Just because the temperature outside is well below freezing, a foot of snow blankets the ground and eight inches of ice tops the lakes in the area does not mean that there is not fishing to be done. There is nothing like pulling a mess of panfish through the holes in the ice. Especially when they average 17-inches long, and fight like a horse. That is what you can expect when ice fishing for white bass.
The first thing in ice fishing is safety. Do not venture onto the ice unless it is at least 4 to 6 inches thick. This is the minimum thickness that will safely support a person and equipment. Keep in mind that snow weakens the stability of the ice. Do not test just one area of the ice and assume that it will be the same depth at all areas of the lake, it will not be.
Ice fishing accidents can quickly become deadly. Do not ice fish alone. Always have someone with you, and let people back at the house know where you will be and when you expect to return. That way, if you do not return on time, they know exactly where to go to look for you.
Also, frostbite and hypothermia are concerns that ice fisherman must be aware of. You must be alert as to the amount of time you are on the ice and also of the weather conditions while you are fishing. Do not get overwhelmed with all the excitement and stay out too long.
Consider some sort of ice fishing shack to protect you from the elements if you plan to stay on the ice for a long period of time. There are plenty of commercially manufactured shelters on the market. Recently, I have been using a shelter manufactured by Clam. It is easy to erect, and is well insulated. Even a deer/turkey hunting blind is better than nothing.
There is nothing wrong with building a fire on the ice to stay warm. It will not weaken the ice, or melt through as long as the ice was thick as it should have been when you began.
Ice fishing is not an expensive sport to get started in, and the gear is simple to use. An ice fishing rod and small mechanical reel will cost you less than ten-dollars. I highly recommend ice fishing gear compared to regular fishing tackle, fish bites under the ice can be difficult to feel with normal-sized outfits. I suggest an ice fishing rig with 4-pound test for white bass
There are many options available when it comes to what bait to use. For artificial bait, start with vertical jigging spoons. Tip these jigs with 3 or 4 spikes, waxworms, or a minnow head. If the school has moved out, put on an entire minnow to try to grab their attention.
The first thing to do is lower your bait to the desired depth. If you are going to catch a big fish out of a hole it will happen rather quickly. You have to be ready as your bait sinks on the first drop down a new hole.
If you do not catch a fish on the downward fall, let the bait sit for a minute, and then lightly jig it in a slow, smooth motion. Do your best to maintain a rhythm in your jigging. When you feel a bump, however small it might be, set the hook. Because you are using light line be very careful not to break it.
When using live bait, I prefer mealworms and wax worms for bluegill, and minnows when fishing for crappies. Always use small in-line bobbers and watch for the slightest bite.
It is very important to have a good fish locator. This will allow you to see your lure, know where the fish are holding, and know when fish are moving in on it. But, do not be one of those anglers that anticipates the bite by what the locator is showing, and set the hook before the fish actually has the bait. Another great thing about a locator is that you will know when the school has moved out. This is a good time to get a bite to eat, use the restroom, and more.
When the white bass are biting, the action can be quick. A few minutes of sown time is sometimes welcomed. Your locator will show you when the fish move back in, and they will.
White bass lakes are traditionally dark or stained water. White bass tend to school up on points, shoals, flats and even around brush piles. Once you find a school, the action can be nonstop. But, when the school moves you can either drill more holes to try a relocate them, or you can wait them out.
Some of the best advice when searching where to fish on a lake, and what bait to use can be gathered at the local bait shop. They hear what is happening on the ice, and want you to catch fish. If you are catching fish, you will be back to buy more bait, coffee and snacks.
Be sure you know the laws. Some bodies of water regulate the number of holes, number of rods and the number of fish you can keep.
Stay safe and stay legal.
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