By The Ice Team
Sight fishing is a subset of ice fishing gaining in popularity every winter, because it's exciting and fun. To see the fish come in the hole, and study their reaction to different presentations, can teach you a lot of valuable lessons you can use even when you're not sight fishing.
A fair number of Trap Attacks feature 'sight bites,' and competitors seeking to gain an edge develop innovative ways to catch more fish. You don't have to fish Trap Attacks to benefit from the new ideas.
One of the key concepts is to keep yourself hidden from the fish. In other words, if the fish comes in to examine your bait, then sees you move, the game can be over. Many top anglers believe you should try to limit the amount of light beaming down into the water from the holes you drill. It may not always be a big deal, but that 'shaft' of light might contribute to cautious behavior from fish that would otherwise come over and inhale your offering.
Here are some ideas that can make your sight-fishing outings more productive:
Start with a ice house that has a dark interior.
New for this winter, Fish Traps sport a darker interior fabric that will make them improved sight-fishing houses. Other portables, including Sno-Boats, are made from black fabric, ideal for sight fishing.
Hold still when a fish comes in.
Keep your elbows tucked in to your body, and hold your head still while you work the fish. Good fly fishermen do this instinctively to keep from spooking trout in ultra-clear water, and the same concept works for ice fishing. Movement, especially quick jerky movements, definitely spooks fish. Anything that might get eaten develops a tremendous ability to spot movement.
In windy conditions, serious sight fishermen like Mark Rosecrans of Michigan go to the extreme of using their 'off' hand (the one not holding the rod) to keep the Fish Trap frame from moving. Hold it tight, and the fabric will not whip in the wind.
"Any little thing, any movement at all," says Rosecrans, "can spook the fish. Even the rod tip over the hole. I keep my rod over to the side of the hole so they don't see it."
Try putting a 'blind' in the hole.
Another Michigan Trap Attacker, John Glaza, had success on Iowa's Lake Okoboji by laying pieces of cabbage weed over his hole. He'd hook the weeds with his jig, bring them up, and arrange them so he could still see well and present his bait--but the fish had a hard time seeing him through the makeshift camo.
"It makes a little cover that breaks up your outline, just like camouflage clothing does," says Glaza. "I have tried leaving slush in the hole like some people do, but I've had that freeze over and cause me to lose fish at the hole. This works better for me."
Try laying a mat of black fabric on the ice.
Power Stick Rick Wood does this all the time. He makes custom cut black mats using water-resistant fabric, with a perfect hole cut out of them. The mat covers the 'toe room' in his Fish Trap. Close up the Trap, lay down the mat, and "you can see down there much better," Wood says. "Plus, it really cuts down on how much of your reflection the fish sees. You can get away with more movement if you darken down the inside of the house."
Finally, a nugget of wisdom that can help you trigger bites:
"When you put your bait down there," says veteran sight fisherman Tom Roberts, "you're not throwing a rock into the lake. You don't want it to sink down like a concrete block. Start fishing it right away, slowing the drop, making it swim, as soon as you think the fish might be able to see it. Make that thing look alive.
"After a while, you can just feel it when it's the right kind of drop. The bait just looks good, and a fish comes in and eats it. Make yourself believe it's alive; really work at that, and the fish will come."
Article provided by the Ice Team.