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Midwinter Panfish Adjustments

with Jason Mitchell Outdoors

Early ice and late ice are coveted periods of time for ice anglers targeting crappie, sunfish and bluegill.  Fish are often predictable and aggressive.  Whether you are an experienced angler or a novice, these windows often provide some of the best fishing of the winter.  The midwinter period can see success drop off but these lulls can still be productive with a few adjustments. 


Here are five quick fixes to help you catch a lot more panfish during the dreaded midwinter period.


1. Drop down to lighter line.  Four pound test combined with the weight of tungsten can shine at early and late ice but when the bite gets tougher, you will be amazed at how many more fish can be caught by dropping down to fresh two pound test.


2.  Master the Subtle Quiver.  When fishing gets tough, the most delicate and subtle quiver often triggers bites.  The right quiver creates a soft vibration on the jig and tail but the jig basically stays in one place.  Use a spring bobber or sanded glass tip for mastering this quiver.


3.  Spooler reels like Clam's Ice Spooler Elite enable ice anglers to present a jig with little to no twist or turn as the jig hangs in the water. The less you have to do to trigger a bite, the more this type of a reel can increase your success on a tough bite.


4.  Experiment with vertical jigs like Clam Pro Tackle's Maggot Drop.  Soft plastics can be hooked to hang horizontally but vertical jigs move less water and have less of a profile which shines on a tough bite.  Remember that panfish often rise up to the jig and when looking from below, vertical jigs look much smaller than a horizontal jig.


5.  Force yourself to fish fresh ice.  There might not be many secrets left by mid winter and many of the well known locations are covered with old frozen holes.  The primary reason fishing can often get tougher into midwinter on many locations is because many fish have already been caught so the fish that are left are not competing against as many fish.  If you can force yourself away from the tried and true and force yourself to explore some new locations and find new fish that haven't been pressured, you are going to catch more and bigger fish.