Ice fishing early in the season is one of the best times to get out and catch quite a few fish. Some of this has to do with the oxygen levels in the water — as the season continues on, the fishing declines because of the declining oxygen level under the ice. To some extent, also, the fishing will decline due to the success of other fisherman; the population of fish will gradually shrink, lessening one’s chances of getting anything. Thus, it is best to get into ice fishing as soon as possible, so that one can expect good results. Getting out before the rush is always nice, and will leave open a lot of options, as the ice will be clear.
There are a few tactics to improve one’s chances. First, one should move around quite a bit. It is a turbulent time for the fish, with the weather changing and the ice freezing over. Their normal feeding patterns are disrupted, so their behavior can be a bit erratic. They may move to new places or be at old places at unexpected times. Moving around will best help the fisherman to find the fish, whereas staying in a dead zone could lead to a lot of frustration and not much catching at all. Movement should be fairly easy, as there will be few other people on the ice to contend with.
Some of the best places to fish are around rocky shoals and reefs. The fish tend to congregate at these spots, and they are easy places to pick out from the way the ice looks around the rocks and such. The fisherman should remember at this time that the ice is also thinner and more prone to breaking at these points, as the rocks hinder its ability to freeze, and should plan accordingly. If one can get in close, however, these points are hotbeds for early season fish.
Another good idea is to drill holes at multiple depths. One should not just move up and down the coastline looking for fish that may be in deeper or shallower water; instead, one needs to vary between these holes to find out what the fish prefer. With the water in flux, in that state between freezing and being open, there are many factors pushing the fish around within the lake. Temperature and depth can have much to do with where they choose to go, and this can change daily.
If fish are hard to find, one should try looking for the weed line. There will be some areas near shore where green weeds are still clinging to life, sticking through the ice. The fish are often attracted to these points. Even if there are no rocks present, once should drill a hole in the middle of those remaining weeds to see what may be lurking within the last of the vegetation.
One thing to remember while fishing early in the season is that the ice itself is more treacherous. Even if it has been very cold, the ice may only be three or four inches thick. In some places, water may be leaking through to the surface. It other places it may not, which actually makes these places more dangerous, as they can not be easily spotted. One should always have a personal flotation device, either on or at least nearby. One should also carry an ice pick, which can extend one’s reach after falling through and get a good grip to help get one out of the lake. With such cold water, one does not want to be exposed long, increasing the risk of hypothermia. Finally, the fisherman should have some sort of a sled to sit on, to spread out his or her weight. A boat like a kayak or a canoe will work just fine if a large sled with good flotation properties is not available.
Early ice fishing is much better than late ice fishing, making it very desirable. There are more fish and less fishermen, so the odds of catching a few keepers are very high. If the fisherman tackles this sport correctly, the beginning of winter could prove to be the best fishing of the entire year.