The month of February is always good for at least one thing, a slow down in the ice fishing action. It also appears this year that February may be just as cold as January. This should at least allow ice anglers across the state the chance to get all the ice fishing in they wish. Normally I embrace February because I know it will be the last full month of ice fishing. I truly love ice fishing and try to do it as much as I can. I must admit I am addicted to ice fishing. We all are victim to something. A friend of mine will drop everything and watch a NASCAR race on TV, another will schedule everything around hunting seasons, and yet another that comes to mind just goes with the flow of every season. Me, it's just ice fishing for December, January and February.
Ice fishing is a unique sport, mostly because of the weather, and how cold things can get. This is just one struggle that goes along with ice fishing. Having the proper clothes and a chance to use an ice shack and heater on those below zero days helps me go ice angling no matter the forecast. Another dismal thing about ice fishing that happens each February, is the February slow down.
Fishing, no doubt slows down for the most part in February. This happens because of several environmental things. First and foremost, is the amount of snow on the ice covering the lakes. The snow cover does not allow sunlight to penetrate the water, thus leaving creatures under the ice in a state of hibernation. The whole ecosystem under the ice slows to a minimal when the ice is covered for extended amounts of time, which normally fall in February. The recent snow we received this week will just magnify this slowing time. Snow cover is by far the biggest reason why the slowdown occurs. Micro-organisms, algae and smaller bait fish become lethargic and in turn force the bigger fish to do the same. Simply put, in February with the ice blanketed with thick snow, the life under the ice is in slow motion.
T-R PHOTO BY TODD REED
Ice anglers around the state have started to see the annual February “slow down.” There is no doubt that action has decreased a little over the area, however this week’s tips can help you still have a nice day on the ice to catch a meal of bluegills, like the ones pictured.
Another big reason for the February slow down on the ice is the fishing pressure. In the smaller lakes around central Iowa, the bluegills, crappies and bass have seen just about every possible color and size of jig ever made available to man. Thousands of anglers have been trying to catch fish for the past two months on the area lakes, and because most lakes are small, it educates the fish. Don't start laughing, it is true. If you ate pizza six times in a row and got sick every time, I bet you would stop eating pizza well, that is what the fish are going through too. They have seen it all, and they have become very keen as to what is happening on the top side of the ice.
The final reason, and again a very important reason why ice fishing goes through some tough times during February is because of the varied weather patterns that February often can bring. High pressure systems blow through Iowa more in February than any other month. You really can't do anything about this, which makes it hard to swallow at times, but there are things all anglers can do to get more out of ice fishing in February.
Here are 3 things to change when heading out ice fishing in the month of February to increase your chance of still catching some fish through the ice.
Change 1- Time of day. The February slow down can be combated by choosing the best times of the day to fish. The first and last couple hours of daylight will most likely be the best during this time of year. The fish key in on the suns angle and know that these are the best times for them to feed on micro-organisms, and in turn the best time for you to catch the fish. This rule can be true during the whole winter fishing season, however when the "slow down" rolls around, it is most important to use those few hours as your main target of fishing time. Try to plan ice fishing trips during one of those key times each day if you can.
Change 2 - It can be very vital this time of year to use smaller baits. Your smallest jigs will often be the best producers. This is due to the fact that fish are willing to eat small presentations instead of larger ones during this slow-down period. Smaller profile jigs represent an easy target for fish, and will be an easy digestion for them as well. Remember, fish during this time are doing just enough to stay alive.
Change 3 - Move more. This month is probably the hardest month to do this, but it can be the most rewarding too. Many anglers will sit in one spot for hours and not catch much. By moving, you have a better chance of running into more fish, and in turn will get more fish to look at your bait.
I hope these small adjustments will help you catch more fish in the upcoming weeks. If the meteorologists are correct, we will be seeing a warming trend which will begin next week. If they are right, and the snow starts to melt, then the ice fishing February blues will have a short tenure. Stay safe and good luck on the ice!