Fishing Lines - Learn to find fish on your own, don't just follow others
For most anglers, catching fish is not much of a problem. It is locating the fish to catch that gets to be the big challenge. If we are "on fish," most of us will catch them. Some ice anglers have a knack for consistency.
Most of the time these successful fisherman that have put their time in on the ice, have history, and experience contributing to success. For many anglers, they do what many of us refer to as "Norwegian" fishing. They come out to fish and don't know were to start, so when they see a group of anglers in one area, it's, "'dat looks like a good place to fish!" They join the group, then the next group comes on the ice and says, "hey, look at all 'da people fishing over 'der, 'dey must know sumpthin', lets join em." You get the idea!
Sometimes this works for fisherman and everyone gets in on a little ice action. Most times, it is only a few key located houses that really produce and many others just get in the way and disturb the peace you were seeking by going out ice fishing. Don't be "that guy" (speaking universally for both men and women).
With today's mapping chips and the portability, you can spread out, explore, and find some fish away from the crowd.
Check out the tips of long extending bars into main lake areas. Look for knobs or protrusions off of bars or flats and try fishing the inside turns or the tips of these irregularities. Sharp breaks off of large flats that drop to the main lake basin can be fish holding areas. Check up on the flat, the edge, and at the base of the break. At different times of the day or due to conditions, the fish can use all three areas. Humps that are just off shoreline breaks will often hold fish and are always worth a check.
Anytime you find a transition, you may find a gem of a fish holding spot. Rock, gravel, or clam beds in the middle of a sand flat would be a prime example. On the flats or edges, holes in the weeds or changes in weed types can be pockets that will hold fish (the weeds need to be green and healthy, if old and brown, move). In some of the smaller lakes that are more bowl shaped and don't hold much for structure, deep holes or weed changes can be the key to locating fish.
A standard way of locating these types of areas is to "shoot through" the ice. If you clear the snow, poor a little water on the ice, you can set your transducer on the ice and get a bottom reading. Write the depth in the snow by each hole (so you can remember) and once you have figured out the layout of the structure, drill holes from shallow to deep. You can put tip-ups deep and shallow, jump holes with your locator and use more aggressive jigging techniques until you figure out were the fish are, and what they want. It takes more time and some trips may not have as much success, but your learning curve for figuring out patterns will improve dramatically.
Once you have located fish and are having some success, take a tip from some of the old timers and "keep it on the down low." If others learn of your location, it won't take long for it to become a community-fishing hole.
One last word about "don't be that guy." Last week on two different lakes, I observed trucks on the ice driving way too fast. Remember to keep your speed under 15mph. traveling on ice. When driving on the ice you create a wave under the ice, driving too fast can make a big wave under the ice break the surface. Driving too fast is dangerous for the vehicle and for others. Be safe and make good decisions on the ice.
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)