Ice fishing tip: Searching for suspended crappies before drilling holes
The most challenging part of hard-water angling might be finding quality fish. More ice anglers have mastered mobility, but it's still easier to move quickly and work new areas via boat during the open water season. On ice, there are times when you drill a couple holes and just happen to sit right over the fish, then other times you drill and drill and can't seem to find anything.
One way to make faster work of locating fish while ice fishing is by reading through the ice before you drill. Nearly all sonar fish finders are capable of reading through the ice. All it takes is a good tight seal between the transducer and the ice.
To search for fish through the ice I first take a GPS and locate the area I want to search. Then I walk around kick the snow off a small area and pour a little bit of water on the ice. Next turn your sonar unit on and place your transducer in the water you have dumped on the ice, and it will read bottom and anything else down there right through the ice. You might have to turn up the sensitivity a little bit more than normal to gain a good clear reading. I actually like to turn it up quite high when searching just so I pick up anything that may be lurking off to the sides of the sonar beam.
This method works great when there is really clear ice, but it can get harder to get a good return signal if the ice has a rough surface. In that case I like to bring hot water in a Thermos that will melt down into the ice a bit and eliminate the roughness that was preventing a good seal. If it still doesn't work, try reading through the ice in old holes that have frozen over, but have a smooth surface.
I can remember about 15 years ago when I didn't have a power auger and there was about 3 feet of ice. The ice was too rough to read through, so I took my hand auger and drilled down a couple inches to good ice, then poured some water in the hole and read through the ice. This worked great for finding some big suspended crappies, and it also saved a lot of time.
Searching through the ice can also be extremely effective when the fish are spooky. If you just drill the holes and spook all the fish away, then check the holes and don't find anything you might just think there was never anything there, but had you checked through the ice before you drilled, you may have seen fish. Then you would at least have known you were in the right area.
This works best for suspended panfish because they are so easy to pick out on the locator, but this method can work for all species of fish. You just have to pay closer attention so see if anything is moving around on the locator.
Good luck ice fishing this season.
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