Last Updated on July 27, 2022 by Donnell Henderson
Fish finders have revolutionized the way we fish. They make it easier to detect and pinpoint underwater schools and terrain features like rocks or weeds that could be hiding a school in plain sight before you even see them — all while understanding what kind of water battles are happening around your boat at any given moment.
Modern technology like this is available now more than ever before, thanks primarily to advances made by sonar units over time. This helps fishers stay aware both day and night wherever they go, whether they’re fishing on open water or on thick ice, with deeper water sensing behavior patterns across vast distances.
But are we getting increasingly dependent on these advanced fish finders? What happens when it loses power or when it crashes? What if you get challenged to go ice fishing without one?
In this article, I’m going to teach you how to ice fish without a fish finder.
Table of Contents
Ice Fishing Without a Fish Finder
There’s nothing quite like the old-fashioned way of doing things when it comes to ice fishing. There’s something about the simplicity of setting up your gear, drilling a hole in the ice, and waiting for a fish to bite that just can’t be beaten. So follow these steps to have a safe, sound, and successful experience in ice fishing and locating fish.
Any good fisherman knows that preparation is the key to a successful day out on the ice. This means ensuring you have all the necessary gear, including an auger, skimmer, and safety gear.
It also means checking the weather forecast and conditions before heading out and being aware of your surroundings once you’re on the ice in winter season. Of course, no preparation can guarantee a fish-filled day, but it certainly helps increase your chances. So before heading out onto the frozen pond, ensure you’re as prepared as possible.
Look for the Right Spot That Can Support Your Weight
Once you’ve got your gear, it’s time to find the perfect spot. Anglers are a hardy bunch. They’ll brave freezing temperatures and howling winds in pursuit of the perfect catch. But even the most experienced fisherman knows there’s a risk involved in any time you step out onto the ice. That’s why it’s essential to know how thick the ice is before venturing.
The general rule is that you need at least four inches of solid ice to support one person. But if you’re planning on driving a snowmobile or ATV, you’ll need at least six inches. And if you own an ice shanty or water column, you’ll need a minimum of seven to twelve inches.
Anything less than that is too dangerous. Ice thickness can vary from one area to the next, so it’s essential to be aware of the conditions and fishing location before setting out. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Look for areas where the ice is at least four inches thick, with little snow cover. Once you’ve located a likely spot, drill a hole in the ice using an auger or an ice chisel.
Dig a Hole and Set Up Your Rod
When the temperatures outside are sub-zero, and all you can see for miles is a vast, white landscape, it can be tempting to stay indoors where it’s nice and warm. But wintertime offers a unique opportunity to go ice fishing for those who love a good challenge. The key to success is knowing how to make a hole in the ice.
This may seem daunting, but it’s not as complicated as it looks. All you need is an ice saw, an ice chisel, or a hand or gasoline-powered drill. Use any tool to dig down the ice until you reach open water. The hole should be around 10 inches and no smaller than eight inches .
Remove All the Slush and Clean It
Now that you’ve finally dug your holes, it’s time to start ice fishing. But before you can start reeling in any fish, you must ensure that your hole is clear of any slush or debris.
The last thing you want is to get your line caught on something and have to spend half the day trying to untangle it. So, use your skimmer to give the hole a quick once-over and remove any slush lurking around. Now you’re ready to start fishing and know the fish behavior, and with any luck, you’ll be able to pull up a few keepers and live bait.
Tactics For Ice Fishing Without Fish Finder
You’ll need to have a good understanding of the underwater terrain in your chosen fishing spot if you are not an ice fisherman. Underwater topography maps can be a valuable resource for finding likely fishing spots in different water temperatures. You can often find maps of famous lakes and rivers from your state’s fish and game department or by searching online.
Once you have a map, look for features like points, humps, flats, and reefs which are all great places to find fish. With a little effort, you can learn to read the underwater landscape and find more fish without using electronic gadgets.
The shore can hint at what it looks like beneath the water to most anglers. If there are large trees and some that have fallen into the water, there’s a good chance wood debris is protruding out farther. Once you’ve found a good spot, you can keep returning and reeling in the big ones if working without ice fishing flashers and fish finders.
Drill Shallow and Move Deeper
Drill holes 10 to 20 feet apart and fish on each for about 15 minutes. No bites? Move to the next hole. They tend to hold in tighter schools during the winter so that it might require extra patience and perseverance.
If you’re serious about finding fish in long winter season, the best way to do it is with more than one rod or tip-up. Drilling several test holes allows you to cover more ground and increase your chances of finding fish.
Regulations vary from place to place to locate fish, but in some areas, you may be able to have 2 or 3 separate rods and tip-ups deployed. This maximizes your chances of success and helps you make the most of your time on the ice and target active fish.
There’s no denying that modern technology has made a lot of things easier for most ice fishermen. But just because something is easier doesn’t always mean it’s better. Sure, GPS devices and ice fishing fish finders can help you catch fish more efficiently. But there’s something to be said for the satisfaction of doing it the old-fashioned way as the winter progresses. So, ditch the gadgets the next time you head out for a day of ice fishing and give it a try!
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of setting out on your own, armed with only your wits and a few simple tools. And who knows? You might find that you enjoy the challenge of finding fish the old-fashioned way.