Breaking the ice: An adventure guide to ice fishing in Utah

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UTAH (ABC4) – As snow begins to fall across the state of Utah, the hunt goes on…the hunt for fish that is!

On January 25, The Division of Wildlife Resources is inviting everyone to try ice fishing, so forget sledding and tag along to try something new.

“The temperatures are dropping. The ice is getting thick. Grab your gear because it’s time to go fishing,” writes DWR in a post.

What is ice fishing?

Ice fishing refers to the act of catching fish with lines and fish hooks or spears through an opening in the ice on a frozen body of water.

According to OutdoorFirst, archeologists have found evidence that ice fishing dates back over 2000 years to native people in what is now the United States and Canada.

Historians believe ice fishing developed in those periods when ice covered the water and survival was essential.

“The people knew the fish were there, but they had to figure out how to get to them,” shares the adventure site.

  • Greg Sheehan_1496722008378

What do I need for ice fishing?

In order to get started with ice fishing, you’ll need to perform a few simple steps. These include collecting all necessary equipment, filling out your ice fishing tackle box, and making careful plans and preparations.

TodayImOutside, an online adventure guide, gathers a list of items needed for ice fishing.

Equipment needed:

  • Ice fishing rod and reel (and/or tip-ups)
  • Ice fishing line
  • Ice fishing shelter
  • Ice fishing sled
  • Tacklebox w/ ice fishing lures and bait
  • Ice auger
  • Heavy-duty winter apparel
  • Flasher (fishfinder)
  • Ice skimmer
  • Gaff hook or net
  • Plastic buckets

“While this list may seem a bit overwhelming at first, know that the most basic things you will need are simply an ice fishing rod and reel with the right type of line, a properly-stocked tackle box, heavy-duty winter clothes, and some way to make a hole in the ice. Besides these basics, the other items are simply for convenience and comfort, though many ice fishers won’t want to go on a trip without them,” TodayImOutside shares.

DWR then goes on to emphasize the importance of fishing lines and informs those interested what is best to use.

“Rods and reels should also be matched to their assigned task. Even though you generally match your gear to a species, you actually match it more to the bait you intend to use rather than the species you plan to catch,” DWR spokesman Kent Sorenson shares.”For example, you can land a 10-pound fish on a noodle rod, but you can’t effectively work a 3/8-ounce lure with it.”

Officials say as you learn about the characteristics of various types of fishing line, you’ll find they all have strengths and weaknesses.

“We all have slight preferences that can be determined only through experience. I like monofilament line, other anglers like braids, and some strictly use fluorocarbon. Rarely is one type of line best for all conditions,” Sorenson adds.

To read more on how to use all the equipment needed click here.

How to plan your first ice fishing trip

Once you’ve gathered everything you need for the trip it’s essential to understand the basics of planning your trip.

There are various methods used to find spots for ice fishing, including your own exploration, word of mouth, and third-party resources.

“While you can likely find some great locations on your own by checking out local ponds, reservoirs, and lakes, asking people at your local fishing shop might grant you access to some hidden secrets. As well, you’ll be able to find many resources both on the internet and in print at your local bookshop, library, or fly fishing supply store,” the adventure guide writes.

According to the DWR, the best spots for ice fishing is Hyrum Reservoir, Mantua Reservoir, East Canyon State Park and Rockport.

Once you have gathered all your gear and picked out a spot, you’re ready to hit the ice!

DWR tips for catching fish

TROUT FISHING TIPS
  • Trout move a lot in the winter. For that reason, it’s OK to wait as long as 30 minutes before gathering your gear and moving to a different spot.
  • Try a 18-ounce or 116-ounce jig tipped with a plastic bait. A good brand is the Maniac Custom Lures Cut’r Bug. Various microplastics from tackle makers such as Clam and Northland Fishing Tackle work well too.
  • PowerBait is the perfect bait to place on the jig’s hook. Don’t glob it on, though. Instead, ball it on so trout can’t strip it off the hook. If you’d rather use a worm, both mealworms and wax worms are great worms to use in the winter.
  • Trout can be found anywhere in the water column, anywhere from just under the ice to the bottom of the reservoir. For that reason, consider fishing with two rods. Let one of the jigs fall all the way to the bottom, and then reel the jig up about three cranks off the bottom. Then, drill another hole about 10 feet away and suspend the jig on that rod about 4 to 5 feet below the bottom of the ice. Place that rod in a holder that will prevent it from falling into the hole when a trout takes the bait. Stay by the rod with the jig close to the bottom, and also watch the other rod. “This approach allows you to cover two spots in the water column,” Penne said. “I’ve used this approach for years, and it works great.”
  • It’s a good idea to occasionally jig the rig you are sitting by, but sometimes simply letting the jig rest motionless — a technique called deadsticking — will also produce bites. “If you decide to deadstick, use a smaller jig,” Penne said. “For example, if you have a 18-ounce jig and a 116-ounce jig in your tackle box, use the 116-ounce jig. Smaller jigs seem to work better for deadsticking.”
YELLOW PERCH AND BLUEGILL FISHING TIPS
  • Unlike rainbow trout, yellow perch and bluegill don’t move much in the winter. If you haven’t gotten a bite within 15 minutes, move to different spots until you find the fish.
  • Perch and bluegill will often bite a little softer in the winter. To know you’re getting a bite, use a small ice fishing rod with a light action and a sensitive tip. If your rod doesn’t have a light action and a sensitive tip, attach a light wire spring bobber to the end of the rod. The spring bobber will help you detect bites.
  • A dropper rig is a great rig to use. To create one, cut 14 to 15 inches off the end of your fishing line and place that piece aside. Then, tie a jig to the end of the line on your rod. After tying the jig, tie the 14- to 15-inch piece you cut earlier to the eyelet on the jig. Finish the rig by tying a small spoon to the end of the piece you cut. This rig will reach the bottom fast, draw the attention of fish and give them two offerings — a jig and a spoon — to go after.
  • Tip the lures’ hooks with a wax worm or a mealworm. Don’t put the whole worm on, though. Instead, tear one end of the wax worm off or break the mealworm in half before threading it on the hook. This will put additional scent in the water that will help attract fish.
  • Perch and bluegill are usually on or near the bottom of the reservoir. If you don’t have a fish finder (also called a flasher), let your jig fall until it touches the bottom of the reservoir, and then reel it up one to three cranks off the bottom. “If you have a flasher, watch your jig and fish it just slightly off the bottom,” Penne said.
  • Occasionally jig your rig 1 to 2 inches, and watch your rod tip closely. If the line, the end of your rod or the spring bobber starts to move, set the hook fast and reel your fish in.
  • “If you have a flasher and the fish seem hesitant to bite, try reeling your jig slowly off the bottom,” Penne said. “Moving your jig slowly, and stopping it occasionally, will often pull fish off the bottom and cause them to strike.”

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