In most parts of the Midwest, we're still kind of in the middle of the ice-fishing season: Maybe it would be best described as "late-middle of the season". The end of the ice-fishing season can provide some outstanding action. In fact, many anglers greatly anticipate the last few weeks of ice-fishing. The days are longer, the weather is warmer, and the fish are willing to bite. Now is when you should be planning an end of the year ice-fishing trip.
Action for many species of fish can be good late in the year. Panfish, perch, walleyes and northern pike are all willing biters. attention to state regulations, as there is a closed season on some species later in the winter.
Generally, panfish season stays open, so perch and crappies and 'gills are the targeted species in these locations. However, if the season stays open on walleyes and pike in your area, the bite can be really good.
The ability to move around and also to see what's going on under the ice will be instrumental in success late in the season. We want to keep moving until we find fish.
When we find them, they'll usually bite. In some lakes the bite will be better early and late, on others it will go all day. Lakes with stained water will usually have the consistent all-day bite.
Get to the desired area and pop a bunch of holes, at least six per person. Be sure to cover different depths. We're going to move from hole to hole in search of fish. This is where a lightweight shelter like the Frabill Commando is so helpful.
You can keep a couple of rigged rods in it, along with your sonar and auger so they're with you as you move around. It also provides a comfortable seat and protection from the wind.
We want to have different lures with us as we move around. Sometimes the fish get conditioned to lures this time of year. If you get lookers, be sure to try something different, either a different color or a different size or a completely different lure style. If you show them what they want, they're going to eat it.
Sonar is really important. Keep the bait above the fish unless they absolutely won't move for it. If they won't come up, you'll have to put it right in their face.
If you see a fish approaching your bait, move the bait up just a little. This will often encourage the fish to get after it more aggressively.
The go-to bait for a lot of anglers this time of year is a Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon. Try tipping it with one of the new Gulp! Alive Minnow Heads. When the fish are hungry, this is a dynamite combination.
Make plans for your late-season ice-fishing trip now so you're ready when the late-season gets here.