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How to Locate Hot Spots With Ice Fishing Electronics

Finding fish is a little like playing Clue, being a biologist, tarot card reading, and playing Craps. All of those things, plus skill. Ice fishing electronics can help. Knowing how to locate the fish when, where, and why takes a mixture of knowledge and skill.

Anglers rely on a number of ways to locate their honey hole; often a combination of old-school search methods and technology. While technology has made great advancements in a number of areas, ice fishing hasn’t really had that many advancements. Much of the tech that is available is monetarily preventative, so many still rely on the old fashioned ways.

Gus Glasgow, ANGLR Expert, tells us a little about how to use your brains and brawn, as well as technology to locate those panfish under the ice.

Meet The Simplest Way To Track Your Ice Fishing Trips

Ice Fishing Electronics: Searching Through The Ice Evolves

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“Back when I first started ice fishing we pretty much ran tip-ups. That’s pretty much all we had to go with,” Glasgow began. “Jigging existed, but the jigging rod hadn’t advanced yet.” There was no drag, no systems, no mechanics. The jigging rod basically looked like a fiberglass pole with a plastic spool on the top of it, unlike the traditional jigging rods of today, where it’s mounted on the bottom.

“It was literally a plastic spool.” A fisherman could adjust the bolt on the top to add tension to it. The 24” rods are extremely stiff with one eye on the very end. You can still pick one of these basic rods up for around five dollars.

Many use these rods now for dead-sticking.

As ice fishing evolved, fishermen began to see manufacturers shrinking their rods into what looked like a 24”-36” trout rod with several eyes. The technology slowly started to get better. “Now, we’re using 32”-34” noodle rods, which are typically fiberglass. They’re extremely flexible, ultralight, and ultra sensitive. Rod-wise, we’ve advanced ten-fold.

Ice Fishing Electronics: Kickin’ It Old School

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Without technology, there’s no clear-cut way of “locating” fish under the ice, aside from knowing their cycle and where the baitfish are hanging out. Set your tip-ups out in an area that you are pretty sure there are going to be fish. Base your decision on what you logged into your ANGLR App last season, by talking to local fishermen, asking at your bait shop, or seeing where other angers have drilled holes.

If you don’t have advanced GPS, you can drop a lead weight into the water clipped onto the end of your hook to see how deep the bottom is.

You can drill 10-20 holes out in a straight line in the center of the lake, checking thickness as you go. If you have a buddy with you, they can follow behind looking for changes with the depth checker, marking changes in depth, creek channels, and evidence of weeds coming up.

Use that information to set the depth on your tip ups. Raise the line off the bottom a foot or so, wherever you want to target, and mark the line with a small split shot so you know what depth to set your bait.

“Running tip-ups is actually sort of exciting,” shares Glasgow. “It’s pretty fun, watching one of those flags pop, and you take off running because you’ve got a bite.”

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Ice Fishing Electronics: Becoming Progressive

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The flasher has become the most common tool that you’ll see on the ice with MarCum and Vexilar being the industry leaders. While they’ve added some sensitivity and LED screens, the technology has been relatively unchanged for decades. Unfortunately, flashers don’t usually come equipped with GPS technology, with the exception of Marcum’s RT-9 package, valued at $1,700.

“In recent years, people have started using small, open water fish finders meant to be mounted on a boat, and they’re adapting them to ice fishing,” says Glasgow. “So, there are two routes you can go: you can either carry a flasher and a handheld GPS with map cards, which can be quite expensive, or you could carry a fish finder with a GPS built in.”

Many people don’t really care to use the fish finder, claiming that the flasher is more accurate, giving more instantaneous feedback. “I, myself, actually carry a Lowrance, made for a boat, that was not meant for ice fishing.”

Lugging all of that a mile or more across the ice, pushing through snow can be a drag.

“We’re always looking for something that’s going to be lightweight, easy access, and easy to store,” he says. The industry really needs a way to be able to market towards the majority of the population that can’t afford to invest in big tech. GPS technology that can look at contours, creek channels, points, humps in the lake, rock bottoms; all of those things can be shown on maps, and we use those things to find our fish throughout the seasons.

