Electronics, new gear lead the change in the ice-fishing climate

Ice anglers today are using short, fast-action rods with spring-loaded tips and light line, allowing better sensitivity to the delicate bites of winter-dulled fish.

One of the biggest recent innovations in ice fishing is the use of electronic fish finders, such as this Vexilar unit with the digital depth read-out. Winter fish can be notoriously finicky and knowing their depth allows an angler to make an accurate presentation.

Among the innovations in ice fishing is what you see on, and under, the ice.

Rarely, although it’s not impossible, do you see someone standing far from the hole, haggling with the same long rod, bulky reel and stiff nylon line used for warm-weather trout fishing.

Today’s ice anglers, dressed for success in high-tech insulated layers or snug inside a wind-stopping portable shelter, seem to prefer short, fast-action rods with small reels and lighter-weight line.

Lures may be very small, mimicking cold-weather bugs and even plankton masses, and the recent adoption of tungsten (heavier than lead) allows smaller lures that get down through the water column to where the fish are.

And where are the fish? Without an electronic fish finder — a portable version of the big one on your summer boat — you’re fishing blind.

Your lure may be a foot above the feeding zone, and you’ll never know it because a winter-dulled fish rarely chases your lure.

“There have been so many innovations in the last decade or so,” said Dave Elthorp, an experienced cold-footer who bucked a snowstorm Friday while driving across Interstate 70 from Colorado Springs to fish Rifle and Harvey Gap reservoirs. “There’s lots of information on the Internet, websites and all sorts of stuff. It really improves your chances of catching fish.”

So much stuff, in fact, it’s hard to wade through it all.

A brief Google search turned up more than 87 million responses for ice fishing, including electronic mailing lists offering free advice to tackle and lure producers and guide services.

“I love ice fishing, but it’s really taken off in the last three years,” said Elthorp, who spends much of his time on the ice at Front Range reservoirs and last weekend got his first taste of what Rifle Gap and Harvey Gap reservoirs offer. “Places where I used to be alone now are crowded, lots of people. I love it over here.”


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