Sometimes an ice lure that makes a lot of sound produces the best action, but other times a quieter approach works best. Here’s how to tell the difference.
Some ice lures come equipped with rattles, and the sounds they emit are as essential as their shape or action. Other ice lures are silent, and their lack of sound is as much a virtue as the rattles of the others. It’s sort of like calling wild turkeys. In some situations, the only way to keep a turkey coming is to pour on the vocalizations. Other times, the best strategy is to shut up and wait.
Jon Thelen, host of the Internet fishing show Fish Ed and a lifelong ice fisherman from Minnesota, is a big advocate of using sound to attract fish, and he includes a lot of rattling in his ice-fishing approach. Thelen has learned, however, that knowing when not to use sound is every bit as important as knowing when and how to use it. Years of experience have helped Thelen develop several guiding principles for deciding when to break out the rattles and when to remain silent.
Notably, when Thelen talks about various factors, he typically talks about how he would begin fishing a spot. He makes his best initial choice based on what time has taught him, but he adjusts as he goes based on what the fish show him that day or even through a particular hole in the ice. He’ll almost always have lures of both types tied on and ready.
It might also be worth noting that the factors don’t always line up perfectly, and while one factor might point toward using a noisy approach another might suggest staying silent.
“The color of the water has a huge influence on the behavior of the fish,” Thelen said.
Generally speaking, Thelen is likely to begin with a silent lure when fishing clear water and a rattling lure if the water is more stained.
“When the water is dingy, I’ll begin with rattles to bring in the fish. If it’s really dingy I’ll use a bigger rattling bait, partly because it will make more sound,” Thelen said.
At the other end of the spectrum, if the water is clear but other factors suggest that a sound-emitting lure might work best, Thelen typically will turn to a small rattler that is less likely to spook the fish.
Fish in Sight
Another important decision point for Thelen comes based on what he sees on his electronics after he drills a new hole. If he does not see any fish but it’s a hole that he wants to fish, Thelen normally will drop a lure that has rattles with hopes of calling in fish from nearby.
If he does see fish, he’ll start with a silent lure, such as a Frostee Spoon tipped with a minnow head or a Frostee Jig baited with a whole live minnow, because he believes the lack of sound is one less foreign element that could spook fish that are already near enough to catch.
“If the fish are down there already, I want to use something that is less intrusive,” Thelen said, noting that fish tend to be less hungry and substantially spookier under the ice than they are in the open water.
“On a windy summer day you have waves breaking up the light and making noise. Under the ice, the light stays constant through most of the day, and it’s completely quiet, so you could easily spook a fish by suddenly introducing noise,” Thelen said.