While Ohio has plenty of great fishing spots for spring, summer, and fall, it’s also got dozens of places for winter fishing. That is, ice fishing. Yep, fishing in the cold with a short pole in a little hole.
When temperatures drop well below 30 for a week or more, many of the state’s ponds, reservoirs, and lakes freeze over with enough ice for fishing. And if temps drop low enough for long enough, Lake Erie freezes, too. Hundreds took advantage of low temps and 5 to 7 inches of ice on East Harbor in early January to land mostly bluegill, but also some yellow perch. These included some first-time ice anglers, like Stephan and Holly Dixon, from Lorain. When I asked how he convinced her to go ice fishing, Stephan corrected me right away, “No, it was her that had to convince me,” he said, laughing.
A father-son duo traveled all the way from the Cleveland area to fish. Patrick and Colin Rancour spend plenty of time fishing the Western Basin, in a boat, but this was their first ice-fishing excursion. “We’ve been wanting to try it,” Patrick said. “So far, we caught just one bluegill, so really this is more about getting out and enjoying nature, watching eagles.”
For those not familiar with ice fishing, here are a couple important notes. First, it’s always best to be a follower, never a leader. If you head out for winter fish, go where others are already on the ice, follow their trails, and definitely fish nearby. Second, dress appropriately. Layers, layers, layers. Remember, you can take it off if you’re wearing it, but you can’t put it on if you don’t have it. I like to fish in a little pop-up shanty if it’s really cold, and I take a Coleman lantern for light and heat. Fishing basics are a really short pole, tiny ice jigs or hooks, and a really tiny bobber. Minnows are great bait when the shops are open. Otherwise, use waxworms, which sporting goods departments have in refrigerators, and many convenient stores carry them, too. For the hole, ice augers can be had for 60 bucks or so. Or, you can chance it and try to find some already-made holes, breaking surface ice off. You can even cajole some other anglers to drill a hole for you or let you use their augers. (FYI, on the ice, everyone’s pretty friendly.)
Walking on frozen water can seem weird, though it sometimes offers glimpses into wildlife we may not see otherwise. When I was setting up on an East Harbor marina where normally my sailboat’s docked, I noticed a line of tracks, then some poop. Coyote. I examined the frozen evidence and could see fur in it, which made me wonder where this coyote was able to scrounge up this particular meal. The tracks meandered around the docks and across the open ice. In the distance were eagles feasting, likely on fish remains at the site where the last open water froze and closed up a few days ago. One of the coolest things about ice fishing is the feeling that you’re walking someplace that you can’t walk most of the year, right out into the middle of a lake or pond. Then hopefully, you catch some fish.
For more information about ice fishing in Ohio, check out the ODNR’s site.
For information about finding a professional ice fishing guide, click here.