Glasgow predicts that fishing apps will begin including more and more of this, often difficult to access, information as time goes on.

A Basic Ice Fishing Setup: What to Take for Your Day on the Ice

If you’re new to the sport of ice fishing and wondering what a basic ice fishing setup looks like, you’re going to want to pay attention!

If it’s been a while since you’ve stepped foot on the ice, you’re going to want to take a peek!

ANGLR got together with Ryan Fox, one of our ANGLR Experts who has plenty of ice time under his belt, and put together the list to end all lists: exactly what you need to gather for a successful day on the ice. We’ve taken the guesswork out of your trip so you can focus on catching your share of perch and crappie.

Meet The Simplest Way To Track Your Ice Fishing Trips

Basic Ice Fishing Setup: Comfort is Important

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You’re going to want to keep yourself comfortable, so some sort of popup ice shelter or tent can really come in handy. You can put a small heater inside and head in for a quick warm-up when the wind starts to blow and it gets really cold. You can even drill holes inside the tent and fish inside when the weather outside is less than ideal.

You’ll definitely need to dress warmly, and in layers.

Waterproof, insulated boots and waterproof pants or bibs are essential. Many times, you wind up kneeling on the ice, so you don’t want your knees getting wet. As for the rest of your attire, warm clothes and hand warmers are important. Often times, ice fishing turns into a friendly get together with other anglers, so you’ll want to be sure you’re comfortable when you’re not running around drilling holes. When you’re cold, there’s no possible way to have any fun.

Coffee or a warm beverage of your choice is always helpful to keep you going and warm you up from the inside. It takes a lot to set up for ice fishing, so you’ll want to plan to be there for at least a few hours, if not the whole day. I like to bring cans of soup. When I turn the heater on in the tent, I’ll place the cans on top (with the labels peeled off) so they’re nice and hot when I’m ready for them. Bring anything else you like to snack on: sandwiches, chips, or sodas.

Sunglasses are important, too. When that sun comes out and beats down on that white expanse, it can really hurt your eyes. Make sure you’re protecting them.

Basic Ice Fishing Setup: A Good Sled

You’ll need a sled to haul all your good stuff out on the ice, and lucky for you, they make them specifically for ice fishing. They can be pretty big, but on average, they’re usually about five feet long by three and ½ feet wide with high sides to carry all of your gear. Many of them have built in rod holders, but if they’re not included, you can pack your rods in a five gallon bucket to keep them upright.

Basic Ice Fishing Setup: Ice Auger

You’ll need something to drill your holes with, and you have options. There are many choices from doing the work manually with a hand auger to gas or electric power drills. Check out our top choices for Ice Augers!

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Along the same lines, you’ll need an ice scooper to scoop out the slush that starts to build back up in your hole.

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Basic Ice Fishing Setup: Jigging Rod and Baits

There are two ways to ice fish: using a jigging rod or tip-ups. Most ice anglers find that they use a combination of the two when out on the ice. A jigging rod is essentially a fishing rod downsized to something between two and three feet long.

On my jigging rod, I like to use teardrop jigs. They’re just a small teardrop weight with a hook that comes out. They’re great for your panfish: perch, sunfish, bluegill, and crappie. There are other lures you can use, including a jigging rap.

That’s an ice fishing lure that, when you jig it, it jigs straight up through the water column.

There are fins on the side, so it glides on it’s way back down, looking like a minnow swimming around. They’re typically used for bigger game fish like bass, pike, and pickerel. I also like to use waxworms, mealworms, or spikes (another type of maggot). Small plastics can work, too.

Basic Ice Fishing Setup: Tip-Ups

A tip-up is a device you place over your hole with a live minnow on the end. When the fish bites the minnow and pulls the line, a flag goes up, signaling the bite. That means you can be farther away doing something else, but when you see the flag go up, you can run over to catch the fish.

