Ice fishing last ice can be some of the best fishing a fisherman can experience all year. During last ice, fish are more aggressive, schooled up in bigger groups and are close to shore cruising spawning locations. However, fishing last ice can be dangerous. It doesn't really matter if the fish are biting if you are floating on an iceburg... know what I mean?
So what does an angler need to know if they are new to ice fishing last ice? The first thing I recommend is looking at the weather forecast to see what the wind is going to do. This is always a good habit to get yourself into as an outdoors-man but during last ice this is especially critical. Remember the rescue on Lake Erie a few years ago? Those anglers found out the hard way what happens when the wind is blowing in the wrong direction. Open water to the east and a strong west wind do not match.
Another thing I recommend is not crossing any pressure cracks while fishing last ice. I am a big believer of making sure I am between the land and the first pressure crack on the lake. If you go past a pressure crack on last ice, you are asking for trouble. Add a strong wind to the mix and you may get your first helicopter ride. Talk about some expensive fish!
The third thing to be careful with on last ice is shore ice. I don't know how many guys I have witnessed ruin their whole day by falling through as they step on to the ice. By the time last ice rolls around, think of how much of a beating the shore ice around access points have endured. Countless fisherman, machines, shifts in the ice, longer periods of sun. All of these factors make shore ice iffy at best.
When accessing the ice on last ice, try alternative routes if any can be found and bring the spud. When in doubt, slam your spud on the ice (or find a friend that weighs more than you). Another tactic I have witnessed over the years is a plank from the shore to good ice. If you see this situation, use your best judgement in deciding if it is right to cross.
If you do see planks, do not try to cross around them. They are there for a reason. Somebody thought the ice is not safe there. I remember a few years back witnessing a guy fall through the ice as he called back to his friend asking what the plank was for. He found out the hard way. Others ways to improve your safe return from a last ice trip are to wear a life jacket, waders, bringing safety picks, and a rope. These are all pretty self explanatory.
What about the fishing? Now that you have made it on the ice, the same rules apply as always. Move until you find the fish, try fishing aggressive first and then fine-tuning your presentation for what the fish want that day. Keep your fish to yourself unless you want to draw a crowd and have fun. Fishing on a frozen block of ice while getting a sun-tan. It doesn't get any better than that.