St. Cloud, MN .... It^s funny how your body can be out there ice fishing and your mind is shopping for Christmas presents, or working, or figuring out how you^re going to put shelves in the garage.
According to Dave Genz, Mr. Ice Fishing himself, you^ll catch more fish if you can temporarily set other matters aside (not that they^re not important) and put yourself in fishing mode from a mental standpoint.
"I try to think like a fish," begins Genz when asked how he approaches the mental side of ice fishing. "How do you think like a fish? A fish has to eat. Food has to be there, which helps me decide where to look. A fish has to breathe, so there has to be oxygen in the water. That helps me decide where the fish might be, because oxygen can become a big factor later in the winter, assuming the ice is thick and there^s snow cover on it.
"A fish has to be comfortable, too, whether that means light levels or temperature or proximity to cover, or proximity to deep water, or whatever." Genz admits that he falls into the trap of thinking too much about other things when he should be concentrating on fishing, and that it costs him, too. "If I wasn^t such an expert at trying to make the transition from office guy to fishing guy," he says, "I don^t know if I could help other people with this problem."
One thing that has helped him make the mental transformation in recent years is keeping notes. "I try to write down a few things that I thought were important at the time, each time I go out," he says. "Then, especially when I^m going back to that same area, or I^m encountering similar weather conditions, reading those notes can help get my mind into fishing mode."
Another exercise he goes through that gets his mind into the game is concentrating on being methodical at the start of each outing.
"You have to be systematic," Genz stresses. "I drill holes like three or four at a time, and fish all those holes, even if I only hit each one quickly. That way, the next group of three or four holes can be more properly positioned than if I start up the auger and drill 30 holes without stopping. I see people do this all the time, and it^s not a good idea, unless you know the spot and you know fish are there--which seems pretty hard to know if you haven^t started fishing yet. "Those holes, drilled a few at a time, can multiply into 100 before the end of the day. But you should have a reason for drilling every hole, which means your mind should be involved in deciding where to try next. And the only way you can do that is by fishing the first holes you drill, and moving on from there. "You need to be systematic about how you fish each hole, too. The fish might be right under the ice or on the bottom. Or, suspended somewhere in between. They might be in shallow water or deep water. They might be right in the weeds, or on the edge of the weeds. Or on a sticky-bottom area with no weeds.
"You have to be systematic in working all these different kinds of areas until you find the fish you^re after, and get them to bite. If you fish this way, your mind really gets into it. And when it comes down to it, your mind is the best piece of equipment you have."
Editor^s Note: Copies of Dave Genz^s latest book, ^Bluegills!^ can be ordered by calling toll-free 1-877-328-0488. Visa and MasterCard accepted. Or send check for $11.95 plus $3 shipping to: Winter Fishing Systems, 5930 - 16th Ave. SE, St. Cloud, MN 56304. (Canadian orders: make sure payment is in U.S. funds, and shipping becomes $6.) Recognized as America^s leading ice-fishing authority, Genz is also captain of Ice Team, the only club in North America exclusively for ice anglers. For information on becoming a member of Ice Team, call 1-800-ICE-FISH.