Yeah yeah, I know, this is the boats blog and we’re supposed to stick to topics like Boats We Love, and boating Do It Yourself. But please bear with me, fellow mariners. My boats are currently blanketed by an inch of crusty snow, my systems have been winterized, and most of the fish around here are in semi-hibernation. You know what that means? It’s time to go ice fishing.

ice fishing auger

Ice fishing: the word "demented" only begins to describe it.

No, this form of fishing doesn't involve a boat. But it does give you a way to go fishing during the dead of winter, now that we finally have one. Truth be told, the past few seasons were so warm that the nearest stable ice was a solid 200 miles from here, even though in prior years I had good ice fishing just an hour down the road. So I’m stoked to drag my auger out of mothballs, sharpen up my spud, and… what’s all this about eyeballs?

Here’s the scoop: as an outdoors writer who’s spent his entire career focusing on saltwater fishing, I simply don’t have much insider info to share when it comes to ice fishing. I only get to do it a few times a year at best, and to describe my ice fishing ability as “amateurish” is being kind. I do, however, have one tip which I absolutely believe in. One single, itty-bitty tip. But it’s a good one—follow this advice and I’m confident you will absolutely, positively catch more fish:

1. When ice fishing for panfish like perch, crappie, and bluegill, don’t put a whole minnow on your hook. Instead, squish the minnow’s head between your fingers until its eyeballs pop out. Then, thread an eyeball onto the hook of your ice jig. Lower it through your hole, give it a few teensey-weensey wiggle-jiggles, and the panfish will love it.

2. There is no number two. Like I said, the eyeball trick is all I’ve got up my thermal undershirt sleeve. If you can get out on the ice this winter good luck to you—and don’t slip on all those half-squished eyeless minnow you see scattered across the lake.

Written by: Lenny Rudow
With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to publications including YachtWorld,, Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and he has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.