As football season comes to a conclusion with the big game. It’s time to turn your attention to ice fishing. Being the father of a young son, the easiest kind of fishing for a 5 year old is tip up fishing. Living and fishing in Southeastern Wisconsin, the most consistent tip up bite is for Northern Pike. I choose to fish lakes with a large pike population, like Lake Como, Lake Geneva or Delavan Lake. These lakes are all located in Walworth County Wisconsin. The constant for all three lakes is the weedy bays. For Geneva and Delavan, I will work the weed edge in 8-15 ft of water, Como being a very shallow lake the best depth is 5-6 ft of water.
On Delavan Lake, I fish near Township Park, the west end island area, and off of North Shore Drive. Lake Geneva has a lot more choices, all with good access. Some of my favorites are the Fontana Beach area, Geneva Bay, Trinkes Bay or Williams Bay. Lake Como has access on the North shore and off of Schofield Road boat launch on the south shore.
The basic presentation is simple; for tip ups, I use the Arctic Fisherman (Beaver Dam) spooled with 30-80 lb Dacron fishing line. With the clarity and multitudes of different species of fish, you have a chance to catch walleye, bass or Lake Trout. I always use a monofilament leader. I like Silver Thread #17 or #20 lb. clear fishing line. I will have the leader 2-3 ft long attached to the Dacron line with a snap swivel. The hook I prefer is a #6 or #8 Excalibur treble hook. I put one split shot on the line; the size will depend on the bait size. I want the sinker to pull the bait down to position without hindering its swimming ability. On some of my leaders, I will add an additional flash. This is achieved by adding a clevis and a small Indiana blade, I use a #3 in yellow perch or blaze orange pattern. I use Astrobrite blades from Bait Rigs. The action of the minnow adds the movement.
You have choices when it comes to the bait. You can try suckers, golden shiners, chubs or dead bait like smelt. (There are new rules for transporting dead bait to prevent the spread of VHS, so check with your local DNR or the local bait shop) I will usually bring a little bit of everything to see what the fish like on a given day. I personally prefer large golden shiners. I will always hook the shiner in the dorsal fin; it seems to make them swim harder and attracts more fish. I have noticed through the years one must temper the minnow bucket water slowly or your bait will die. If the bait shop water is warm you need to cool it before you put your minnow in the 32-36 degree water for fishing. This can be achieved by adding a little snow to the bucket or some lake water. I will always use a Styrofoam bucket; at cold temperatures a plastic bucket freezes the bait in a short time.
The lake is chosen, the bait is bought, now it’s time to catch some fish. On Lake Delavan, I will spread my tip ups on a weed edge from 8 ft to 15 ft. I will use an auger that drills at least an 8 inch hole and can go as big as a 10 inch hole. In shallow water, I will look down the hole to see where the weed growth is to insure that the minnow doesn’t get tangled in the weeds. I will place the bait about 1 foot above the weeds. I will use a small bobber as a line marker to maintain a repeatable depth. For a deep water set up I like to keep the bait 1-2 ft off bottom or off the weeds. Be sure you take into consideration your tip up shaft length before placing your marker bobber on the line. With a few friends fishing, you can experiment with a multitude of depths and locations.
After waiting a while, you finally get a bite…..
The spindle is spinning like mad when you arrive at the tip up. I will usually wait until the spinning stops before I lift the tip up “gently”. I like to wait until the northern takes a second “run” before setting the hook lightly due to the fact that I use monofilament line. When pulling a large fish in, be careful when you get near the hole. It will make several runs and you don’t want to put too much pressure on the fishing line. I have caught Northern Pike all day and they don’t seem to be particular about time of day like a walleye.
If you plan to keep the Northerns make sure you know the regulations for the particular lake that you are on. All SE Wisconsin lakes have special size and bag limits. Last but certainly most important, make sure you are aware of current ice conditions before you venture out onto the ice.
Hope to see you on the ice!