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Ismete Fishing – Relaxed and Effective Winter Fishing

Ismete refers to bait fishing through the ice. This winter fishing style was originally invented in Sweden. It offers a simple method for pike, zander, and perch fishing that requires only minor adjustments to the kit.

Ismete has become a popular alternative for ice fishing that allows you to catch food fish or earn record catches with relatively little effort, as long as you have the energy to trawl through new waters or take a closer look at familiar ones.

In Finland, anglers between the ages of 18 and 65 fishing with a single rod will need to pay the fisheries management fee. If you fall outside of that range, you can fish without a license. If you want to use more than one rod, you will need a special permit specific to the region regardless of your age. The permit is often issued for a specific fishing style, so you should contact the local fishery association to find out more about their licensing practices. 

Keep Responsibility in Mind

Severe frost or a freezing cold wind is the worst nightmare of an ismete fisher. A temperature of down to max. -5 degrees Celsius is a decent threshold, at which you should stay home or opt for ice fishing for bait fish instead. When the weather is too cold, the eyes and skin mucus of the fish will freeze quickly.

You can fill your sled with water and place the fish in it as soon as you have removed the hook to protect them in colder conditions. You can lift the fish from the sled for documenting, and release them quickly back into the water.

For releasing the fish, you should bring a pair of needle-nose and cutting pliersjaw spreaderrelease mat or weighing bagmeasure, and scale. It is very important to ensure that the skin mucus of the fish does not come in contact with snow or ice and that its eyes do not freeze!

Ismete Fishing Equipment

You are going to need something to breach the ice with, and when it comes to ice augers, you should probably go big. Choose an ice auger with a diameter of at least 8 inches, going up to 10 inches if you are planning for more regular fishing trips in the winter. This will also ensure that you can haul in your record catch without the hole in the ice causing an issue.

Ismete rod, spinning or baitcasting reelleadersinker, and hook. This is a brief list of the equipment you will need for ismete fishing in addition to an ice auger and baits. You can also use various types of bite indicators and rod holders.

An indicator of some sort, such as a bell, electronic alarm, or even a piece of plastic bag that will let you know when a fish starts pulling line off the spool. 

You should choose a leader with a snap that won't open when twisted. We know of several bitter defeats where a pike has wrestled itself free at the last moment by struggling against the hook and twisting the snap open. You can invest in quality safely, as equipment loss is relatively rare with this fishing style. 

  • A ball indicator combined with a bell is a traditional and reliably effective bite indicator. When a fish attacks or takes a bite of the bait, the released indicator lifts up and rings the bell.
  • An electronic alarm will sound to indicate a bite, triggered by the line running through the device. This is very helpful, as it allows you to see how active the fish is right away.
  • A piece of plastic bag attached to the line below the tip of the rod. The plastic will move down to indicate a fish at the other end of the line. This type of indicator works when you are only using a few rods that you can monitor at all times. You can also add a bell to the end of the rod.

Bait Fish: Catch Your Own Bait Fish With a Jig or Visit a Fishmonger Before You Go Fishing

You can use almost any dead fish as bait, with roach and Baltic herring being the traditional choices. You should never move live bait fish from one body of water to another, which is also specifically prohibited by the Finnish Fishing Act.

Anglers targeting large, as in properly large, pike also use bream and other larger fish from the carp family as bait. In ismete fishing, the size of your bait does not affect the size of your catch as such. You can catch record fish with small bait, whereas a large bait can scare off the smallest predators.

Attach the bait to a single treble hook in the traditional manner through the back so that it hangs horizontally. You can also lower the bait to the bottom with the hook attached at the rear. One hook is enough, although some anglers prefer two smaller treble hooks instead of a single larger one.

Once you have hooked the bait, place your rod onto the holder and lower the bait to your preferred target depth. Lowering the bait to the right depth is made significantly easier with a suitable sinker above the leader – a lighter rig is more difficult to sink. You should also remember to puncture the swim bladder of your bait fish, as that will reduce the float and let the bait settle in the correct position.

Some anglers lower the bait all the way down, some rest it slightly above the bottom, and some leave it under the ice where it can be seen the furthest. Determining the most effective target depth is up to the angler and the fish. When fishing with more than one rod, you can try various options to see which one offers the most action and change your tactics depending on your observations.

The bottom is increasingly becoming my preferred fishing depth, as that is where pike tend to hunt for food. The following could perhaps be taken as a general rule:

  • Larger fish, fewer bites = bait at the bottom
  • Food fish, more bites = bait floating somewhere in between the bottom and the ice

“It does make sense that a dead fish would not be floating around in middle water.” – Eetu Uusitalo

“If you leave your bait on the bottom, you run the risk of a pike swallowing the hook.” – Jari Kettukangas

Release the spool once you have lowered the bait. Disengage the casting brake with a baitcasting reel, completely turn off the drag of a spinning reel, or activate the runner of a baitrunner reel. Then attach the line to your indicator. Now, all you have to do is wait for the fish to show up.

Responsibility: The indicator is up; what next?

A triggered indicator tells you that it is time to act. Choose your speed depending on your distance to the rod. You can walk when closer and speed up if you are further away. When you reach the rod, pick it up from the holder and point the tip downward. At the same time, check whether line is being released from the spool. If it is, you can secure the bail and tighten the drag with a spinning reel or deactivate the runner with a baitrunner reel.

Retrieve the slack and strike back. If the rod stops dead during your strikeback, you know that there is a larger fish at the other end of the line. Smaller fish can be reeled in immediately, whereas you may have a bit of a fight in your hands with a larger fish. When the fish is finally tired enough to bring up on the ice, grab it in a lip-lock, remove the hook where possible, and lift the fish onto the release mat or into a sled filled with water.

If the fish refuses to come up, pump up and down a couple of times to turn the fish around and pull it through the hole in the ice. You often see YouTube videos of anglers pushing their hand through the hole to turn the fish manually. What do you think would happen if the struggling fish managed to sink the hook into your hand?

As the fish calms down in the sled, you can also take a moment to let your pulse settle. Once you have regained your composure some, you can quickly document the fish and release it back into the water. Salute your opponent as it glides back under the ice and lift your arms up toward the sky in celebration!

There will of course be days when you have to go home empty handed, but you should remember the words of Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.

Pack a nice lunch and invite your friends on a fishing trip – you will get your record fish one day!

Tight lines and busy indicators!

Text and photographs: Juha Salonenfishing blogger

Text: Juha Salonen, fishing blogger
Photographs: Urpoerämies Productions


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