Angling fact of life: The negative scent factor in ice fishing
If something doesn’t smell right, every creature bails. Even subtle, unnatural odors cause people, other mammals, and fish to avoid potential food sources.
Allowing nasty smells like nicotine or exhaust fumes from your ice auger to envelope your bait is the equivalent of placing rancid leftovers on your dinner plate. Fish have a keen sense of smell, and they won’t take (or hold) your bait if it doesn’t pass the smell test.
Many odors can contaminate bait. Maybe it’s gasoline on your gloves from topping off the tank before hitting the ice. Maybe it’s exhaust from your ice auger, maybe you’re using bar soap with deodorant, or maybe you shouldn’t be pulling on that big old cigar while you’re fishing. A lot of this is common sense!
Fish are extra picky in the winter. With their slower cold-weather metabolism, they weigh their food sources more. Once a fish is attracted to our bait and lure, he inhales it. That taste test is what pays off, and if it doesn’t taste right, he’ll reject it in a fraction of a second.
Remember that fresh bait tastes right! If it doesn’t smell right, it probably won’t taste right. It’s gotta taste good and must feel good in their mouth.
Many anglers, myself included, have fish attractant in their summer tackle box to help mask unwanted odors. I’m not so sure those products attract fish, but I do believe they mask unnatural odors, so fish hang on a split second longer, and that can mean more hookups.
It’s hard to use soap on the ice, which is why I use an attractant. Other ways to eliminate unnatural scents might be as easy as rubbing some snow in your hands or on your gloves. I’ve even sacrificed an unlively-looking minnow out of my bucket to use as a cover scent on my hands.
Keep a couple pairs of gloves. Use one for gassing up or drilling with your ice auger. Wear the other pair for actually fishing. Just simple logic here, folks. Final note: electric augers, which by definition don’t give off exhaust fumes, are coming on strong across the marketplace.
Fish have a great sense of smell, and in cold weather, there are fewer scents overwhelming their underwater world. That means they’re hyper-aware of anything unnatural. Work around that fact of nature to catch more fish this winter.