At first glance, it would seem like ice fishing and open water fishing are two entirely different things. You dress differently, you use different equipment, and the transportation to your fishing spot is different. In the summer we get to the location on the water by boat or wading, in the winter we drive a truck, snowmobile, four wheeler or walk to the hot-spot. But when it’s time to put a lure in the water, there are lots of similarities in ice fishing and open water fishing.
Let’s start with lure color. Regardless of open water or ice, water clarity often helps determine what color lure will be tied on. In clear water, natural colors will usually be most productive. In stained water, brighter patterns that incorporate orange, chartreuse, or glow will be good starting points. However, those gaudy colors can also be good in clear water. In clear water, remember that the amount of light will influence lure color: Natural colors at midday when the skies are clear, brighter colors on cloudy days and early and late in the day when light is less.
An interesting thing about color differences under the ice and in open water: Fish under the ice seem to go for the “Wonderbread” color better than they do in open water. There are many ice fishing lures that come with the red, yellow, and blue dots that signify the Wonderbread color, but not very many open water lures. Maybe they’d go for the Wonderbread color in open water if there were more open water offerings in the Wonderbread color.
Lure size and action are other areas where open water and ice considerations are similar. When the fish are active, winter or summer, a larger, faster moving lure will often be better. When the fish aren’t so willing to bite, a smaller lure moving slower will frequently be what it takes to make them open their mouths.
A popular way to get fish to bite when they’re under the ice is called “pounding”. Pounding is when you bounce your jigging spoon off the bottom of the lake. When done over sand, pounding creates a small cloud of dust which attracts nearby fish. When done on rocks, it creates a clicking noise which, again, can attract fish to the area. Compare this to casting a crankbait in open water that runs close to the bottom. As it moves, it often bumps into the bottom which creates dust or noise, which again hopefully attracts a nearby fish.
Another ice/open water similarity: Stable weather is usually best for fishing. Fish under the ice can feel weather changes as can fish in open water, and those weather changes can make them more willing or less willing to bite. If there are several days of stable, warmer weather, and if you can, go fishing.
Last thing: Fishing pressure can affect the fish catching. Although there might be reports of fast fishing on a particular body of water or a particular spot on a body of water, sometimes that body of water or that spot gets a lot of fishing pressure. It’s often best to find a different lake or fishing spot away from the groups of anglers. There might be fewer fish, but the fish that are there will often be more likely to bite.
When it comes right down to it, although ice fishing and open water fishing look a lot different, when you compare how and where you present your lure, ice fishing and open water fishing have a good number of similarities. Often, the most successful open water anglers are also the most successful ice anglers. Keep the above ideas in mind and you can become successful at catching fish through the ice or in open water.
– Bob Jensen of fishingthemidwest.com.