There was a period when social media, and fishing, made an unprecedented leap forward: when IceFishOhio.com was founded during 2008.
Sure, Facebook was kind of a big deal too—somewhere between late 2008 and the Spring of 2009, it jumped from 100 million users to more than 250 million. Now it boasts more than 1.8 billion users but still—at the time, there was a need for a hub where anglers could discuss their hobby, their craft.
There was a period when Facebook, and social media, made an unprecedented jump forward. Somewhere between late 2008 and the Spring of 2009, it jumped from 100 million users to more than 250 million. Now it boasts more than 1.8 billion users but still—it’s never grown at a faster rate than during late 2008. It was a huge quarter for social media as a whole; Perhaps most importantly, IceFishOhio.com launched during that same period.
Founder Dave Hoheisel turned to social media for the same reason that many people do: to find friends with similar interests. He had recently gotten involved with ice fishing—after 15 years of tournament bass fishing—and he was looking for both buddies and tips. The result was Ice Fish Ohio, an online forum for discussions on everything from equipment modifications to shanty construction.
“(The internet) has helped new people a ton. It makes it easier for the new guys to get into fishing and learn faster,” Hoheisel says of the internet’s role in modern fishing. That said, he warns about biting too quickly to what you see online. “On the other hand, it makes them a little lazier. Guys don’t want to get out there and find their own fish.”
That made it a little awkward when our next question, to the expert, was where to find the best ice fishing in Ohio. He laughed, but gave us a healthy list of water bodies to consider. Readers in our neck of the woods (Columbus) will be happy to find nearby Buckeye Lake on the list (although Hoheisel warns that warm weather has made for lackluster fishing this year). Those in Northern Ohio can tackle Mosquito Creek Lake, near Youngstown, or head to one of the many fine ice fishing spots along Lake Erie.
Hoheisel’s comments on not "taking the easy way out" are more relevant to ice fishing than open water; amateurs must do more than simply scout a lake online before they begin. We talk about safety precautions in the open-water hobby—care in handling hooks, for example—but it’s no joke for ice fishing. It can be a life-or-death issue.
Hoheisel was enthusiastic when discussing the tools that will help an aspiring ice angler to break ice and find fish easier—items such as an auger drill bit, or a Bexilar sonar device—but he put special emphasis on the devices that keep fishing enthusiasts alive, such as ice picks and a spud bar. The latter operates much like a walking stick, allowing ice fishers to probe the ice in front of them as they walk, checking for weak spots. When you think that you’ve found a prize locale, use the spud to test the depth of the ice.
“The important thing is safety. That’s the other reason we started Ice Fish Ohio,” Hoheisel says. “You always want to have a spud bar. You always want to have ice cleats. Wear ice picks around your neck so that if you do fall in, you can pick your way out of the ice and slide back on.”
One fundamental rule for ensuring safety is to never go ice fishing alone. Some people might have trouble finding someone else willing to sit with you, fishing through sub-freezing temperatures...did we mention that Ice Fish Ohio is a great way to link up with fellow enthusiasts in your area? More than 25,000 users regularly check in at the site, to comment on threads or discussions, or to report ice conditions in their area.
Unlike Facebook, you won’t have to worry about any “fake news”—Ice Fish Ohio employs only true professionals as part of its Pro Staff. This group moderates the Pro’s Pointers segment on the site, making sure that you have a reliable source for tips."It can be an issue for online help sites of any kind...a big mouth can out-yell the real experts," Hoheisel said. "It's important to us that we identify people who can always be counted on, officially."
Hoheisel is himself an expert, and not just when it comes to ice fishing. He operates a guide service during both the warm and cold portions of the year, is one of the founders behind the Great Lakes Largemouth tournament series, and also organizes the Columbus Fishing Expo, dating back to its 2015 debut. It’s one of the largest strictly-fishing exhibitions in the Midwest.He’s always got time for Ice Fish Ohio, however, even if it hasn’t made him a billionaire like Facebook did for Mark Zuckerberg. That said, Ice Fish Ohio does have a Facebook page, while Facebook is still behind the curve in getting itself an Ice Fish Ohio account.