Catching Catfish Through the Ice: Tips & Techniques

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Video cat fishing on ice

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lighter Catching Catfish Through the Ice: Tips & Techniques“I like to do two methods. The first approach is passive fishing and my personal favorite. For this we use tip-up devices like Jaw Jackers, Automatic Fisherman, or my homemade version of the Jaw Jacker. These devices are like the old school “tip ups” that are traditionally used for walleyes and pike. With these passive devices you drop your bait down the hole, set it to fish at a certain depth, and bend the rod tip down to fasten it to a spring loaded trigger mechanism. When a fish runs with the bait, it pulls on the rod tip which releases the spring trigger and sets the hook for you. The beauty of passive fishing is that you can cover a lot of water efficiently and the rods are super fun to see or hear go off! Once a fish is hooked, it’s a footrace to see who can get to the rod first. When setting these up it’s important to fish some close to the bottom and others off the bottom. Finding the ideal depth may take a little experimentation and this ensures that you’re targeting the most active fish at the right depth.

The catfish rig I prefer for passive fishing is a very small Carolina rig using a small treble or J hook, and it’s important to size your hook to the size of fish you are chasing. The rig is similar to a standard slip sinker rig and includes the hook, 3-4” monofilament leader, small swivel, small bead and a 1/4 oz bullet sinker. I specifically use bullet sinkers, because they’re easier to get up out of the hole when bringing in a fish. They don’t get hung up on the bottom of the hole like other sinkers can, and this reduces the risk of losing cats at the hole. I also like the Carolina rig in situations where the fish want live bait, because with the short leader live baits can swim a little more, improving the overall presentation and attracting more fish.

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The second method is active fishing, and for this technique I use a Whisker Seeker Tomkat ice jig, buckshot rattle spoon, or a tingler spoon. The Tomkat jigs are nice, because they sink fast, have sharp treble hooks, and are easy to mark with your electronics and set at the right depth. When active fishing, I hop from one hole to the next to locate fish on the bottom, dropping the jig down and twitching it until they come to the bait. You will see a “mark” on the flasher when a fish comes off the bottom, and at this point it’s important to hold the bait as still as possible. When the catfish bites, you’ll feel a thump and then the fight is on! Sometimes it takes a little while for them to bite as they are tasting it with their whiskers or actually rubbing their bodies up against it. We’ve documented this behavior with underwater cameras, and it can be maddening! Pro tip: If there’s a set of tip-up rods that keep getting bit, you can catch even more fish by actively jigging in the area.”

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>