You’ll be using split shot sinkers and a live bait rig with minnows on your tip-ups.

In Pennsylvania, the limit for one person is five fishing devices while you’re out. So, I’ll drill at least five holes and put up four tip-ups, and jig in the other hole. Usually, I’ll drill an extra five to six holes in different depth zones and use those holes to find the fish. Once I find what depth they’re holding in, I’ll move my tip-ups to that depth zone. I’ll set my tip-ups, then I like to jump around to other holes with my jig until either a tip-up goes off or I start catching fish with the jigs.

Basic Ice Fishing Setup: Map of the Water

You’ll typically want to have a map of the water with you showing you how deep the lake is. I like to look for sharp drops in the contours of the lake. Many times in the winter, you’ll see the fish set up on steep banks or sharp drops like a shoal that comes up in the lake.

Basic Ice Fishing Setup: Electronics

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While not necessary for beginners, many seasoned anglers will use ice fishing electronics like a fishfinder. That’s a portable sonar device with a transducer that hangs down into the hole, sending a signal down to the bottom. It reads that signal and can tell whether or not there are fish in that hole.

Once you find the fish, you can drop your bait down with the jigging rod, and see it go all the way down. You can then watch the fish come up and eat your bait. That’s how you can tell when you’ve got one, if the bites aren’t very tough and the fish aren’t acting very aggressively. At that point, it may be easier to go by sight, rather than feel, taking a lot of the guesswork out of ice fishing and often making it more enjoyable.

The ANGLR App is perfect for logging your trips and it’s easy to use.

I’ll mark my catches using my Bullseye and then go back at the end of the day and see where I’ve been on the map and where I caught fish. While you don’t cover as much water when ice fishing, if you go multiple times and in different spots, you can use the log book to see what you’ve caught in different locations and create a better game plan for your next trip.

Basic Ice Fishing Setup: Safety Gear

Always carry a length of rope that’s around 50 feet with something attached to the end of it that floats. If your partner falls through the ice, you can always throw that rope to them to help pull them out.

There are ice picks you can wear around your neck like a necklace. When you fall through, you can get to the edge of the ice and stab it to pull yourself out.

If you’re not sure whether or not the ice is safe, wear an inflatable life jacket.

Ice cleats are available to strap onto the bottom of your shoes. If there’s no snow cover on top, it makes it easier to get traction to pull the sled. You can also more easily run to your tip-ups when the flag goes up. It makes moving around on the ice easier and safer.

It doesn’t really take much to get yourself set up for a day on the ice, but by being prepared ahead of time, it’ll make your trip run smoothly and hopefully end with a full cooler!

Ice Fishing Technology: The Evolution of Ice Fishing Electronics

The world of open water fishing technology is constantly changing, yet ice fishing technology has remained relatively unchanged until recent years. ANGLR has created a device that is going to change the game for ice fishing electronics.

Ice Fishing Technology: Old School Tactics

When I was first introduced to ice fishing almost 30 years ago, we used a small 1 to 2-ounce lead weight attached to an alligator grip that we called a “depth checker” to check water depth… how about that for a technical name?  

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My uncle, Paul Glasgow, would often make his own clips out of spent 30-06 shell casings filled with lead and an alligator clip melted into the lead. We would attach the clip to a lure or hook and then drop the weight into the lake to determine the depth by measuring the length of line between the weight and the ice. I can’t tell you how many holes I drilled in the ice, going from hole to hole looking for some sort of change in depth – a rock pile, creek channel, or any random depth change – because as we all know, that’s where the fish are.  

Once we found fish, or a sudden change, we would mark our spot with stick, by piling up snow.

Meet The Simplest Way To Track Your Ice Fishing Trips

The only other option was to mark the spot by identifying a shoreline feature we could use to find our location again. For several years, this little “bullet depth checker” was the most advanced piece of technology on the ice, not just for me, but for others, as well.

