A Guide For Line Depth When Ice Fishing

Line Depth When Ice Fishing

When venturing out on an ice fishing trip there are a number of things that must be considered. This is especially true if you are new to the sport altogether. There is a good chance that you have a plethora of questions and no one to turn to.

Regardless, of the questions that you currently have, one of the first and most important ones that you need to be asking is how deep underwater do you need to place your line when ice fishing? This very question could determine the amount of success or the amount of failure that you experience on your outing.

That being said, most expert ice anglers would recommend lowering your line at least three to four feet from the bottom of the lake. It is fairly common knowledge that fish stay near the bottom of the lake during the winter months, but there are certain exceptions.

One exception is that fishing on the bottom of the lake isn’t the only productive way to successfully catch fish. In fact, there are a number of reasons that you can see success as different depths as well. This is especially true when it comes to different species. It’s also very important to know your ice fishing hole size vs the size of your fish!

Turn Fishing At The Bottom Into A Success

Deep Ice Fishing

Most people don’t truly appreciate the depth of ice fishing. This is a sport where you can literally access any part of the lake by foot. This is certainly something that you cannot say about traditional fishing. Reaching certain spots of the lake would require a boat and expensive radar equipment.

With these capabilities, why wouldn’t one want to venture to the middle of the lake and drop their line to the bottom? It might take a bit of patience and proper planning, but you could be entirely successful doing just that.

The only problem with trying to reach the bottom of a lake is that it can sometimes take vast amounts of line. There are some lakes that are over hundreds of feet deep. In order to reach these kinds of depth, you are going to need a lot of fishing line. So, how do you know how much line to bring along without under or over calculating?

One of the best ways to determine the depth of any lake is by looking at the topographical map of that lake. This map will tell you the exact depth of the lake that you are fishing. However, just because you know the depth of the lake and the amount of line that you need it doesn’t mean that you are bound for instant success.

This is especially true if you are ice fishing during the winter months. Winter brings along much harsher environments, which can impact your gear and equipment in a negative manner. During the winters months, you will want to use braided line because it is the easiest to handle.

If you are taking advantage of tip-ups, you will want to make sure that each one contains right around at least 100 feet of braided line. When using a fishing rod on the ice, you will want to make sure that you have a reel that is capable of handling at least a hundred feet of braided line.

Ice Fishing Tip Up

You also have to remember to be careful when lowering the line to the bottom of the lake for the first time. On the bottom of the lake, there is usually vegetation along with logs and other debris that can hinder your line.

You do not want to have to spend an hour or two freeing your line after you have already expended a huge amount of energy drilling your hole. You also want to make sure that the fish can clearly see your bait. If it is hidden by the vegetation, logs, or other debris fish might not be able to spot your lure.

All that being said, there are some experts out there that do recommend letting your bait bounce off the floor of the lake. They claim that this is a really great trick that can attract larger species like perch and bluegill. This is because the bounce creates a cloud of dirt and debris that will draw attention.

Some fish might not pay attention to your lure just dangling there, but when they see live movement like a building cloud of dust it is going to immediately draw their attention. This disturbance will cause the fish to grow curious and venture over the spot in hopes of scoring some dinner.

Fishing on the bottom doesn’t have to be all about creating a disturbance. It is entirely possible that you could see success with just letting your bait rest on the floor of the lake. By just barely letting it rest there and using a spring bobber to alert you when you get a bite, you can see immense amounts of success.

When the fish nibbles at the bait or takes it fully the bobber will being to dance or bob up and down, alerting you that something is going on. This strategy works especially well during the long winter months because fish are more lethargic and willing to pounce on easy prey where they normally wouldn’t be.

Just because you know these techniques it doesn’t mean that you will be able to implement them perfectly. Things are always different on paper. It also doesn’t mean that you will know when exactly to implement them. Experts spend years and years learning when and where certain things will work and when they won’t.

This doesn’t mean that you are all on your own. Locals familiar with the lake’s features might be able to provide you with the insight information that you need to determine what strategies will and will not work. Not only this, but they might be able to give you some insider information that you were never expecting. A good fish finder might even be able to offer some assistance.

When all said and done there is nothing wrong with avoiding the bottom, as it is a much safer option. If you just leave your lure dangling two to three feet from the bottom there will be no risk of getting stuck or losing your bait to underwater vegetation.

Fish that hang near the bottom of the lake are usually referred to as bottom-feeders. You can probably harness a guess as to where the name came from, but the species usually include trout, perch, catfish, and a variety of others. Bottom-feeders are not usually picky eaters and will pretty much go after anything dead or alive.

This means that you have plenty of viable options when it comes to choosing a suitable lure or bait. Red meat is even a suitable option that will draw a lot of attention. Even though these fish will go after anything alive or dead it is a much better strategy to make your bait or lure look alive.

You can do this by just gently moving your line back and forth or up and down. Take advantage of this technique and you will have the most successful deep underwater ice fishing experience of your life.

Shallow Depths Are A Viable Option

Shallow Ice Fishing

Fishing near or on the bottom doesn’t have to be your only strategy because there are plenty of other suitable ones out there. Never put yourself in a position where you feel limited. Fish will also peruse the shallow depths of the water as well as the upper surface.

