By Mark Strand

During ice fishing season, the sun often sets before you can wrap up the workday. Because of this, an awful lot of people don't even think about going fishing except during daylight hours on the weekends.

If you can miss the boat when lakes are frozen over, you are missing the boat if you're not hitting the ice on your way home.

"Who cares if it's dark before you get there?" says Dave Genz, Ice Team Power Stick Captain and Clam Corp pro staffer. "If you have a spot picked out, you can catch fish."

The personality of after-dark ice fishing is strikingly different than the gung-ho, drill-and-go style modern anglers employ at midday. "The fish are moving around, looking for something to eat," says Brian 'Bro' Brosdahl, a key member of the Clam Corp pro staff. "If you pick the right place, you can sit and let the fish come to you."

Genz, in fact, always the nervous type, always glancing up wondering where he should go next, tends to relax after dark. "It's a lot harder to move at night," he says. "Luckily, the fish are on the move. Now is the time to use the Trap-Link connector, and zip together Fish Traps or Clams. Set up a table, and spend time socializing with your friends while you wait for the fish to find you."

Key Species

Not all fish hunt for food after dark. In the ice-fishing realm, crappies and walleyes are the two key species. "Crappies can feed throughout the night," says Genz. "They swim around, opening those large mouths to suck in zooplankton. Microscopic plants and animals are what they're feeding on, but they'll eat something a little bigger if they find it. It's important to use Techni-Glo baits, so they can see them from farther away. Keep your Tazer ready, and keep those baits visible to the fish."

Walleyes, too, Bro explains, because of their low-light vision advantage over prey, roam and hunt in the last minutes of light and after dark.

"I feel the same way Dave does about Techni-Glo baits," says Bro. "I want the walleyes to be able to see my jig from a distance."

Perhaps the best news for after-dark ice anglers is that similar baits will catch both crappies and walleyes. The biggest size Fat Boys, Genz Worms and Genz Bugs, loaded with maggots or wax worms, or tipped with a plastic Techni-Glo tail, will attract and trigger both. Small to mid-size Frostees or Frostee Jigging Spoons, Rattl'r Spoons, and Flyers will also catch both.

One solid setup, described by Bro: have the anglers inside the shelter actively jigging with a variety of options, and set up a couple Arctic Warriors (a special tip-up style device that lets you use your own rod-and-reel combo) close by, on the periphery. Attach tip-up lights or reflective tape to them, so you can monitor them regularly with flashlights. Bait the Arctic Warrior lines with a Frostee or Frostee Jigging Spoon and a lively minnow. If the fish want that option, the action can be fast and furious.

Going outside the shelter at night and grabbing a fish out of the water can be a downright cold proposition. "But not anymore," says Genz, "because of Ice Armor. I wear the blue ice fishing suit and waterproof ice fishing gloves and I have no problem staying dry and comfortable." The secret: the gloves are thin, flexible, warm and have a 'grippy' surface on the palms. You can reach down into the hole and securely land a fish, and your hands stay dry. The blue suit is waterproof and warm, with closed-cell foam padding in the knees and seat, letting you get down there and wrestle with the fish without getting wet or beat up.

"The big thing about night fishing," explains Bro, "is to be ready before you go out there. Clam Corp has a new LED lighting system, with 30 bulbs inside flexible marine grade rope. Mount the lights to the frame of a Fish Trap or Clam, and there's enough light to see, tie knots, even read."

Safety after dark is a concern, but Fish Traps and Clams are fitted with reflectors that let snowmobilers and ATV drivers see you from a distance. Also, Light House replacement tents create white Fish Traps for use after dark. "Originally," says Genz, "all Fish Traps were white, because I had a day job and fished at night. The light from a lantern or LED lights reflects around better in a white house, so you can see better."

Key Spots

It's impossible to list all high-percentage after-dark locations fish might frequent. Adapt this to the specific structural layout of the waters you fish, but here are some general guidelines from Genz and Bro, on the types of spots to key on at night.

* The very tips, or ends, of major points. Right up on top of the 'spine' of a point, especially at the end.

* The shallow 'top' of a breakline (dropoff), especially where healthy green weeds are growing. "Fish the weedline," says Genz, "the place where the weeds stop growing."

* The tops of 'sunken islands,' also called humps.

* "I tend to key on the shallower sections of the same spots I would fish deeper during the daytime," says Dave.

* In large weedbeds and weedy bays, Genz says to position your baits above the tops of weeds. "At night," he says, "walleyes move through looking for bluegills, perch, anything they can find. But they're above the weeds, patrolling. They aren't going to swim in and out of thick weeds; they're not made for those sharp corners."

* Anywhere you find a cluster of permanent ice houses. "These are known areas fish feed in," says Dave, "or the houses wouldn't be there. This is the time of day you can go to the end of the plowed road and catch some fish. Set up your Fish Trap around the edges of the shacks and wait for fish to come to you."

* Necked-down areas, also called narrows. "Night is when fish are roaming," says Bro. "Any place the water narrows down is always a good spot, unless it's too shallow. Fish swim through those narrowed-down areas as they move from one place to the next."

Other Species

While crappies and walleyes are the stars of after-dark ice fishing, there are other catches you can make. In some locales, smelt provide steady action, for example. Catfish can be active after the lights go out. Trout, too, depending on specific conditions.

The occasional bass bites at night, and pike or muskies have been known to chomp if the opportunity presents itself. Bluegills and perch are rare, but it happens, especially if your bait glows and they can find it.

One thing is for sure: you won't catch anything if you drive home after work. Have a Fish Trap or Clam, rigged and ready, in the back of the truck. Bring your battery-operated pieces of gear into the office, if that's practical. Work hard, get off early, and change into your blue Ice Armor (Superman) suit as you rush out the door. ●

Notes: For more details on the latest ice fishing gear, see Advancements have been made in the Ice Armor brand, including ice fishing suit, waterproof gloves, hooded fleece jacket and windproof fleece hat. Shelters include the classic Fish Trap and Clam series. For night fishing, check out the LED lighting system and Light House replacement tents.

Article Provided by the Ice Team