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“Should I Stay, or Should I Go?”

If you have read any of my ice fishing “stuff” over the years you have probably heard me say, “Drill baby, drill”.  Fundamentally, when you are ice fishing, you are fishing a relatively small area right below your hole.  If you ain’t catching anything, likely there are not any fish there.  I do not care how good of a “stick” you think you are, you cannot catch ’em where they ain’t.  So, one of the keys to catching fish through the ice is to keep moving.  Keep drilling until you find fish.

Depending on the situation, the waterbody, habitat, target species, fishing pressure and other conditions, I might and I have drilled dozens, a hundred plus holes in a day of ice fishing.  I have even seen times when fishing partners and I drilled dozens of holes before we even started fishing.  By the way, a good auger with sharp blades is worth its weight in gold!

On the other hand, depending on the situation, you might see my ice-fishing partners and me settle down, plop our butts on buckets and fish one spot hard, for an extended period of time.

What’s up with that?  I am telling others to do one thing and then turning around and doing the exact opposite?

Well, like many things related to fishing, there is no one right answer.  There is no one hard and fast rule.  It all depends.  The key is to know when to keep drilling, keep moving, and when to set up shop.  I found an article by Jason Mitchell on the subject, do not listen to me, take some time to read this, Ice Fishing:  How Much Moving is Too Much?


Having said that, let me finish by saying that the one mistake I see too many ice anglers make is not moving enough!  All of the modern ice fishing equipment, and thank goodness we now have so much of it, all of it is made with mobility in mind!  Yet, it amazes me the number of ice anglers I see walk onto a frozen waterbody for the first time, walk out to a likely-looking spot, drill a half dozen holes and then sit down and fish for the rest of the day.  They sit there no matter what, no matter if fish are hitting the ice or not.

Now fishing can be whatever you want it to be.  I understand that you can sit in one spot and still very much enjoy your day.  However, I also know that catching fish makes any day better.  Do not be afraid to move!

You gotta find fish first, fish that are willing to bite.  The fish you want to catch.  Then you can think about squatting on the hot spot.


About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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