Taking Advantage Of The Late-Season Ice Fishing Bonanza

Taking Advantage Of The Late-Season Ice Fishing Bonanza

I think I might have an ice fishing addiction. I mean, I love the opening day of pheasant, duck, and archery deer season just about as much as I love the opening of my Christmas and birthday presents. But nothing tests my patience or raises my level of anticipation more than waiting for safe ice--it drives me crazy and it gets worse every year.

These days, Editor In Chief Doug Stange and I wait patiently in our offices, our trucks loaded with ice gear two weeks before the lakes freeze. I sense he's just as excited as I am, though I think all seasoned veterans have a way of hiding their enthusiasm. Last season he popped his head into my office and said, "Let's go, there should be enough ice to reach the close spots." Upon arrival, it looked like good ice, but 5 feet from shore and one punch with the spud bar, Stange shook his head and said, "Not today, ol' boy." Bummer, but oh well, it's better to be safe than sorry--no fish is worth dying for. Two days later, we were fishing and catching. Love it.


The solitude of sitting on the ice, fishing through a hole, and getting that first initial strike and all the strikes after that really gets me jazzed. And before I call it a night, I'm already thinking about what I'm going to catch tomorrow. Most winters, I fish 30 or more consecutive evenings, or until the action slows. I'm not alone. Everywhere lakes freeze, a growing number of anglers venture out at first-ice. Many experience that same level of excitement and anticipation and fish every chance they get. After all, first-ice undoubtedly is one of the best periods for great angling success.



By midwinter, though, the action inevitably slows. And I don't care who you are or how much you like to fish, it takes a lot of willpower to continue going out daily and not catching anything worth remembering. Oh, the fish may be biting somewhere, but most of us have jobs and families. As the days get shorter and temperatures grow colder, many anglers become content to stay home. There's really no fun in freezing your tail off staring at a hole in the ice that rarely produces a fish. The problem with the midseason lull is that we tend to get stuck in the rut of not fishing, and only a few of us ever revisit the ice. Big mistake.

Late-season ice fishing quite possibly is the best time to catch lots of fish, including trophies. Perch often are as fat and aggressive as they've been all winter. Pike are aggressive and porked out of proportion. In states where the walleye season hasn't closed, the fish often are schooled in big numbers in predictable locations and are willing to hit most lures. Bluegills move back into the shallows and bite more willingly then they have all winter. Crappies strap on the feedbag, too, and can bite as fast as you can feed them. The opportunities are endless, and the action can be beyond description.


The few of us taking advantage of the late-ice bonanza really don't mind the solitude. It's a hoot being out there all alone jerking fish like there's an infinite supply. Still, a part of me feels it's my job to at least remind folks about the late-season action. It's good. I'm not just some hyped up fishing editor promoting ice fishing. If you tend to get burned out on ice fishing early, pace yourself and save some of your enthusiasm for the late season.


And as at first-ice, if you plan on fishing the late season, take appropriate safety precautions. Pack all the safety equipment (long rope, ice picks, and life jacket) required to free yourself if you fall through the ice, and always fish with a buddy. Be safe, be well, and don't store your ice fishing gear until the late-ice opportunity has passed.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

Catfish is meaty, juicy and holds up well in this soul-satisfying fried fish recipe with homemade chips and tartar sauce. Fish Recipes

Catfish Dinner with Homemade Chips and Tartar Sauce Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Catfish is meaty, juicy and holds up well in this soul-satisfying fried fish recipe with...

Crankin' is almost a necessity for finding bass on the Great Lakes from summer through fall. Bass

Using Crankbaits For Smallmouth Bass

Matt Straw - January 31, 2016

Crankin' is almost a necessity for finding bass on the Great Lakes from summer through fall.

These secrets will put more and bigger bass in your boat! Bass

Topwater Lure Secrets for Bass

Jim Edlund - April 26, 2018

These secrets will put more and bigger bass in your boat!

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Selective Harvest Yellow Bass

Selective Harvest Yellow Bass

In order to sustain good fishing, it's important to understand which to release and fish you should for a fine meal.

Simms

Simms' Challenger Raingear

John Frazier of Simms Fishing Products details the warm and dry features found in the new Challenger raingear being brought to market by the Bozeman, Mont. company.

Room Full of New Gear from L.L. Bean

Room Full of New Gear from L.L. Bean

L.L. Bean's Jeff Miller shares a room-full of new gear for 2020 with Game & Fish Editorial Director Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2019 in Orlando.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories


Spring is prime time for pike. The Prespawn and Postspawn periods offer excellent odds at catching Pike & Muskie

How To Catch Pike In Spring

Dan Johnson - April 26, 2016

Spring is prime time for pike. The Prespawn and Postspawn periods offer excellent odds at...

Several methods are available to estimate the weight of a fish. Some use length as well as girth Biology

Walleye Length To Weight Conversion Chart

Dr. Rob Neumann - January 03, 2017

Several methods are available to estimate the weight of a fish. Some use length as well as...

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a powerplant that best fits your personal needs and preferences. Boats & Motors

2- Vs. 4-Cycle Outboard Motors

Dan Johnson - April 16, 2018

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a...

See More Stories

More Walleye

Trolling for walleye is one of the most effective ways to find and trigger them in July and August. Walleye

Trolling for Walleye During Summer

Dan Johnson - July 15, 2018

Trolling for walleye is one of the most effective ways to find and trigger them in July and...

Here's some of the best locations for your shot at a giant walleye. Walleye

Best Locations for Giant Walleyes

Steve Ryan - March 19, 2019

Here's some of the best locations for your shot at a giant walleye.

If you're convinced that cold-water walleyes and crankbaits don't mix, a change of heart could Walleye

Crankin' Tactics for Cold-Water Walleyes

Dan Johnson

If you're convinced that cold-water walleyes and crankbaits don't mix, a change of heart could

See More Walleye

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×