The weather is getting colder, which means ice-fishing is getting closer every day. There is a skim of ice on the pond, and with a little help from the weather-maker, that skim will be a solid layer soon. Once that layer of ice is established, it won't be long until there will be anglers out there making holes in it. I won't be the first person out there drilling holes, but once I see someone else out there, I won't be far behind.

The ice gets firm on smaller ponds and lakes first, and those bodies of water are typically home to panfish. Therefore, panfish will often be the targets on our first venture of the year onto the ice. There are a few things to keep in mind when getting after early season panfish. Following are some of those things.

Ice Fishing Panfish

Brian Brosdahl takes lots of panfish from under early ice. This bull 'gill ate a tiny jig tipped with plastic.​

On early ice, safety is the first consideration, but being quiet is a very close second. If you're making a bunch of noise or moving around a lot, you're chances for success are reduced. Get on the ice and to the area that you want to fish early, pop a few holes, then sit down and wait for the fish to come to you. Later in the season when the ice is thicker and there's some snow cover you can move around more, but now is a time to be quiet.

Although the weather is probably still fairly warm, it usually works best to fish from a shelter. Remember, if a fish is going to bite your bait, that fish must be directly below your hole. That means it could be just a few feet from you. If the fish sees you move, it's going to spook. Fishing from a shelter will hide your movements. The fish can see the shelter, but the shelter is motionless. You're in that shelter, so your movements can't be seen. The fish can still hear you if you make noise, but they won't see you.

Small baits are usually most productive for panfish. Take a look at a bluegill's mouth: It's tiny. They like little meals. Crappies have a bigger mouth, but they still eat tiny baits. More and more, baits made from tungsten are what ice-anglers are tying onto their line. Tungsten baits are much smaller than baits of the same weight made from lead. Northland's Hard Rock Mooska Jig is a tungsten bait that has become very popular for panfish in a short period of time. Tip it with a small piece of Impulse Plastic: A small piece of Impulse Blood Worm is a favorite. If you prefer live bait, go with a spike. Plastic has gained favor with many ice anglers because it's so durable and the fish generally eat it as eagerly as live bait.

Remember to keep your bait above the fish. They see up better than they see down. They'll move up for a bait, but will rarely go down for a bait.

Be safe and be quiet on early ice and you can get in on some pretty darn good action. It's coming soon to a lake or pond near you: Be ready.

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