When fishing at these depths you will not really need a lot of line because you don’t have to worry about going down as far into the water. Despite this, it will still be a good idea to use a reel with a hundred feet of line or more. Using the same length for tip-ups would also be advisable because anything can happen out there on the ice.

When you hear the terms shallow depths or middle-range it pretty much means about ten feet underwater. Obviously, you want to stay far away from the bottom, but there should be plenty of active fish available in this region as well. Species that are most commonly found in this area include trout, salmon, pike, and muskies. It might even be entirely possible to spot bluegills.

Fish can sometimes be fickle creatures. The usually like to gravitate to wherever the food is, so there is not 100 percent guarantee that they will always be at the bottom or in shallow depths. It really comes down to how hungry they are, the time or the day, and the day of the year.

Just remember that there are some species that like to travel in schools or packs. If you are fishing at the bottom and catch a perch there is a good chance that there is more down there. However, if you catch one at the bottom it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will catch another in the same spot.

This is because the school will probably swim upward looking for more bait. When you are fishing in the mid-range, you want to make sure that your bait is visible at all times. The water can sometimes be murky, so taking advantage of bright, colorful bait would be advisable. Jigged lures can also work in this situation.

There are always plenty of fishing hanging out ten feet or so below the surface looks for insects, shiners, or forage fish. When fishing in this area, you will probably be most successful with minnow or shiners that range anywhere from two to three feet in length.

Even when you are fishing at mid-range it is possible that you might draw the attention of fish lower down. Using a bight, colorful lure or jig that can be seen for great distance could attract the attention of species lower down.

The species that can be found in mid-range usually like to look for food during the early morning hours or late in the afternoon. Fishing at these peak times could potentially bring you more success because the fish will not only be hungry, but they will be active and on the move.

There is even a study that has been published about fish and their habits during the winter. It seems that science has revealed that during the winter most species will stay at least ten feet underwater or lower. That being said, bright bait is always a good idea because it can be easily seen all times of the day.

Hitting the ice in the early mornings and late afternoons will only give you a tactical advantage. Also, remember the science says there are some species that like to stay ten feet or lower during the winter months. Well, this doesn’t mean all species.

There are some species of fish that will like to travel towards the upper surface of the

water, even during the winter months. These species oftentimes include salmon, pike, muskies, and pickerels. If these are the types of fish that you are looking to catch then you will without a doubt want to stay in the mid-range or higher towards the surface.

If you know which species of fish you are after it is best to put in your research before hitting the ice. This research could help give you the edge that you need. How do you expect to catch a catfish if you are fishing on the surface for them?

It really doesn’t matter if you are trying to fish on the top or in the mid-range, there are plenty of fish in these areas. And, if you do not have any success here, you always have the option of fishing off the bottom of the lake.

Experimentation Is A Good Thing

Ice Fishing Depth Experimentation

Most experts believe that bottom fishing is more lucrative, but it would probably be advisable to never throw all your eggs in one basket. You already learned that the time of the year, as well as the time of the day, can affect how and where the fish go.

This is why most ice anglers like to take advantage of tip-ups. These are devices that are used to suspend bait below the surface. When the fish takes the bait it will cause a flag to pop out, alerting you to the action. In theory, this is a practice that is not uncommon with that of a bobber.

By taking advantage of tip-ups, you can literally fish in several different holes at one time. A really popular strategy is to drill several holes, fill them will tip-ups, and leave one open. The open one will give you a spot where you can experiment with different depths. Also, remember that you have the option of placing your tips-ups at different depths as well.

If you set your tips-ups towards the bottom of the surface but discover that you are having more success in the mid-range, you always have the option of adjusting them. And, this is probably one of the most effective ways to ice fish.

In addition to this, using one hole to jig while filling the others with tip-ups can keep you busy. Staying busy on the ice is much better than just sitting around waiting for your tip-ups to go off because it will help generate energy.

Regardless of your starting position, experimenting with different depths by jigging can help you achieve overall more success. This is because you can jig at different depths, find out where the fish are, and then adjust your tip-ups.

With a strategy like this, you might end up catching so many fish that you have a hard time keeping up with all your tip-ups. Once you reach this kind of success there will really be no need to go ahead and continue to experiment with different depths.

Not taking advantage of tip-ups will make it harder to catch more fish because you are limited as to the number of line that you can monitor at one time. It would be virtually impossible to be as effective.

Take Advantage of A Fish Finder

Most old-school angler like to avoid technology, but you would be surprised at how much it can help you. In fact, with the right fish finder, you might end up catching so many fish that it literally feels like you are cheating or using dynamite.

This because fish finders take advantage of computers and sensors that can determine the depth of the water. Not only this, but it can help you determine if there are object located at certain depths. However, don’t get too far ahead of yourself because a fish finder is still not a guarantee.

A fish finder can’t tell you exactly where to drop your line or what time of the day to go fishing, but it can help determine where fish are hiding. This is why it is best to do your research ahead of time and make sure that you are tackling the task in the most effective way possible.


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