Detecting subtle ice fishing panfish bites: beyond feel and sight

Terry TumaMany seminar attendees ask me for tips on how to detect subtle bites. No doubt: Ice bites demand ever-more attention to detail. Blame evolution: Hard-hitting, aggressive panfish don’t live to spawn another day.

Still, man can outsmart fish, and with today’s technology at our disposal, there’s no excuse for missing bites. A Vexilar or underwater camera helps! But part of it is simple experience. Like Texas rigging in open water, you develop a sixth sense for when a bite is happening.

Basic tricks I employ: Use a spring bobber, use a slip bobber knot, and depth setters and strike indicators. Try fishing a drop line beyond the rod tip between thumb and forefinger. Kink your line, and when it straightens, be on alert.

Many times sunnies bite so light that the spring bobber doesn’t move. That will cost us some fish!

If deadsticking with a bobber, use a bobber that only holds a bait and lure at a prescribed depth. It’s got to be small. I like these Ice Buster bobbers where you cut the foam; they’re great for customizing a small subtle bobber to the conditions.

I’ve done a lot of bobber tests in tandem with an underwater camera over the years, and these finicky bluegills will try your patience.

We have to understand that the fishes environment in winter is totally different. Especially after the first-ice period, their metabolism slows, so they weigh every food source. They’re picky so we need to be fussy with our bait and how we present it.

Sponsored… If you live in Minnesota, before you hit the ice, make sure your open water gear is ready for winter! Winterize your boat with the folks at Canvas Craft!

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