Ice fishermen have a plethora of gear, gadgets and tackle to choose from. The list of necessary gear -- live bait containers, ice scoops, jigging rods, hooks, leaders, minnow nets -- is endless.
But it doesn't have to be complex. More ice-fishermen are leaving live bait at home and using artificial lures.
Artificials can make you more mobile. Jigs, small teardrop rigs and jigging spoons all can be carried in a small tackle box. When a spot has been fished long enough just grab your gear and go.
If northerns and walleyes are your prey try a jigging Rapala. This minnow- shaped lure is a "side planer." It swings to the side when you lower it down the hole. This action allows you to cover a large area. Often it's just as effective, if not more so, than live bait.
Lower the jigging Rap to the bottom and reel it up a few feet. Lift it quickly and it swings in a wide arc. Let it sit for a few seconds and give it another lift. Fish often hit just as it settles. No action near the bottom? Lift the lure a few feet. Eventually you'll find the depth the fish are at.
Jigging spoons such as the Swedish Pimple are old stand bys. They have little action when lifted but tumble when lowered. They work well alone, or you can tip a hook with a piece of cut minnow.
Airplane jigs are heavy lures with wings molded onto their sides, making them swing wider than even the jigging Rapala. These lures are popular with lake trout fishermen. A favorite trick is to tip the hooks with pieces of smelt or sucker meat.
Ice-flies and teardrops are used mostly by panfishermen. Teardrops get their name from the shape of their body, although some are round or disk-shaped. The painted lead body is molded around a fine wire No. 8 to No. 12 hook.
Ice flies have a small lead body dressed with a little hair, rubber, or feathers. The dressing adds flash and gives the lure more motion when you jig it. Tear drops and ice flies catch plenty of fish by themselves, but it helps to add a tiny minnow or waxworm.
Not only are artificial lures more convenient than live bait fishing, but they're more exciting because you feel the strike rather than see only a flag trip or a bobber sink. Ice fishing becomes a fishing system rather than just a hit-or-miss proposition.
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