Submitted by: Stacy Robinson
In the Midwest and northern plains, anglers enjoy fishing for tasty Panfish. Panfish are not a specific type of fish, but just a non-predatory fish that is about the right size to fit into a pan and fry. They include bluegill, small perch, sunfish, and crappie among others.
When winter arrives and the lakes and ponds where these fish live freeze over, the hardy anglers are ready for ice fishing. The most important part of ice fishing for Panfish, is safety. In the far north, the lakes freeze over solid and stay frozen. In the mid west and lower latitudes the lakes will freeze over enough for ice fishing but the thickness of the ice should be tested every time before going out on the ice. In most areas four inches of ice is enough to support a person without cracking. However, the thickness of ice varies over a lake or even a pond. The safest rule of thumb is to make sure there is six to eight inches of ice on a lake before going out on it.
You should also dress warm and in layers. Wearing a pair of neoprene chest waders and a heavy jacket will keep a person warm even in sub-zero temperatures. A good pair of neoprene fishing gloves is also helpful to keep your hands warm and dry.
The next step is drilling a hole in the ice. There are many techniques for this of which most are regulated by local fishing rules. Most states have laws about how large of a hole you can put into the ice. Check the ice fishing regulations before you begin to avoid an extremely expensive fishing trip. A manual ice auger is what most ice angler s use. It drills anywhere from a six inch hole to a 10 inch hole. With a good sharp auger you can cut through a foot of ice in no time. For the beginner, it is best to have a rope tied to your auger on one end and something large and heavy to the other end. That way when you finally break thorough the ice, the auger will not fall to the bottom of the lake.
After creating the hole, you will need a large dipper with holes in it to strain out the pieces of ice that are in the hole. Another tip is once you have cleared out the floating ice, look down at the bottom of the ice hole to make sure it will be open enough to get a fish through it.
The best baits to use for ice fishing are worms and fish eggs. Depending on your location, the color of fishing eggs will vary. The worms should all be big night crawlers. This is the time of year fish are looking for the largest meal they can get using the least amount of energy. Begin fishing on the bottom of the lake. Leave the bait just sitting there. If this doesn t work, try jigging the bait up and down a distance of about 6 inches. Movement attracts attention and may be just what the fish need.
Using these tips will allow you to have a great time ice fishing for your favorite Panfish. Good luck.
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