Ice Fishing Technology: The Evolution to Flashers

As I got a little older and more serious about ice fishing, I was introduced to “flashers”.  One of the most popular flashers ever invented was the Vexilar FL-8. The FL-8 was first introduced in the late 1980’s and completely revolutionized the world of ice fishing.

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Image Credit: Vexilar.com

For the first time, ice anglers could check the depth of the water and see fish in real time.

Shortly after, others followed suit producing variations of both flashers and fish finders. The flasher has remained relatively unchanged for the last twenty years and is still one of the most commonly used electronic devices on the ice.

Ice Fishing Technology: Marking Spots

Before GPS technology, serious ice anglers who were interested in marking their fishing spots would identify markers on shore such as a tree or a telephone pole. If you were lucky, you carried a secondary GPS, often times a handheld device, or if you were crazy enough, figured out how to rig a lawnmower or snowmobile battery to your boat’s fish finder and hauled that out onto the ice.

For a short period of time, I used a handheld GPS along with a Vexilar Fl-8, until I dropped my GPS down a hole.

Within the last few years, only a few fishing electronic companies have added GPS and mapping technology to ice fish finders, but these “extras” cost anywhere from $400 to well over $1,000+ for those features. This cost doesn’t even include the cost of (multiple) map cards.

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Also, the technology is often big and bulky due to the size of battery and isn’t ideal when you’re carrying all of your ice fishing supplies. The entry of ANGLR into the ice fishing market has changed the way we look at GPS and fish mapping technology in a huge way.

Ice Fishing Technology: Changing the Game

ANGLR has invented a device called the Bullseye which is about the size of a quarter and can easily attach to your baseball cap or onto a lanyard worn around your neck. At only $29, the device has a built in battery with a two year life span that doesn’t require charging. The Bullseye pairs to your smartphone via Bluetooth technology and free ANGLR app, and is available for both iPhone and Android, free.

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To set it up, simply launch the app from your phone and hit record, then pair the Bullseye in the app and begin tracking your every move. You can then access your tracking records from an in-app map, but the Bullseye doesn’t stop there. With one simple push of the button on top of the Bullseye, you can mark a fish catch which is instantly logged to the app. Press the button two times and your GPS location is recorded to the map as an editable waypoint. At the end of the day, you review your logs and save your trip for future reference – and this is just part of what ANGLR Bullesye can do.

If you don’t want to carry a second GPS along with your fish finder, or don’t want to spend 100’s of dollars on overpriced fishing technology, ANGLR is for you. ANGLR has taken the bulkiness, the cost, and complication out of fish mapping technology. In fact, we believe in this product so much that you’ll find every single one of our WPA Hardwater staff at our 2019 tournaments using it. We’ll also be teaching our ice anglers how to utilize their ANGLR Bullseye.

Interested in the Western PA Hardwater Tournament Series?

Follow us on Facebook for up-to-date information on the upcoming 2019 tournament series.

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Sturgeon Fishing Michigan: Where to Find and Catch These Iconic Fish Through the Ice

Three years ago, success when Sturgeon fishing Michigan seemed to be nothing more than luck – growing up in the Middle of Michigan, it was a rare creature that you’d hear of people catching once or maybe twice per year.  It wasn’t until I moved to Northern Michigan and explored some of our smaller lakes, that I realized there were plenty of opportunities to target these fish.

One of the most unique initiatives that I learned about when I moved was Michigan’s effort to stock Lake Sturgeon into some of our lakes and rivers.  This stocking is very unique to Michigan because they realize the value of sport fishing for sturgeon, but also the cultural importance of these fish, which are on the endangered species list.  There are a few lakes throughout the state of Michigan which are part of these stocking efforts, including Black, Burt and Mullet Lakes in Cheboygan County, and Otsego Lake in Gaylord.

Sturgeon Fishing MichiganMichigan Sturgeon Fishing Regulations

Sport fishing for these freshwater dinosaurs does come with some regulations. The state of Michigan requires anglers targeting Lake Sturgeon to have a special Lake Sturgeon permit.  Anglers are allowed to keep one fish per season, over 50 inches. This incentivizes anglers to practice catch and release, while still offering the chance at catching a fish of a lifetime.

