Tungsten micro jigs on ultralight rods with wax worms. That’s what it takes to get down deep (i.e. 20'-30') and fast to schools of vertically oriented, finicky, oxygen deprived panfish. I’ve never been a fan of early ice, or late ice, but always have loved thick ice. Take it from someone who’s been over his head in iced over water more times than you can count on one hand. When people say that water so cold that hypothermia sets in within minutes will take your breath away is horrible, that’s not entirely true, it’s actually much worse.
I’ve unintentionally fallen in rivers trying to cross at the end of November getting cute while chasing whitetails. I’ve accidentally tipped canoes in March when the banks were still full of snow and you have no choice but to finish the hour journey down stream to the next closest launch site. I’ve intentionally jumped through holes cut through 20 inches of ice in January and all in the name of charitable giving.
The first thing that happens when submerged in waters barely this side of being a solid state is an involuntary reflex to exhale every molecule of air currently floating around in your lungs. For those who have ever been in a boxing ring, it’s like receiving an upper-cut right below the sternum and between that last rib, right along the diaphragm to either side of the solar plexus. A physiological shock to your system like a ‘punch to the gut.’
What’s activated isn’t fight or flea. What’s activated is ‘survive.’ Mentally you can remain calm, behaviorally your body will react how it must when put in such an untenably extreme situation. When you’re ice fishing the trek to the lake may be arduous; or the fish, they might not even be biting. The weather, it may be windy and it may be cold. It may even be bitter.
But, there’s comfort and contentment out of the ice too. It’s comforting sharing the journey with family or friends. Comforting to share some old stories and a few laughs. There’s contentment in out-smarting the fish you're after and not getting skunked. And, there’s contentment in knowing that few people brave the elements like you do in chasing that next great meal knowing full well what efforts went into making it happen.
Happy fishing and Tight lines. Welcome to the Evolution,
Article written by Mike Hiller