ice. This is the first requirement for ice fishing. It is recommended that at least 4” of ice be formed to support the weight of an angler. 5” makes me more comfortable. Being out on a frozen lake is a lot of fun, but use caution.  Stay safe and always wear a life jacket, safety picks, and don’t fish alone.

2. Ponds. Ponds are a great place where you can ice fish and build your confidence even during the winter months.The concentration of fish in a small area lets you play with various presentations to sluggish fish. When you figure something out, that technique will help you keep trying on larger bodies of water. 

3. Edges. Weed edges are a great place to start ice fishing. If you have fished the lake by boat, you may already have a good idea of weed line locations. If not, contour maps will be helpful as weeds are usually limited to shallower parts of the lake.

4. Deep. Contour maps will also reveal the deeper holes or old channels. Fish have a tendency to “sulk” in these deeper places to fish during parts of winter.

5. Structure. Just as with open water fishing, fish still relate to structure. Did you find a brush pile on your electronics? That might be a gold mine of bluegill and crappie.

6. Bottom. Pay attention to how the bottom feels. When I'm looking for a place where I can go ice fishing, I usually look for a firmer lake bottom with some rocks or boulders. However, there are times when a lure jigged up and down to stir up some silt will attract fish such as yellow perch.  

7. Not there. Give it a little while, then move and punch some more holes. In general, you are more likely to go to the fish than bring the fish to you. 

If your fishing license is up to date, find a buddy and go punch some holes in some safe ice. You just may find a way to help you make it to spring! 
Andy Whitcomb
Andy Whitcomb
Andy is an outdoor writer (http://www.justkeepreeling.com/) and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to takemefishing.org since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.