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Fishing Techniques #2: Late Ice Fishing

My wife and I had written an article a few months ago that talked about early ice fishing for walleyes in shallow water.  This is the time of year that I would like to share a few tips and pointers regarding late ice fishing for every species of fish.  I say every species of fish due to the fact that late ice means spring is right around the corner and that biological clock is starting to tick in overdrive for many species of fish in March. 

March can be one of the best months to ice fish if one is looking in the right locations and targeting the habits of these fish.  Northern Pike, Walleyes, Perch, and Rainbow Trout are the fish to be looking for here just to name some of the more popular ones that are targeted.  March can also be absolutely terrible due to weather systems.  The month of March can produce some of the oddest of weather patterns that can change at a moments notice.  While this is happening the bite that occurs can fluctuate accordingly due to this, or does it?  I will agree that weather patterns have a significant role in a fish's activity pattern as I have experienced this, as have most of us.  We have found a different avenue and found some very interesting ways to fish a lake where a quick weather front has little to no effect.

Fishing a larger body of water gets somewhat tricky here as there is significantly deeper waters to contend with as opposed to the smaller shallower lakes.  Larger bodies of usually require a bit more knowledge to obtain the same success due to the fact of the added depth changes and larger areas of shallow bays.  The success will be the same on these bodies of water as well once the correct areas to search are located.  On larger, deep bodies of water there are some common places to start the search.  Small bays, shallow points, outside the structure that can be seen above the ice, and any type of coulee that appears to drain into the lake just to list a few good spots to try.  The ones no one tells you about is where the lighter blue of ice meets the dark blue hue of ice, the north side of a bay once you find little to no snow cover, out from where the trees at shore are, and most certainly close to shore that has a line of rocky shoreline.

Fishing a shallower lake is not always easier but can be very fun in March.  There is no golden ticket to success as there is no guarantee that a person will catch a limit of fish.  There have been points in time that we were frustrated fishing some of these smaller lakes without much success.  The fish seemed to be non existent and would not bite, that sounds familiar to many of us.  The real reason these fish are not biting is that they simply are not where they were a week ago, they are just not there period.  What this time of year does to fish is more like grouping and schooling.  Think of it like deer.  There is a certain time of the year that the deer population is non existent from their normal locations because they grouped into a big herd somewhere protected.  March is the time of year where the fish do the same.  When a person locates the population of fish on a small body of water it is intense to say the least.  Fishing in the manner that I am speaking of provides an even more exciting opportunity.  These fish are in large large numbers waiting, waiting for the water temperatures to increase due to their biological clocks.  Finding these large schools of fish can provide some of the greatest excitement while ice fishing.  Most of the time there is only one rod used per person due to the action. 

Depth is going to be where and when.  This winter has provided ice conditions of very thick ice.  March is the month were there is going to be a lot going on under the ice as far as fish movements.  Here we are looking at shallow water.  If there is 3 1/2 feet of ice you will need 2 to 5 feet of water as well.  Some people will fish in 10 feet of water, including ice, and some will fish in 15 feet of water including ice.  There is still success here at those depths, don't get me wrong, but shallow seems to have more effect and thus increases the success rate for catching keeper fish.  At this time of year there will always be active fish throughout a lake's depth but the larger schools of fish, the ones ready to eat will be shallow.  The shallow water bite this time of year provides constant action due to the fact that there is a huge population of fish ready to eat before ice out, before spawning.  The biggest thing here is the fish are schooling up, hundreds and hundreds of fish waiting for the right temperature to spawn given the correct location.  While they are in the shallows they will have to eat.  While they are in the shallows the minnows, too, will move in as they will spawn right around the same time frame.  In the shallows, the water bugs are also getting ready to become active, if they haven't already, and will provide forage as well.  Also, the winter has taken it's toll on the frogs, minnows, fish, and other forage.  There is always a fish looking for a quick meal and in the shallows food is not difficult to locate.

Weather fronts do not seem to effect the fish in the shallows as we have learned during this time of year.  Fishing the usual 10-15 feet of water or deeper while a front was rolling through seemed to negate the bite.  Fishing in shallow, these fronts did not have the same effect, we hardly noticed a difference.  I am quite positive it is due to the fact of the larger numbers of fish that are congregated in these locations.

Northern Pike and Perch are usually the first types of fish to show up in the shallows of March.  Rainbow Trout seem to always be here, all winter long.  Walleyes seem to show up after the perch bite is getting real hot and heavy, usually the second to third week in March.  These fish, if set up in the correct depth and location, as I have stated, will need no coaxing to bite.  These fish are very aggressive and will bite almost any type of ice fishing jig of any color.  These fish will also be some of the bigger ones of the ice fishing season.  Late ice means a tad bit heavier line as the ice is thicker and the fish tend to be bigger.  The heavier line helps with abrasions due to the thickness of the ice.  We will run 6-8 pound line but if we are on a lake that has a strong pike population we will run 12 pound braided.

Ice fishing during the month of March is very fun and exciting.  Tina and I have had exceptional success fishing this way and I hope that it will help others to try it, experiment ideas and hopefully develop a similar way of success.  Fishing is, and will remain, fishing and not catching, that is just the way that it is.  


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Posted On: 03/04/2014 06:43 AM
1391 Views, 4 Comments

More Tags: Northern Pike, shallows food, Small bays, Environment
Region: North Dakota

Categories: Fishing > Ice Fishing
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Comments on this Article


Joined: 08/11/2009
Location: ND, USA
by on 03/06/2014 4:17 PM | Reply #1 "Quote" | "Quick Reply" |
 are you talking about fishing in ND, SD, MN, or what? Curious.


Joined: 08/11/2009
Location: ND, USA
by on 03/06/2014 6:36 PM | Reply #2 "Quote" | "Quick Reply" |
 does this refer to all lakes in all states or certain states?


Joined: 01/30/2014
Location: ND, USA
by on 03/07/2014 11:14 PM | Reply #3 "Quote" | "Quick Reply" |
gr8outdoors, This article was written about ND lakes as my wife and I fish a large amount of lakes in ND, SD, MN, and even Canada, guess I should have stated ND lakes but I did not.  This article is also about when and where, in the upper midwest, the lakes that maintain an ice status during the winter months will, or will be very similar, to these concepts.  The very southern reaches will vary within their time frames, month, accordingly.  Rule of thumb is January to February in the southern reaches and even late March to possibly mid April in the far north regions.  gr8outdoors, the time put forth has been very successful utilizing these types of techniques to date, thought I would like to share a few ideas and points of interest.  I am talking about fishing in ND, SD, MN, and Canada, ND generally though.

Several hundred fishing adventures within ND, SD, MN, or even Canada have proven what I have written during the month of March.  As far as the 47 other states I could only fish them and learn, although Texas is a state I also will have some knowledge about. 

Questions, in regard, you are more than welcome to PM me as I get a bunch of them.  I always answer them, usually providing some great fishing locations to look at.  The feedback from those that I have helped have all been more then good.  Hope I could help.

Take care, good luck, and be safe.

Toby Mougey 


Joined: 07/14/2009
Location: ND, USA
by on 03/07/2014 11:35 PM | Reply #4 "Quote" | "Quick Reply" |
 Great read as usual Toby.   Thanks for sharing .

Life is good

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