On The Move at Mid-Ice

By Nick Simonson

While the rush of early ice has faded, anglers still have much to look forward to on hardwater this winter. Catching fish after things start to get thick and weather gets a bit colder, however, requires mobility. Runnings has all the ice fishing equipment to keep you in the chase for those schools of roving perch or the walleyes that patrol the depths and keep you warm in the process while staying on the move at mid-ice.

Staying mobile is the key to finding active fish and the right offerings will help turn neutral ones into biters. Having a shelter which is not hard to take down and move to the next stop is the best way to quickly explore an area on the ice and create a mobile HQ of sorts. Runnings has lightweight sled and pop-up shelters for the mobile ice angler that are easily towed by hand and pack up quickly. Check out options from Clam, Eskimo, and Otter, and use a hub-style or flipover shack as your base. If an ATV or snowmobile is an option, Runnings has the connectors and other accessories necessary to bring a mobile headquarters together. Sleds for gear, hub houses, augers, and more can easily be converted from pull-style to trailer style with the right hardware from Runnings.

Once everything is in line with the adventure plans you have laid out, head to a likely location and get set up, deploying the house and firing up the heater so you can easily move in and out of the tent to explore the surrounding area. For dealing with cold temperatures while making a hole-hopping run, invest in an ice suit that provides protection from cold, wind, and water. Offerings from Clam and other brands are available at Runnings and feature not only thick, insulative materials, but also reinforced waterproof shells that keep anglers dry and protected from gusty winds and cold temperatures. Finger gloves under larger mitts can be a great way to maintain manual dexterity while keeping hands warm. Simply pop the mitt off the reeling hand to work the ice rod in a chosen hole and put it back on when it’s time to move. Don’t forget to add a heat pack to the mitt, like those offered by Heat Factory.

Make sure augers are still running at their peak and keep a close eye on those blades. Nothing slows down a two-foot churn through a frozen lake’s surface like dull blades. Runnings has replacements for all brands of augers to make sure you can set up a grid of fishing holes around an on-ice headquarters and explore the changes in depth and structure under the surface. With the house set up and the holes drilled, it’s time to get on those finicky mid-winter fish.

At mid-ice, it’s important to find areas with active fish, and nothing gets down to them faster than heavier spoons and jigs. Use flashy attractor spoons like Northland’s Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon or Lindy’s Rattl’n Flyer tipped with a minnow head to draw the attention of fish in the area. Active fish will come in and crush those offerings, but it won’t happen as frequently as it did a month ago at first ice. Utilize the power of on-ice sonar or underwater cameras to gauge the interest as predator species roll in. If they come in for a look, but not a bite, have a second rod rigged with a subtler lure like a jig tipped with a minnow to try and convert predators like walleyes. Reel up the flashier offering and get the smaller one down as soon as possible. For panfish, tungsten lures on light line will get down the column faster as well to help keep offerings in the strike zone longer, or when an active school is found, to get back to the action quicker. Downsize as needed until those neutral fish can’t resist taking a quick peck.

In the end, if an area seems to be a ghost town and the fish have packed up and moved on, don’t be afraid to follow suit. Those lightweight sleds and pop-up houses are designed to make decommitting to an area easier and movement a breeze, so anglers can get on fish and get back to catching them once they’re located. Repeat the process and cycle through various lures to find what works at this point in the season. While it’s a bit more challenging that what was experienced earlier in the winter, there are still many opportunities for success. Stop into any Runnings to get geared up and get the guidance from their friendly staff on what’s biting and where to start your next mobile mid-ice adventure.