The most fundamental element that’s key to having a successful ice fishing trip is determining the depth at which the fishing are biting. From there, you’ll simply need to put your bait at this depth, keep it perfectly still and wait for a bite.
This is all because 1.) fish move very little in the winter, often staying at the same depth for the entirety of the season and 2.) fish are not willing to expend much energy when pursuing food.
Thus, to be successful, you’ve got to put the bait right in front of the fish.
So how do you get started?
Here are a few basic techniques to use to find the right depth when ice fishing:
- Use trial and error: Sometimes, the easiest way to find where the fish are biting is to simply test your luck at different depths. With your ice fishing auger, drill a few small holes several feet apart in the area you’re fishing. Test different depths at each hole, starting at the bottom of your body of water and working your way up. Once you’ve found the depth where fish are biting, stick with it. Note: Be careful not to drill the holes too large or too close together, as it could weaken the ice.
- Do your research: Fishing yellow perch in Utah? Put your bait at no more than six inches above the bottom of a lake. Looking for splake? Keep your bait close to the bottom as well. These tips, along with many others, come from the Utah Department of Natural Resources. Get the skinny on which depths to fish in your area by contacting your own state’s DNR.
- Ask around: “Ask, and ye shall receive.” Oftentimes, all it takes is asking those successful fisherman around you on the lake what depth they’re fishing. You might just get an answer; it simply depends on who is out on the lake with you, and if they’re willing to “share the wealth.” After all, it never hurts to ask -- and you might just make a new friend!
In addition to these tips, more serious anglers can invest in an ice flasher to get some help from technology.