To leave fish to find fish, the age old question that has haunted many a fisherman with could’ve beens and should’ve beens. I typically fall in the look for cooperative fish mindset as well, but sometimes, as Tim mentioned, moving just isn’t in the cards, so experiment away as I must. I am a very ardent believer in not leaving quality sized crappies, too many times, I’ve had slow periods in the day, but if you grind on them, you can always pluck a few more especially during those golden hours.
If the fish are small, I’ve got no problem running and gunning, but catching that first nice slab and then confirming a school is near with the marcum or the livescope probably keeps me chasing that school in that area more than I should. IMO there are two hidden benefits to chasing, even though it may scare fish away. One, you get a hella good work out dragging gear, augers, etc. through the snow. Number two, you cover more water, I call this “putting on the stumbling shoes.” On a few different occasions while chasing slabs with the new 3K electronics -yep, I’m one of those guys- the fish we were pursuing led us to a couple of very productive locations that we otherwise would have not discovered. And while that certainly doesn’t happen all the time, it’s happened enough to give me confidence to chase. . .for now. The trade-off obviously is I probably go home with fewer fish on those days, but gaining information isn’t an awful consequence for a few less fish.
I will say based on my purely circumstantial and non-professional hours on the hard water, especially after the early ice period, the fish start to respond more negatively to the sounding of the forward facing sonar tech. For reference I’ve had a panoptix for 4 years now and a livescope for 2. So the data points are not numerous, but the ice fishing journal doesn’t lie. I see a lot more entries during the middle to late ice period when I reflect back where I make comments like, “man we just could not catch up with them today,” or “we really struggled to corral them this trip.”
One final note, I remember in my teens reading and watching the preeminent ice fisherman of the period Bro, In-fisherman, Lindner, Genz, who all espoused the idea that crappies and basin fish in particular do not move far fast. I thought that to be true until I started with the forward facing sonar, I now firmly believe that crappies in general are much more willing to expend valuable energy roaming larger areas of the lake to find more nutritious and larger quantities of food. As a point of reference, my fishing partner and I used a fitbit one day to track how much distance we covered following a school of panfish mostly crappies in one day, it came out to a whopping two miles. Now granted it was not in a straight line, and there was some overlap from time to time. But we started the step counter in the fitbit once we found the school in the first hole and just watched the number climb through the day. From that point forward, I’ve mostly written off the lethargic winter, crappie don’t move long distances theory. Other instances have not been as extreme but there have been more than a few days I’m guessing we travel over a mile after one school of fish.
Sorry for the long winded post. Also, great tactic on the drilling in snow piles, that is one of my superstitions as well, if I have an auger in hand and have a choice, I always choose the snow, I feel like I catch more, and not to mention, it makes for much nicer padding for my old baseball catcher knees.