There is no reason to reinvent the wheel. Or in this case, a circular hole in the ice. Winter’s fish portal.
An abandoned hole in the ice might be obscured with blowing snow and refrozen partially, so look closely and watch your step. Sometimes, you might even discover a hole that still has open water. Often holes are drilled with a gas powered auger or chainsaw. If done in shallow water, this noise will spook fish. Anglers sometimes allow holes to “rest” for this reason so may return; keep this in mind before fishing any unoccupied hole. But even without wetting a line, there may be some useful clues and information from an old ice hole.
1) What is the ice depth and type of ice? You want at least 4 inches of ice to stay safe. Fishermen are known to exaggerate some measurements but this isn’t one of them.
2) Are there signs that the previous anglers reeled up vegetation? Edges of vegetation can be a great location.
3) Have you noticed any dead fish under the ice? Shallow areas with lots of decomposing vegetation, coupled with heavy snow cover can mean oxygen depletion. Fish will move deeper, so should you.
4) Is there evidence of successful catches, such as scales? Did they spill any sawdust bedding from using waxworms for bait? Where they there long? Is there a big pile of sunflower seeds?
5) Even if you don’t plan on ice fishing, take note of where most of the holes are drilled. According to Mark Zona, host of Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show, the location of greatest ice fishing activity is evidence where the bluegill are located. Where there are bluegill, there are bass. So, he starts fishing these locations when the ice leaves.
Not that some of us are looking forward to Spring.