Ice jigging works because there is precious little else available in the dead of winter. Ponds are locked-in with ice, the beach is too cold and a day of fishing beats work. My wife and I do it every winter. At least it’s easy. The thing is I really don’t trust ice until they start driving trucks on it. Even if you have floatation and ice nails, you only have about three minutes before deadly hypothermia sets in if the ice fails.
The work in ice jigging for any species is getting through the ice to fish. Regulars have hand or power augers. The guys with power can drill 10 holes in that many minutes. They get off on using it so they will usually drill way more holes than they need. With a couple of them drilling there are enough holes for an infantry division. Once word is out that the ice is safe where there are known stockings of trout (and the season remains open), all that is needed is a cheap spud to handle the skim that formed during the night. With the help of a kitchen strainer to clear the ice choppings, the hole is good and ready for you.
Trout Are Popular
Tip-ups with small shiners do take a lot of fish, and the advantage in their use is being able to legally tend several of them at a time. (Check your state’s regulations to verify how many you can use.) That said, you need five to match one good jig fisherman and even then you still might do as well. In any case, I like the take coming to the hand. For me it is like plug fishing compared to bottom baits; I want to be there when a fish jumps on.
The term “cold-water species” implies that trout are more at home in winter than perch or largemouths; two species, by the way, that will also inhale a jig. Many anglers view trout and salmon as more exotic, more desirable than panfish. Wildlife agencies love stocking salmonids in lakes because they are safer in cold weather and they are inclined to stay where they are stocked as opposed to river fish, which tend to travel or even get washed down when water levels vary. Trout are not raised to be lost. There are also bonus sizes available where breeders are released by officials who are hoping they will be caught. A 5-pound trout is more of a prize than a 5-pound pike or bass. Back to trout jigging.
Most trout tend to be on the small side, maybe 12 to 15 inches. Therefore, you want to avoid use of overly-large jigs. Our kit is loaded with tins and jigs that are less than an inch in length. Do avoid any snaps or swivels that degrade the appearance of your lure; that rule applies to all fishing. I hate extra junk applied to tackle by lazy anglers who don’t want to tie knots in favor of simple snaps. Besides, if you have something that works well, why change it?
While I have a nice assortment of chunky tins, small offers are sure to fit in all mouths. Be assured that big fish are able to take small offerings. You give up nothing by fishing with small offers, but you risk failure with those that are too big. The idea is to catch them from pipsqueak to moby.
Marabou dressed with the fluffy, amorphous dance movement for which it is famous pulls their pants down. Put me next to a guy with a bare tin or bucktail and you will find him making excuses to have dinner at home with the family. The best fishing is about a foot off the bottom so the trick is to find the bottom and raise the lure a foot. My experience is with white jig heads and black marabou. I have made a lot of friends giving them to other anglers.
Lakes and ponds that are well-stocked with trout are always a poorly-kept secret. Heck, most states have a website that you can consult for its stocking history. Fall stockings of trout enjoy a lot of protection because overall interest is not as strong in autumn. At that time the ice is thin, thus too weak for the support of anglers and too thick to allow boating, which creates a dead period where there is little to no angling effort. Once the fishable safe ice arrives, you will see an increase in angling activity.
States favor utilizing rainbows because they are the easiest to raise. Brookies are popular and are considered by some to be better eating. I know that there are some favored waters managed for brown trout. Wallum Lake for example, which is shared in management between Rhode Island and Massachusetts, gets a lot of browns. Wallum is the only place I have ever seen people begin fishing at sunset for night fishing. Conventional wisdom is that browns are night-roaming trout and those who do it swear by it.
My wife and I have all the gear we need in augers and getting through the ice, but we hardly ever use it. Modern ice fishermen are more likely equipped with power augers that drill through a foot of ice in seconds. Trout ponds usually have more pre-drilled holes than are needed. If jig fishermen keep moving, they need a lot of holes. Two minutes at a hole is enough to determine if one of those buggers is down there; then move on.
Most nights are cold enough to form ice over old holes so you want a spud to break the new skim that formed during periods of inactivity. It is rarely over a half-inch so the spud works fine. You also want a soup strainer or spatula to clean up the broken skim ice to clean the hole. You’ll want a clean shot so that you can feel everything. Weather-depending, ice holes tend to build up on the edges and a hole that is too small could create problems on that one chance that you are dealing with a monster. I also watch for traces of blood at all the holes, which is a no-brainer message that a fish was caught there. Duh! When I leave a hole to move on, I always raise my jig slowly with an eye peeled for a follower. Some trout are smart.