If you’re an avid ice fisherman, no doubt you’ve encountered negative panfish. Bluegills and crappies that you can mark on your electronics, but can’t for the life of you get them to bite!
There are many factors in why a panfish will suddenly turn negative. Panfish, unlike walleyes, are very effected by cold snaps. With the invention of portable shelters that go up and break down with ease more and more people are venturing out on those colder than average days, with this, more and more people are encountering negative fish beneath them.
Hands down the Custom Jigs and Spins Shrimpo in a size 6 is my favorite bait, and the one that’s on my line 90 % of the Winter, however, sometimes your favorites don’t catch any fish and you need to try something different. There are several different things a person can do to get those negative fish a little more interested in eating. Let’s go over a few.
Downsizing is one effective way of turning on those finicky biters. As stated above I start out with a size 6 jig in most situations for panfish, for crappies I‘ll tip my jig with a minnow, and for ‘gills I‘ll use euro larvae or wax worms. A size 6 jig is about 1/32 oz. and when that isn’t working I’ll downsize to something as small as a size 10, which is roughly 1/100 oz. Below is a common jig size to weight conversion.
Size 4 1/20 oz.
Size 6 1/32 oz.
Size 8 1/50 oz.
Size 10 1/64 oz.
Size 12 1/100 oz.
Size 14 1/200 oz.
Some jigs have a slower than average lift and fall rate. The Custom Jigs and Spins Purest has the most subtle lift and fall that I’ve found. It’s the best jig I’ve found when chasing panfish that are downright finicky. A size 12 Purest can take 3 seconds to fall a single foot, putting the bait in the strike zone longer, allowing the fish more time to bite it. The Purest imitates the daphnia or freshwater shrimp that panfish feed heavily on. You can fish it bait less, or tipped with a single euro larvae or wax worm.
Something in ice fishing that can’t be ignored is the noise made over baits that glow in the dark. There is a good reason for their recent success! Many of today’s baits have luminescent colors which make them more visible in deep or murky water. You simply use a handy thumb pressed LED flashlight to charge your bait for brighter and longer glow. Custom Jigs has the Nuclear Flasher which is great for making my baits glow brighter and longer! There have been many situations where I have had a fish hovering below my bait, and no matter what I do I can’t get it to bite, that is until I reel up and give my bait a flash. When it’s glowing bright I drop it back down, and the fish will inhale it! There are certain circumstances where this is all you need to turn the fish on.
Another great thing in the ice fishing industry that is really taking off is the spring bobber. Spring bobbers are a simple wire or fiber optic material that attaches to your rod tip allowing you to detect light biting fish. When a fish bites the spring bobbers’ sensitive material moves, where as your rod tip wouldn’t pick up that subtle bite. Custom Jigs and Spins has gone a step further and developed a rod specifically made with a spring built into it. This rod is hands down the best shallow water panfish rod on the market if you‘re looking to detect light bites. It also has a handy blade on the top allowing you to jig as lightly as you need to when targeting finicky fish.
Bluegills are notorious light biters, they’ll inhale and spit a bait before you even knew he was thinking about it. This is where underwater cameras come in handy. Cameras not only allow you to catch more light biting fish, but they also help you refine your jigging techniques while watching the fishes reactions. A camera won’t make negative fish bite, but it will help you catch the ones that you don’t know are biting!
Hopefully these tips will help you turn on those negative fish you encounter on your adventures on the ice this year, and will also help you catch those light biters. Don’t forget about the great panfishing to be had in many lakes in the area this winter. Remember to only take enough for a meal, and limit your catch. Catch and release and selective harvest allows future anglers to enjoy the resources we’ve had available to us! Good luck and have fun.
Matthew J. Breuer
Northcountry Guide Service