It's taken a while longer than normal, but we finally have sufficient ice on most local waters to fish them safely. I generally wait until there's a solid six inches of the frozen water before venturing out. This way I don't have to worry about hitting a thin spot created by underwater spring holes or inlet currents when nearer shore. With today's ice augers, it doesn't take long to bore a hole, even in ice twice that thick.
By and large, jigging has replaced tip-ups in popularity for most ice fishermen. I suspect it's because it keeps them occupied between bites or hits, and it also allows more mobility since jigging anglers can move from one bored holes to another until they find cooperative fish. But for larger predator fish such as pike, pickerel and walleye, tip-ups baited with an appropriate size live shiner is usually more effective in producing fish than jigging, which is geared toward smaller panfish such as perch, crappie and sunfish. With two local ice derbies (Whitney Point Lake and Chenango Lake) looming on the horizon (Feb.9 and 16), my money will be on the anglers that are fishing when dawn arrives to stand the best chances of reeling in prize winners. Why? First of all, derby or not, just about all fish are more active and feeding early and again late in the day. They tend to slow down during the hours in between. Second is evidence by the two derbies' history which pretty much bears this out with a majority of the prize winners being taken early in the day.