Early Season Ice Fishing

Early Season Ice Fishing

Submitted by:  Ben Ekrem

When it’s late November in South Dakota, the air is crisp and it’s time to think about first ice.  It's time again to put away my shotgun,after having had an exceptional year with a new hunting companion Bailey, a German Short Hair Pointer pup.  As my thoughts turn to the pursuit of Perch, Walleyes, and Bluegills, I pause to remember an old friend that I shared many hours hunting & fishing with.  He has passed on now but will always be remembered.  This was his favorite message.  “That ice is too thin! Wait till December!”  I seldom listened and have come home more than a little wet because of it on occasion.

My latest fishing partner has been my oldest daughter Sarah she has become an accomplished angler she often out fishes me.  We won't be seeing much of her locally this year as she is away at college in Aberdeen.  Go Wolves!

There are always dangers with first ice – it is seldom consistent.  So always carry a spud bar, a length of rope and ice picks.  Make sure to test the ice every twenty feet or so, and never go out alone.

Our group met at a Northeast South Dakota lake recently for some early season fishing.  As we were fishing a cold front came through, and as is nearly always the case, a strong NW wind came with it. Some of our party had split up to check out other areas of the lake.  They were fishing an area close to where geese had been keeping a hole open in the lake that had about 3 inches of clear ice.
When the wind swithched, it pushed a wave of water out onto the ice southward toward their location.  They had to leave quickly since it was about to overtake them.  They were able to make it safely back to thicker ice after being caught in a potentially dangerous situation.  The fish? Yes, they were there too.  We managed to catch a respectable batch of perch in the 10 to 11 inch range.  They were biting very light so it required light line and small minnows for bait.  We dead sticked and used Artic Warriors for tip ups.  I have been asked many questions when using these setups.  We do not use any floats, the Artic Warrior is a bobber free system.  I rig mine with a #4 or #6 hook with a split shot 4 or 5 inches up from it.  Once it hits bottom, reel up about 6 inches and set the flag.  No need to use the Vexilar or a depth weight to check to make sure your presentation is set at the right depth. I normally keep the drag a little loose & close the bail. This helps to set the hook. When the flag goes up, and the rod tip goes down to the water, the fish hits the end of the slack it’s all over.

This is a special time to get out with your friends and enjoy the start of a new ice season, but be safe use common sense so you can enjoy many more days on the ice.

Good Fishing!


Ben Ekrem is a Pro Staffer for Jiffy Ice Augers,Aqua Vu, Clam Corp, and the National Pro Team Director for Cold Snap Outdoors.

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