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Plenty of ice for the holiday season peak bite

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Winter is officially here. It always seems that the Dec. 21 official start to winter is late, as most years we have had iced over lakes for at least a month. We always seem to have had several winter storms every year by this time, and this year is no different. I am already sick of shoveling and snow blowing. The good news is that we are on the start of the upswing of having more daylight now.

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The holiday season is also the peak of the quality fish bite. We have eight to 14 inches of ice on most lakes, and we are at the time of being able to plow roads and drive on the ice with cars and trucks.

With the recent snow we have received, you will want to pay attention to the possibility of some slush and flooding on some bodies of water. If you are getting slush or water around your house you can save yourself a lot of work and frustration by either moving to an area of thicker ice, or shoveling around your fish house and blocking it up high enough so it does not freeze into the ice. Clearing out around your house lets the cold nights freeze the surface water and builds up the ice thickness. Spreading out from others, and not parking multiple vehicles around your shelter will reduce the amount of sag in the ice and thus reduce the amount of flooding or slushing that can occur when we have heavy snow cover on the ice.

The bite time will change as our daylight changes, but a good rule of thumb is the last hour of daylight to dark plus 30 minutes. Darker or more stained bodies of water will have a better daytime bite and the clear water lakes will have periods of feeding activity that will be in the low light of the a.m. or p.m. On clear water lakes, the daytime bite can hold some periods of activity during overcast days.

Fish activity is affected in the winter just as it is in the summer, with pressure systems and cold fronts slowing fish feeding activity.

The advantage of being able to fish two lines each during the winter can help to key in on what is working. You can fish one rod aggressively with a jig while fishing with bait on a bobber, tip-up, or rattle reel with your second line. The mood of the fish will indicate which is working best. Sometimes one works better than the other, and this can be your clue to switch over to maximize your bites.

I think you will find that cold front fish will need the more subtle approach, will hold tighter to cover, and usually be closer to the bottom and less willing to chase bait.

The use of flashers and underwater cameras can help improve your chances. These tools will also be the cause of some frustration. You will discover that just because you get them around your bait, does not mean they will bite, or that you will catch them. Life on the ice is like life anywhere. Some days are just better than others.

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)

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