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Otter Tail Country Tourism

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ice Fishing Tips for January

January is a great time to be out on the ice - it's thick enough from tons of exposure to cold air to drive on, cold temperatures might keep other anglers off the ice, and the bite is hot this time of winter.

Some of the best tips I've been finding:

1) Go to lakes with wild rice for giant bluegills. I'm not sure why, but something with wild rice (maybe the bugs or other critters the rice attracts?) helps grow big old bluegills.

2) Use a good auger. A good auger will help your day, in more ways than one. Use the auger to drill holes on your way out to test ice thickness. If you're not catching anything, load up your portable and drill a new hole at the next honey hole. Try deep spots, if they're not working go somewhere a little more shallow. Just make sure you have a good unit and take care of it when you're not using it.

3) Use a quality fish finder. Use whatever brand you'd like, but make sure it works and you know how to use it. This will help to prevent a waste of time spot - if you're not marking any fish on the unit, pack up and move until you find them! Use it to tweak your setup as well - if fish keep coming on the radar but you're not getting any strikes, you might be doing something wrong.

4) The smaller the better when it comes to panfish. Ultralight test line - 1 or 2 pound test - is a necessity. It seems small, but it's best for detecting those light strikes. Also spring bobbers on a very sensitive rod will help detect these taps on your line. You have to be ready because of the finicky eating habits of panfish. And of course, your tackle will be tiny. Up to 1/100th of an oz. jigs are necessary to draw strikes from bluegills and crappies this time of year.

5) Cold weather ice fishing (well, that's a given) means the fish will be deeper than you're used to. Fishing in 50' of water isn't unheard of. Be prepared for that. Also take care when reeling in your fish - if you bring them to the surface too fast their air sac can and will explode, killing the fish. It's tough to release a dead fish!

I hope these tips help you out this winter out on the ice. If you've been out recently, let us know in the comments!

Al, Otter Tail Country Tourism Team

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