Ohio Ice Fishing Tips to Start the Season and Catch More Panfish & Perch
Ohio has an assortment of ice fishing opportunities. Many anglers only think about Lake Erie when ice fishing in Ohio comes up. The “Lake” is certainly a proven winter destination for fishing, but there are many inland lakes and ponds that provide some great ice fishing action as well. The best days on the hardwater in Ohio are those targeting panfish with these four ice fishing tips.
Ice Fishing in Ohio
Ice fishing in Ohio is very much dependent on the weather. It is a state, unlike more well-known ice fishing states such as Minnesota and Wisconsin, that can have variable ice conditions from year to year. Lakes and ponds north of Columbus usually have cold enough winters for solid ice production and an extended ice fishing season. There are, however, some good ice fishing spots in the southern part of the state but ice conditions are less consistent and the season is usually much shorter.
Species such as perch, bluegill, crappie, and walleye are several of the top fish species for anglers to target under the ice in Ohio. The best ice fishing in Ohio is arguably going after panfish and perch. Lakes and ponds in Ohio are set up well for good populations of perch and other panfish species. They thrive in Ohio waters and offer great angling opportunities in winter.
Finding a spot to fish is not as easy as you may think. Not all frozen ponds are open to ice fishing. Unlike other states, ice fishing regulations vary from lake to lake. For example, some municipalities own reservoirs and do not allow ice fishing. One option to avoid headaches of finding a decent spot to ice fish is to join a private club like Briarwood Sporting Club. A club like Briarwood has over 70 acres of lakes open to ice fishing with healthy populations of giant perch, bluegills, crappies, trout and other species waiting to be caught from under the ice.
Consider Ice Fishing Safety First
Before getting into the four ice fishing tips for panfish and perch, every ice fishing trip should start and end with a discussion about safety. First and foremost, safe ice starts at 4-inches thick. This is enough ice to support an angler and basic ice fishing gear. However, 4-inches is the bare minimum. Every additional inch of ice is only that much safer to fish on. Here are several other important ice fishing tips related to safety.
- Use caution around structure and creeks – Frequently the best place to fish during ice fishing season is around bridge piers, creek channels, docks, and fish habitat structures. But, these are also places that have less safe ice than the main lake. Ice in these areas is usually thinner and more unstable and additional attention is required when ice fishing these spots.
- Ice fish with others – Ice fishing with other anglers is one of the best safety tips. If something should happen and you break through the ice, others nearby can offer help. If you are fishing alone, try to fish a lake that will have other anglers on it and also let someone know where you will be fishing and when you plan to return.
- Bring a small bag of sand – Believe it or not, a small amount of sand included in your ice fishing gear is a great safety tip. Sprinkle it around your augured holes to avoid slipping. Many anglers think the only danger while ice fishing is falling through the ice. However, many accidents occur from slipping on the ice, which can cause some pretty serious injuries.
4 Ice Fishing Tips for Catching Panfish & Perch in Ohio
Anglers focus a lot on whether they should be using ice fishing jigs or ice fishing with live bait. This debate between artificial and live bait is never-ending. Regardless of your preference, these four ice fishing tips for panfish and perch are more important to take advantage of than bait choice.
#1 – Ice Fishing Electronics Are Required
Portable sonar is invaluable when ice fishing for panfish and perch. Sonar provides key pieces of information such as the water depth, bottom type and whether fish are present. Many times perch can be found feeding above soft bottoms and without sonar or flasher device, you will be guessing at each hole. Additionally, a handheld GPS can be beneficial. You can use this to mark hotspots or underwater structure so that you can fish those areas precisely on your next trip or come back to them during next year’s ice fishing season. Without electronics, much of your day will be lost to drilling holes and blindly searching for fish.
#2 – Plan to Be Mobile and Be Willing to Move
The one thing you can count on while ice fishing is that they will be constantly moving. Rarely will a school feed in one area for an extended period of time. One of the best ice fishing tips is to be willing to move around. Don’t spend hours on a spot that is not producing. Use your electronics at each hole and spend no more than 20 minutes in a location that is not producing. Even the best fishing destinations in Ohio are going to have good and bad areas. Weed out the bad ones and then move between the good areas following the fish.
#3 – Run a Complete Spread
By a complete spread, we mean utilizing both tip-ups and jigging rods. Once you find an area to fish, start by drilling 3-5 holes around a centrally located hole. Keep them within 15- to 20-yards of your primary hole. Set up your tip-ups on the outer holes and start jigging on the primary hole. What this does is allow you to fish efficiently over a fairly large location as schools of panfish and perch move in and out of your area. It also lets you vary depths and baits simultaneously to trigger more bites.
#4 – Go Exclusively to Jigging When the Bite Slows
Whether you prefer live bait or artificial, every angler should have at least a few jigs in their ice fishing gear. There will be days when even though you can find schools of fish, they simply will not bite. Days like this call for a jigging only approach. Focus on two holes and jig two rods. Small spoons work well, but more importantly, it is the technique that will trigger finicky fish to bite. Vary your method from trembling your lure if fish are suspended to slow lifts if fish are more towards the bottom. Once you find what is working, use that to your advantage and replicate that technique at each hole the rest of the day.
Putting these four ice fishing tips to work this winter will greatly improve your ability to pull fish up through the ice. If you are having trouble finding a consistent place to ice fish in Ohio, consider Briarwood Sporting Club. Their sustainable and properly managed lakes provide endless ice fishing opportunities for panfish, perch and other species without the challenges associated with many public ice fishing spots in Ohio.