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Ice Fishing Baits and Lures

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Four basic types of bait are commonly used for Nebraska ice fishing. Grubs and small worms are by far the most productive baits for panfish such as bluegill, crappie, perch and rock bass. Baitfish such as minnows, chubs and shiners do well for crappie and perch and are highly favored by bigger game-fish such as bass, pike and walleye. Another category, meat baits, includes strips of belly meat from previously caught fish, perch eyes and strips of raw beef, all of which may be used in waters where live bait is prohibited. Artificial lures are the fourth category.

Grubs and Minnows

Many types of small worms and grubs produce well for ice fishing, and some of the best can be purchased by the dozen from bait shops. Waxworms and mousees are top panfish baits and are usually readily available. Ardent anglers who use large amounts of bait during the season often order waxworms, mousees and meal worms in large quantities from mail-order houses at a considerable savings Some anglers raise their own bait. Though they probably don't save a great deal of money doing so, it's an interesting project that involves a good deal of ingenuity and tinkering -- something ice fishermen seem to enjoy. A pamphlet detailing the culture of waxworms and meal worms is available from the Game and Parks Commission Meal worms are easy to raise, although they are not usually as effective as waxworms or mousees. Natural baits gathered from the wild are another alternative. Included in this category are corn borers, catalpa worms and the worms found in goldenrod galls. How ever, gathering bait can be tedious, and the supply is not always dependable. Baitfish are readily available from bait shops wherever ice fishing is popular. It may be possible to seine your own minnows in the winter, but for the small savings involved, it hardly seems worth the trouble. Small and medium-size minnows work well on crappie and perch, while medium and large minnows also entice bass, walleye, pike and other big fish. Fishermen pursuing larger fish may also choose to bait up with a good-size chub or a small bluegill. The latter must be taken from the same water in which it is used for bait, according to Nebraska fishing regulations.

Lure-Bait Combos

Artificial lures also are used by ice fishermen, though they are rarely used alone. Most Nebraska anglers use artificial lures sweetened with live or meat bait. The flash and action of the hardware attracts a fish's attention, while the food appeals to its appetite.

The most common artificial-and-bait combination is the small panfish jig of the "teardrop" variety combined with a grub-type worm such as a waxworm. Many anglers believe this combo is unbeatable for bluegill, and it also works well on other panfish and bass. "Teardrop" is the commercial name of one particular lure, but the word is commonly applied to many lures of the same general type. Generally, the smaller ones, those constructed on No. 8 or No. 10 hooks and measuring less than one-half inch overall, are the most effective for bluegill. Other artificial-and-bait combination lures include standard open-water jigs and spoons or Swedish Pimple-type icefishing hardware, enhanced with a minnow, grub or strip of fish belly or red neat. A particularly potent bait for yellow perch is a small spoon, jig, teardrop or a plain hook baited with a perch eye. Spoons are commonly used through he ice. They flutter and flash effectively when jigged up and down-about the only motion the lure can make when it is fished vertically through a small hole. One lure, a jigging Ripely, swims and wiggles in a circle below the hole when it is raised and lowered, and is usually used without bait.

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