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Winter angling is no walk on the ice

Catching more and bigger fish through the ice requires exertion by the angler. Drilling a multitude of holes in a premeditated pattern is beneficial for the angler. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

It's difficult to make a sweeping statement, but by most accounts, it's officially ice time.

Be prepared, ice fishing itself is hard work. On open water, our boats are constantly moving. Even if anchored, the boat moves a few feet via wind and waves. More commonly, we utilize the trolling motor, kicker engine or main outboard to move. Yet on the ice, we're forced to pick out our target areas hole by hole, inches in diameter, at a crack.

Step into the mind of the modern ice angler and you've got solutions. But prepare to work. It's unlikely one hole will do. If you truly want to find the fish, the formula is simple: muscle power+patience x some extra auger fuel=fish.

Back-track a few decades and anglers pursued fish through the ice much differently. Gas ice drills were available, but not nearly as common as they are today. Propane powered drills weren't even a consideration. Instead, a chisel or hand auger were conventionally routine. The pure exertion required to repetitively hammer out hole after hole was enough to prompt an angler to complacently sit in unproductive fishing areas just to catch their breath.

Now we've got ice drills with highly-honed blades, fueled on what seems like superpower. You can drill faster and with less effort and easily cover water, even while separated from the fish by a few feet of ice.

Incorporating a GPS with mapping capabilities offers ice anglers even more precision and flexibility, allowing them to drill fewer holes by placing them close to structural elements before starting the auger, permitting easy navigation for revisiting the exact area weeks, months, even years later.

Yet even if you find the area you've plotted and predicted to have active fish, you still have to drill. And if the fish aren't there, you drill some more.

First, use your GPS to get close to the structure you want to search. Now fire up your auger and drill holes in a span as big or even half as big as a football field. It's easiest with a few "teammates" to assist.

Walking 10 to 15 steps between drilling holes, have a friend drop in the transducer of your Vexilar flasher, Fish Scout DTD underwater camera or both behind you. With Vexilar's Double-Vision pack, both the flasher and underwater camera are available for quick use in a single carrying case. They are simultaneously advantageous and act as your eyes below the ice.

If you find a school of fish, drop your lines and catch 'em! As you hone in on the active fish, drill even more holes, but within closer proximity of the feeding fish. Now you might space the holes only 3 to 5 steps apart. But don't put the ice drill away move and you may have to start from a large platform and concentrate toward a smaller area again and again over the course of a day--that is, if you want to consistently catch fish! "Drill, baby, drill!"