Taking A Girl From California Ice Fishing For The First Time

My sister-in-law Ana is adventurous, outgoing, and open-minded. She’s from a large tight-knit family that includes four boys, two of which are marines. With an upbringing like hers, Ana is one tough cookie. 

Knowing this, my brothers and I invited her on our annual Christmas time ice fishing trip. As a southern Californian, she had no idea what to expect but with a personality like hers, Ana was all in.


Once you’re cold, it’s hard to think about anything besides getting warm. So, in ice fishing it’s paramount to dress appropriately. Wool socks, base layers, and an extra set of warm hunting bibs – We covered Ana up from head to toe.

Location Location Location

We set out early and targeted a central Wisconsin lake known for crappie, bluegill, and bass. With 5-6 inches of solid, clear ice, we targeted a shallow bay featuring a creek channel that meanders through the bay and into the lake’s central section.

Crappie on this lake travel up the creek channel during the early ice period and eventually push back out to deeper water later in the season.

We set up in 14-15 feet of water in a deep hole just off the creek channel. This spot has bluegill, who like to stay near the bottom, and crappie, who like to suspend 4-6 feet off the bottom.

The Set Up

After setting up a portable fishing shanty and turning on the propane heater, it was time to set up Ana’s rod. 

I spooled up 2lb monofilament line on an ultra-light ice fishing combo and then rigged a small foam float, followed by a little tungsten jig. Next, I threaded waxworms on the hook, and boom, now we have a highly effective panfish set-up.

I set each bobber roughly 6-20 inches off the bottom, hoping it will draw strikes from both bluegill and crappie. After that, I told Ana to watch the bobbers and yank up on the rod whenever she sees something move. Detecting a bite on a bobber is easier than seeing the subtle quiver of a rod tip, so I’d suggest using this technique for anyone new to the sport, especially if they are fishing without an electronic graph.

First Fish

With Ana bundled up and sitting in a warm fishing shack, I ventured outside to do some fishing of my own. About 30 minutes later, I heard excitement coming from the shanty.

First, a surprising “Ope” from Ana. Then a “Keep reeling!” from my brother Matt. Finally, Ana proudly shouted ”I got one!”.

I dropped my gear and bolted towards the celebration.

There it was, a teensy little bluegill accompanied by a wide smiling sister-in-law. To many, it would be another cookie-cutter, 5-inch bluegill but to Ana, it was a masterpiece. We snapped pictures and sent them to her family in California who were both inquisitive of the adventure and proud of the outcome.

A Day To Remember!

The remainder of the day consisted of us pounding on crappie, bluegill and the occasional perch. That night, we ate fried fish, green beans, and buttered bread while we shared stories from the day. 

As in life, fishing rarely goes as planned, but for some reason, on this day, things worked out. Shoutout to my family and to fishing; I love them both dearly.

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