Lovin’ the holidays and ice fishin’

I hope everyone enjoyed Christmas holidays as much as I did.

This is a special time because of the quality family time I get to spend without business distractions. My sister came in town and stayed here over Christmas and hung out with my brother, sister and all of the nieces and nephews for three straight days. We had a blast.

I’m hoping to get in some ice fishing before I start traveling again. It’s been a weird winter; all of my southern friends are complaining about the cold and snow they’ve had, yet we haven’t gotten much. In fact, we finally got our first measurable snow in southern Michigan this week.

It’s kinda disappointing since we didn’t really have the “white” Christmas that Michiganders enjoy. I love the snow, but feel bad for those in the south who aren’t accustomed to it and have to deal with power outages and no heat. When you grow up in Michigan, you learn to appreciate winter.

It’s finally getting cold enough to freeze the smaller ponds and lakes here. My pond has some ice but we need colder nights and windless days to make it safe to walk upon.

I’m anxious to get out. Our ice fishing season runs through February, but I start traveling in late January and February so my opportunities are limited to the early season. That’s why I want cold weather!

I know the idea of ice fishing boggles the minds of southern anglers who have never experienced it, but it can be a lot of fun.

I prefer three inches of ice on the water, but 2 ½ inches of super hard ice can be safe if you know what you’re doing.

First ice offers some of the best action. The fish haven’t had any pressure for several weeks; they’re schooled up, and aggressive.

I love jigging for bass and can assure you that my first bass of 2013 will come through the ice. I also often catch a walleye or two, the latter of which usually go home with me.

But there is something to be said about a big mess of winter bluegills hitting the fryer, too. A lot of the fish I catch this winter will go on tour with me, as my roommates (Davy Hite and Scott Rook) and I do fish fries at some of the tournaments.

Technology has really made ice fishing easier. I would never go without a sonar (I use a Humminbird Ice 55) and have learned that you’re wasting your time if the graph doesn’t show you fish in an area. Even if I’m fishing a tiny ice jig for bluegills, I can it on the screen and watch the bluegills come and take the bait. That adds to the excitement.

I stay warm, too. Today’s cold weather clothing is exceptional and allows me to move freely.

GPS also comes into play. Some guys use hand-held units or have cell phone apps that allow them to follow lake contours and know exactly what’s beneath them. Fish will use the same structure they use before the lakes freeze, but finding the fish-holding weed edges, points or breaklines can be tough without a GPs.

But when I do find them, I put a hurt on ‘em - and usually go home with a nice bucket of fish.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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