Most of my winter Saturdays and Sundays have been spent chasing a puck around the ice, not dropping a hook through it. But now I’ve seen ice fishing from a whole new perspective. On a recent Sunday, my fishing partner brought along his underwater video camera. 15 seconds after dropping it down the hole, technology changed my impression of ice fishing! Suddenly the frozen quiet sheet of 2-1/2 foot thick ice was viewed for what it really is, a parking lot on top of the same lake full of hungry fish it was all spring, summer and fall.
The underwater camera made it a whole new game, and helped me adjust technique. We drilled several holes, with the hooks and bait down two of them and the camera down another. After we did the proper aiming, we were lined up to watch the action. Soon there were 5 perch gathered around the hook, staring at it as if it was a hypnotists watch. If I raised it a few inches, they hovered and watched it go up, in unison, Then, from the shadows far off came a hungry perch and took the bait in front of all the watchers. As I started to reel it in, it appeared to fly straight up and out of the picture screen, and up the hole. I don’t know who was more excited about viewing the gathering fish, me or the three kids along for the day.
I was surprised at the clarity of the image, even in fairly cloudy water on a cloudy day. The camera itself takes only a few minutes to set up, after the holes are drilled. Take the weighted eye piece out of the bag, attach the long cable to the back of the small battery powered monitor, and drop it down the hole. An X-brace with a locking clip set across the hole and you simply rotate the cable to change the view of the camera.
What was really exciting to see was what happened when a pike or a walleye came onto the scene. The perch dashed off, quickly, not interested in being the next meal. With a quick change of bait, substituting a minnow for the maggots, the hungry pike was hooked, for a while. The small treble hook I was using for perch was too small for the big pike. It’s hard to read size using the underwater camera, but while the pike was taking the bait, it was also bumping the camera, 2-1/2 feet away. That big pike would have been fun to pull up the hole after 15-20 perch, the biggest about 11 inches.
The video display also made it easy to judge the effectiveness of my technique. Leaving the hook and maggot bait sitting about 6 to12 inches above the lake bottom was moderately successful. Fast movements tended to make them back off quickly and take a long time to return. Slow twitches, a couple of inches at most, had the best results. It was rarely the fish next to the hook that took the bait. It was almost always from the back of the pack to attack the hook.
If you want to get more fun out of ice fishing, and you want to catch more fish, make the investment (approximately $400 to $800) in an underwater camera. The kids, if you take them, will stay interested for longer and you will know, instead of guessing, what’s going on below the thick layer of ice.