Last weekend, I could have gone ice-fishing. I had the time, my gear was ready...I just simply chose not to. Very weird!
But I did go ice-fishing yesterday (New Year's Day). I visited a public pond in town that I had not ice-fished before. I had fly-fished it during open water, and thought I knew where the fish would be holding. I was wrong. Since I marked no fish at the first 5 spots I tried (4'-7' deep), I decided the fish must be in the deeper water.
Turned out the fish were scattered in small groups or singles, and constantly on the move. They were in 10'-14' of water.
I drew a nice fish in using a jigging spoon, but it just followed the spoon up and down without striking. I switched to a tungsten jig tipped with a Gulp! Waxworm. Live waxworms and maggots are great ice-fishing bait, but over the last couple of years, I've determined to weed myself off the crutch of using live bait, even during ice-fishing. I've discovered live bait isn't necessary, even during the tough conditions of winter.
I fished about 4.5 hours, and most of the time was spent waiting for the next group of fish to show up. If they didn't show up for 10-15 minutes, I would move to another location. I ended up landing at least 14 Bluegills (biggest I measured was a fat 8-incher, and all were really close to that length).
I also caught one crappie, which was cool, because I'd just caught one crappie during the open-water season here...and supposedly they were never stocked here. I also caught a largemouth bass of about 12", and lost another just below the hole that looked considerably larger.
I discovered that releasing a fish back into the hole would immediately make the small group of fish beneath my ice-hole disappear. I could NEVER catch more than one fish from any group of fish. So, one time I tried just putting the landed fish on the ice until the group moved away, to see if it made a difference. That time, I caught about 6 fish from the group before it moved on.
There were a LOT of Canadian Geese flying around most of the morning!
Also, the ice was a very safe 7" thick everywhere I measured. Air temp started out in the morning at around 5 degrees Fahrenheit, and was supposed to reach 17 degrees F (I never checked to verify that).