Ice Fishing Methods edge of the ice belt

Published on February 24th, 2018 | by The Iceman

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Living on the edge of the ice belt

In-Fishmerman magazine recently ran an article entitled “Ice Belt Edge Options” that is really good. Those of us on the edge of the ice belt are rarely mentioned in any talk of ice fishing but we surely exist. This article very accurately describes the conditions we face and gives a lot of options for us to fish.

Where exactly is the ice belt? As the article points out, that’s a difficult thing to nail down. Generally speaking it’s a band that runs through the Midwest and northeast where the water locks up for several weeks or even months each year. Those of us on the southern edge of that band are left with much less time to get on the ice.

The ice belt

In the middle of the ice belt the season is really a season. Once the waters freeze they usually stay frozen until spring rolls around. Ice comes and stays giving people plenty of time for ice fishing on a variety of waters.

The article couldn’t be more spot on about those of us when it says things like:

“…one warm spell and an errant thunderstorm can chew through the season’s only safe ice in hours and create a band of ice fishing refugees scurrying northward in search of the promised land.”

That’s absolutely correct. As recently as 2017 I was traveling north to find safe ice as the local ice season went before it even came. Luckily, being on the belt means you can almost always get into some safe ice with a day’s drive or less. For those who have limited time this doesn’t help much, but there is a benefit to living on the edge belt.

Less ice, more fish

The In-Fisherman article in question covers that too. As it states, we get more of a growing season on the edge of the belt than places like the Upper Midwest. Since we rarely get months of solid ice covering our water, and since our ice comes later in the year, the fish get more time to eat fast and grow. Sure fish continue to eat under the ice, but since they are cold water animals many of them slow down quite a bit.

We are also more likely to catch species like catfish, bass and even wipers. I don’t think they get any wipers at all in the Upper Midwest, though to be honest I wouldn’t mind trading those man made mutants for their walleyes and lake trout.

Ultimately, there is no perfect place to fish through the ice. Each area has its positive and negative features. That’s why I stay mobile. Usually I have little choice if I want to get on the ice. This year was a bit of an exception as nearly all my local lakes and ponds froze, but they didn’t stay iced up very long.

Chasing safe ice

So I spent this past ice fishing season moving around across state lines, up into the higher elevations, and finally a little closer to home working what frozen water we had.

Now that the season is over, I am left reading about ice fishing on websites like this and the pages of In-Fisherman, which is really the only publication left that covers ice fishing in any real kind of detail. I don’t only fish through the ice, but the hard water is my favorite.

Years ago I would pick up any fishing magazine or publication I could get my hands on. For the most part, those days are over. A lot of the fishing magazines out today recycle the same content over and over and they’re laden with so many ads that you barely feel you get anything to read.

In-Fisherman is worth reading

In-Fisherman is the only fishing magazine I continue to read. I will occasionally pick up a copy off the shelf when I visit one of the local big box fishing stores, but for the most part I just get each issue sent directly to my phone.

I pay a little over two bucks for each digital issue which I can read on my computer, my Amazon Kindle device or my phone. The Amazon app works really well too. They’ve come a long way in this kind of stuff. Basically you can flip through the magazine exact as it looks in print, but if you want to make things easier you just tap on any particular article and it pops up in a clear black and white readable form. It’s actually easier to browse than a real magazine.

I recommend that everyone interested in ice fishing or even fishing in general pick up a subscription to the digital version of In-Fisherman on Amazon. Of course, a traditional print subscription is also available, and oddly it costs a few bucks less annually, but it in my experience it takes longer to get started whereas the digital subscription sends each issue to your phone as soon as it is released.

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