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Bust Them With Bait

 

In the world of fishing through a hole in the ice, there’re not many options we as anglers have to tempt a passing fish to bite. We add to our potential challenges by having to fish right below our feet and movement of any sort is immediately telegraphed through the ice and to the fish. Add to this the simple fact that the water is hovering around a balmy 1 to 4 degrees C and that fish activity is correspondingly slow, we’ve got our work cut out.


The world of fishing

It may seem that the odds are stacked against us, but hey, a fish needs food to live. Even if they eat less in winter than summer, they still do eat and we can get them to bite. Without a doubt, the number one way to catch fish, with one notable exception that I will explain, is with bait on the line.

Bait comes in many forms and there are preferences between fish species so the proverbial worm on the end of the hook isn’t always the best choice. That said; if there was single bait I’d choose for catching trout, it would be the worm. As for pike, I lean heavily towards 5 inch herring or the same sized anchovies. My ticket for hot action with walleye is a tub full of large minnows. That notable exception I spoke of earlier is the lake whitefish. I’ve caught many more whitefish on flies and wireworms without bait than any set up with bait. Every rule’s gotta have an exception.


Preferences between fish species

Exceptions aside, when it comes to live bait I’m convinced that the livelier bait is, the more likely a fish is to bite. That makes attaching the bait properly onto the hook an art in itself. For trout worms, mealworms and maggots I lightly hook them once off the end on a small single hook. This allows the bait to wiggle and twist enticing the fish to strike. I’ll check on the bait periodically and if the wiggle has gone out of the worm or maggot I’ll replace it. Keeping the bait fresh is important and this is especially true during the low light, peak fishing hours.


Preferences between fish species

The advantage of live bait, of course, is the movement which often turns a looker into a biter. So, with that said, how do you make a big frozen minnow look alive for the pike? This is where the windlass tip up comes into play as long as there is even a hint of a breeze. It automatically jigs the bait for you creating the movement that attracts fish. The tip up runs a line from a holding spool, along an arm and through a paddle, and then down the hole into the lake. The paddle is designed to catch the wind causing the rig to lightly bounce up and down on the air currents. This set up is extremely effective and the light jigging motion will turn pike inside out. When he strikes the bait the tip up arm will tilt down towards the lake and as line is pulled from the spool, a flag will spring free signalling “Fish On”!


Windlass tip-up Turn pike inside-out

Walleye, on the other hand, behave a little differently. They tend to be much fussier when it comes to bait. That is, they don’t normally like a lot of movement to their bait, which is good news as it means we can drop an eighth ounce jig tipped with a minnow off a set line, put it a few inches off the bottom and just let it sit there. The walleye will do the rest. I’ve also had good luck slowly jigging that same rig at low light. Local regulations allow two lines when ice fishing which makes for a dynamite combination. I’ll lightly jig with one rod and fish the second rod as a set line.


Slow jigging

Good bait, however, will only catch fish if you’re set up in the right spot. In the mornings and evenings, concentrate on shallow areas. During the light of day, however, all game fish seem to move a little deeper. I drill a bunch of holes and try to find the outside edge of the deepest weedbeds or the bottom edge of the first drop off. Both these places are considered corridors that fish use to travel throughout the light hours. Find these spots; drop bait down along these corridors and you should enjoy some great action.


Enjoy some great action


Previous Fishing Articles

(1) In The Walleye Zone

(2) Zoo Trout

(3) Fly Selection for Beginners

(4) Fly Fisher's Christmas

(5) New Waters

(6) Big Bad Burbot

(7) Looking Back

(8) Out of Africa

(9) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams

(10) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish

(11) The Browns of Autumn

(12) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons

(13) Walleye Town

(14) River Fun - One Bite At A Time

(15) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers

(16) Going With The Flow

(17) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman

(18) Swinging The Fences

(19) A View From The Aerie

(20) Dixieland Delight

(21) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts

(22) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon

(23) Montana's Cool Missouri

(24) Pretty Is As Pretty Does

(25) Toothy Critters

(26) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake

(27) Top Ten Flies

(28) Northern Exposure

(29) Home Water Lessons

(30) Chicken Of The Sea

(31) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish

(32) Deep In The Heart Of Texas

(33) Keep It Up!

(34) River Fishing for Fall Walleye

(35) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the flood

(36) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity

(37) Hawg Holes

(38) Saltwater Salmon

(39) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing

(40) Down a Lazy River –
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(41) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead

(42) IN SEARCH OF SPECKLED FOOTBALLS

(43) FISHING CANADA'S PRAIRIE CITIES

(44) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver

(45) Canada's "Other" Salmon

(46) Fall Walleye

(47) Wet Flies

(48) Versatility the Key to Success

(49) Grayling of the Boreal

(50) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish

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(52) Fly Fishing Small Streams

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(54) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel

(55) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas

(56) The Point Of It All

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(72) Four Corners – Four Waters

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(76) Drift Boat Fly Fishing

(77) Bust Them With Bait

(78) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book

(79) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months

(80) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout

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(82) Fly In For Fishing Fun

(83) Rocky Mountain High

(84) Reading the clues

(85) Where the Trout Are
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(86) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin

(87) Fly Fishing 101

(88) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod

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(94) Trust Your Electronics

(95) The Most Important Hatch of the Year

(96) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout

(97) Finding Success for Ice Trout

(98) Walleye can be Humbling

(99) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed

(100) Winter Flyfishing

(101) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Gem

(102) Hot Fall Pike Action

(103) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down

(104) Reading Trout Stream Waters

(105) Frequently Asked Questions

(106) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout

(107) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice

(108) Deep Water Perch

(109) Post Spawn Brookies

(110) A Fisher's Life

(111) The River's Last Stand

(112) The Big Ones Come out at Night

(113) Coho on the Coast

(114) Chasing and Catching Halibut

(115) Summer in the Mountains

(116) Peak Walleye Season

(117) Slow and Steady Wins the Race

(118) Last Ice Rainbows

(119) The Burbot Event

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