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Dock Talk: Learn jig movement for ice fishing success

Small hooks are essential for ice fishing. The jig on top sits horizontally while at rest in the water, while the bottom jig will remain in a vertical position. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

Winter weather and ice making conditions have undoubtedly arrived. Super-cold temperatures have solidified area lakes, turning liquid into solid overnight.

While anglers are beginning to carefully traverse the outer perimeter of some lakes, others still have dangerously thin ice. In other words, those wishing to ice fish, figure skate, or simply walk on water should exhibit extreme caution and carefully check the ice thickness.

Yet safely getting onto the ice is a goal. Personally, I don't want to be known as the first person to walk out on a lake to fish. I'd rather wait a few days longer, even after I've heard reports of people sliding out onto bodies of water with 4x8 sheets of wood or cross country skis to better disperse their weight. I prefer centering my weight over my boots with plenty of clear, hard ice under-toe.

There's something about that first ice fishing trip of the season; the smell of cold, the crunch of the snow beneath your boots and the grunt of a gas-powered ice auger working its way through the ice in the distance. And once the holes are cut, the only sound is complete stillness and the "plip" of my ice jig as it belly-flops into the frigid water surface of the ice hole swimming pool. "Good-bye little buddy. Catch me a big one."

And as my hook colorfully dances on the display of my Vexilar, time stands still until the first bite. From then on, hours seem like minutes and darkness encroaches much earlier than anticipated.

If you've spent some time on the ice, you can relate. Ice fishing invigorates the senses. Though if you've never been ice fishing, you may call it "senseless;" a bunch of people standing on the ice in sub-zero temperatures trying to catch, say, sunfish. Yet to me and many other Minnesotans, it's heaven.

Although your five senses interpret the surroundings, the one thing that's difficult to interpret is the movement of your ice jig.

Sure, you can feel the tiny hook bounce with your rod tip, but understanding how it's actually moving or even how it's situated while at a resting position requires some insight.

To learn about jig movement, you can angle through a large spear hole on a clearwater lake, viewing the underwater environment as if you were watching it on high-definition television. Carefully watching how the jig reacts as you wiggle, bounce and jerk the bait will give you a better chance to catch fish when you can't see your lure. Using an underwater camera can also accomplish the task.

Experimenting with the two common types of jigs, those that sit horizontally and those that sit vertically is also important, since a squiggly waxworm or super-soft plastic tail will each dance in the water much differently depending upon how the hook sits at rest.

Hooking a minnow is slightly different. Horizontal jigs should go through the minnow's mouth, while vertical jigs work best delicately threaded through the minnow's back.