Outside Chance

Let’s go ice-fishing

By Jack Payne

As with any activity, preparation is key to success in ice fishing. With that, I sought out two of the better ice anglers in the area: Brock Neeson from Stopper Lures in the greater Hastings area and Bill Ferris from Ionia County.

“If you plan on using an ice shanty, dig it out and set it up,” said Neeson. Mice can be a problem, holes getting chewed through fabric. Fabric tears, parts become loose, parts do not move as well as in the past. Sometimes a shot of WD-40 can correct the problems. Anglers have a choice of a hub style or a pull over style shanty. If you look around you might find a three sided shanty sled. Panfish anglers that consistently put fish into a bucket are mobile. The less tackle that you need to drag around, the more apt you might be to cut more holes.

“I use a Striker Ice Suit which is floatable and very warm, instead of a shanty unless it’s really cold or windy,” said Ferris. The suit is moisture proof, has leg zippers and chest zippers to control the amount of body heat to trap or release.

Electronics need checking, batteries charged up, carrying case secured, transducer working. You get it; make sure that it working the way that it was intended.

Fresh line should be spooled onto the reels, reels cleaned, rod tips and eye guides checked out. For Neeson, Suffix 3 pound test is his choice; for Ferris, it’s Gamma line in 1, 2 and 3 pound test. Once again, fresh is best and should be double checked throughout the season.

Bill likes longer rods, the 42-inch rod being his favorite. The longer rod provides more leverage when using super light- weight line.

Both of these seasoned anglers love using tungsten teardrops. Tungsten falls quicker and is smaller in profile size. Good choices include the Skandia and Pelkie series from Stopper Lures. Both anglers start with a size 12 hook and go smaller if conditions dictate. Glow patterns are favored with blue and green faces a favorite with Brock. Wonder glow is another great choice. I would also suggest the Moon Glitter teardrops. I use a lot of those all year around.

“At first ice I search out coves and areas that freeze over quickly,” said Neeson. However, Brock is like me; do not call us for an early ice report. Both of us let others go out first, we wait a few days longer but enjoy playing it safe. These floatable style suits can be a real life saver. I use my floatable suit for pier fishing and very early open water fishing as well.

“I look for shallow areas that draw plankton or baitfish,” said Ferris. Green weeds are always a hot spot. Bill also cuts a lot of holes before starting to fish. It’s best to cut a series of holes, then go back to the first hole and start fishing. You spook less fish that way.

Bill uses a lot of plastics on his teardrops. Brock is more of a meat man. Bock likes mousies over wax worms, the last longer on the hook. If Bill goes to live bait he grabs spikes. Once again, he feels spikes stay on the hook better than wax worms.  Bill also keeps his spikes in his pocket. Warmer spikes wiggle better on the hook. Oh, one last tip from Bill, hook the spike through the head and leave the hook point exposed. My take on plastic, go  with the meat and when you know that you are on the fish, try plastics. Success will build more success.

Bill like many anglers has switched to the battery powered augers – his choice, the 18 volt, 5 amp drill with the Nells 4.5 inch auger bit. Plenty wide enough for crappie perch and gills. There are many good choices for ice augers, cordless drop option, etc.

Ice fishing is a fun sport that can be done with the family or friends.