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.
Ice Fishing Electronics: Searching Through The Ice Evolves
“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
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.”
Ice Fishing Electronics: Becoming Progressive
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.