Another very unique opportunity in Michigan to celebrate the Lake Sturgeon is a one-day spearing season on Black Lake.  On February 2, 2019, Black Lake will be hosting their annual Sturgeon spearing season. The unique aspect of this festival is that once the 6th Sturgeon is speared, the season closes.  In 2018, the season lasted a total of 66 minutes – the largest Sturgeon of the day weighing over 79 pounds!

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These efforts, from the Sturgeon stocking to fishing and spearing regulations are critical for the promotion of conservation of these amazing fish.

Where to Target When Lake Sturgeon Fishing Michigan

The most obvious place to start when looking at where to start fishing for Lake Sturgeon is to look at the Michigan stocking efforts – Burt and Mullet Lakes, Black Lake, as well as Otsego Lake offer great opportunities to target these fish.  These lakes are now regularly stocked with Sturgeon and have populations that can offer you a real shot at catching one of these dinosaurs.

Once you’re on the lake of your choice, I like to locate “Fish Highways.”  A “fish highway,” is a high percentage area that fish will use to travel around the lake – what I look for are steep breaks where shallow water drops quickly into the main lake or river channel.  These areas of the lake offer fish easy opportunities to move from shallow to deep water depending on water conditions, but also ambush points where they don’t have to move very far to find food/baitfish.  Identified on the map below are some areas that I target along major “fish highways.”

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Main Lake Points

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Shallow Water near River Inlets

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Steep Drops near Main Lake Flats

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Gear for Targeting Lake Sturgeon

Heavy rods, 10-pound test Monofilament line, and heavy gauge hooks are the standard in Lake Sturgeon fishing.  My preferred setup is to use a 40-inch Heavy – Moderate Fast Rod. There are a couple companies that build custom rods of this length and action, but for most purposes, any 36” to 42” Medium-Heavy or Heavy power rod will work.  You want something that has enough backbone where you can fight the fish effectively, but not so stiff that you end up pulling or bending out your hooks.

The hooks that I rely on for this technique are 1/0 Gamakatsu Circle Hooks.  A circle hook helps the fish set itself when it starts to swim away with your bait, so you don’t have to set the hook hard.  You also want to fish with a relatively light drag and play the fish – typically on a circle hook, the fish is pinned well and playing them on light drag will ensure you are able to get the fish through the ice.

As far as a reel goes, I prefer a 2000 or 2500 size reel.  This is the standard size reel from most manufacturers that most of us know and love.  I pull mine off of my open water spinning rods, put it on my ice rod with some 10-pound test monofilament line and am ready to go!  The monofilament is important in ice fishing because it won’t absorb water so it won’t freeze up like braid or become brittle like fluorocarbon in the cold weather.

Sturgeon Fishing Michigan: Using Bait to Trigger Strikes 

When jigging for Lake Sturgeon, the scent is important as it is in most ice fishing situations.  I prefer to chum the area with bait – dropping a few handfuls of smelt or dead minnows down the hole help to draw in fish to the area both through smell and feeding opportunities.  Lake Sturgeon, while thought of as bottom feeders are actually aggressive predators that feed on baitfish.

I then set up two rods with the 1/0 Circle hooks to a nose hooked live Blue Minnow.  I like to nose hook the Blue Minnow because it will still be relatively lively and have a more natural action up off the bottom of the lake, making it an easy target for the fish of a lifetime!

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Sturgeon Fishing Michigan: Practice Conservation

While Lake Sturgeon fishing can result in one of the coolest fish catches of your life, I encourage you to remember that these are special creatures.  Practicing conservation and following catch and release practices allows for these fish to be around for many years to come. I recommend bringing a tape measure and a good camera get records of your fish in the case you’d like to get a replica mount!  Unless you plan to harvest the fish for your freezer, I recommend releasing it for someone else to experience as well.

Be safe on the water, and I hope that this advice helps you land the fish of a lifetime!