Use Depth To Improve Ice Fishing

Heat up your ice fishing in new waters by placing tip-ups in a pattern according to depth

ice fish illo

Samuel A. Minick

A layer of ice and snow can make figuring out where to fish on a new lake or pond challenging. But not impossible. First, you need a depth chart. Look for areas that structurally match with the species you're targeting. For warmwater fish like bass and pike, look for weedy areas. For trout or salmon, dropoffs are productive. For all species--especially walleyes--look for offshore humps. Mark these places on the map. Once you have your map plotted, here's how to set your tip-ups in the strike zone.

Pond's Eleven
Drill 11 holes in a U pattern across gradients. Set two rows of tip-ups--starting about 40 yards apart--at 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 feet deep. Set the last tip-up in 30 feet of water between the two rows. If there is an offshore hump, set a couple more tip-ups there at 5 and 10 feet. This spread puts bait in front of fish that are traveling along gradients and hunting in the area.

Baiting Game
Rig the shallower tip-ups, those at 5 and 10 feet (and the hump set) with the biggest baits, like a shiner (a), because the fish at these depths will be hunting. The deeper sets get smaller baits, as these fish may be less active. Drill some additional holes by the hump and the deepest sets where you and your buddy can work jigs (b). Not only will you put a few panfish in your bucket, but you'll draw the attention of a bigger predator fish. And if nothing else, the activity will help keep you warm as you wait for a bite.