There is no question that the development of the first ice in the early winter period creates a feeling of euphoria for seasoned ice anglers. This enthusiasm is hard to explain to someone that does not share a passion for ice fishing.

One of the dilemmas faced by those wishing to partake in the early ice experience is locating fishable ice. When it comes to ice safety, everyone has their own level of comfort.

I am not a very brave soul when it comes to testing the early ice. Because of this conservative approach, I am interested in fishing locations with safe ice more than exploring areas that may hold super-sized fish.

My first endeavors on the ice are always walking events and always target panfish. There are several lakes I typically frequent at this time of the year.

Last year, my first ice experience was shared by a fishing guide, Matt Klug. As we arrived at the landing, there were several anglers coming off of the ice. Their reports were dismal as they said the limited fish they found would not bite.

This is where lesson number one comes into play. I never let negative comments such as fish not biting have a bearing on my decision to go fishing. I can’t begin to count the times anglers have told me the bite is off and I have caught lots of fish. Klug was in total agreement with my assessment.

Also, just talking to someone on the ice gives me no inclination as to the skill level of the anglers involved or their method of fishing. Because of this, I am determined to find out for myself just how tight lipped the fish really are.

My next thought is this. Just because anglers couldn’t locate fish does not mean that we won’t be able to. I have seen too many people drill a couple of holes, set up a portable house and not move from that location.

Although a warm, portable house is comfortable and cozy to fish out of, that does not negate the need to search for fish. I do not believe in “waiting them out” hoping something will eventually swim my way. If I am not on fish, I will keep looking until I find them or travel to a different lake.

Jerry Carlson
Jerry Carlson

My third thought has to do with location. As Klug and I trudged out onto the ice, it was easy to see that most of the anglers were clumped together in one small area. That much activity in one spot can have a very detrimental effect. Not only will spooked fish stop biting, but they will also often move to a quieter location.

Instead of joining the crowd, Klug and I walked off to one side and began our search. It did not take us long to pinpoint a cluster of panfish that proved to be eager biters.

The early ice period is a great time to experience some quality fishing. However, anglers still need to approach their fishing in an intelligent and systematic manner. This means one needs to trust their own ability to locate fish and then find a way to make them bite.

Early ice is a great time to go fishing, but it is not a period of guaranteed success.

Jerry Carlson
Jerry Carlson

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