Ice fishing in full swing

The weather has been delightful as of late, and local ice anglers have been taking advantage of some good ice fishing opportunities. Ice at the main area lakes; Rock Creek, Union Grove, Hickory Grove, Green Castle and Sand Lake are all in good condition.

The past few days have been warmer, but the ice is reaching almost a foot thick in some places, and a few warm days won’t hurt it too much. The smaller ponds, and farm ponds in the area are the ones that will be hurt the most. The smaller the body of water is, the quicker it will warm it up. Use caution around the bank, any rocks or concrete areas and look for ice that has a dull look or creamy white look to it. Those areas will be the weakest ice, and caution needs to be taken.

As mentioned, the ice is in great condition right now, and anglers from all over the state are taking full advantage of it. As ice anglers, we remember last year, and the lack of ice and in turn the small number of trips we had to ice fish. This year has many ice anglers are very hungry to get out and use their equipment to chase down bluegills and crappies which are sought after heavily in the winter.

Marshalltown sits in the middle of two great ice fishing lakes; Rock Creek Lake and Hickory Grove Lake. Each time I ice fish one of these lakes it always surprises me to see license plates from all over Central Iowa enjoying their time on these area lakes. People from Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Ames, Boone, Newton, Des Moines and all the suburbs take advantage of these two lakes during the winter. It goes to show that these two lakes do have great populations of fish in them, and people will travel for a good day of fishing.

I had a chance to visit Hickory Grove Lake a few days ago, and couldn’t believe all the holes that have been drilled in that lake. That is the bad thing about ice fishing, when you drill a hole, it remains visible so it attracts attention from other anglers. The lake was full of holes, most very old and refrozen solid, but it showed me a couple things about that lake. First, it is popular, and secondly that ice anglers haven’t quite made the mid-winter switch yet.

Mid-winter switch? Let me explain. Every winter, about half way through the ice fishing season, the food source, bait fish, and panfish all seem to start to move from their early winter hideouts. Although, we have only been able to ice fish for about three weekends, the fish were in winter mode long before that. It was right about Christmas time when the ice froze here in the Marshalltown area. However, if you remember that week before the holiday, you would remember that it was windy every day and night. The water was cold enough to freeze, but it never had a chance to stay still and freeze with all that wind. Also, each year, no matter when the water freezes, the water temperature gets about 40 degrees and below, that is really the beginning of the winter season for the fish. This occurred weeks before the water actually froze.

So in reality, the fish know that winter, or ice fishing is about half over, but most anglers are still fishing like it has just begun. I realized this fact years ago, but recently at Hickory Grove it was brought to my attention as I saw all the ice holes drilled in the usual areas. Those of you that follow blogs and forums have noticed fishing reports are low in numbers and the reports that you do see are not real promising. I believe, that anglers need to make that mid-winter adjustment, and now.

The adjustment that I am referring to is getting out of the ordinary, and going deeper. As winter goes along, think of all the jigs, all the holes being drilled that these fish have seen. The public lakes that I referred to earlier are packed on evenings and weekends. If you want to fish on public bodies of water, you must make adjustments to your fishing sooner, rather than later to increase your odds of finding and catching fish. Here are some things that you can do to put more fish on the ice as mid-winter approaches.

The first thing to consider is using smaller baits. This time of year, the smaller the jig is the better the chance you have of fooling that fish. Another trick to do when you find fish that are not biting well, is to tear a waxworm in half and use only a half portion for bait. You won’t believe how well this old trick works. Another trick with your bait, is to keep it fresh. The more scent you have down the ice hole, the better. Those are some small tricks, but more important than any other time of the year is your location. If you find yourself fishing around a lot of “old holes” in the upcoming weeks, it is time to change up and go deeper. Try going to the deeper side of the point or brushpile you were fishing. Another location to try that a lot of anglers forget about, is the channel of the lake. Find where the deeper part of the channel is, drill some test holes and see if there are any fish waiting for you. When in doubt during an ice fishing trip; go with small baits, and go deep!

Enjoy your time on the ice, be safe, and remember to take all trash off the ice when you leave.

Contact Todd Reed at and visit