Just because summer is over, doesn’t mean your outdoor activities have to be. Ice fishing is an inexpensive and easy to learn winter activity that will help you secure your own food supply, even in the harshest conditions.
Ice fishing is a great opportunity to get out of the house (or cabin) this winter, build self-reliance skills, and spend some time on the ice with family and friends. Wondering what you need to go ice fishing, and how to start?
If you’ve never ice fished before, these tips will tell you everything you need to know to have a successful outing once your lake freezes up.
Be Prepared – Use the Right Equipment
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What equipment do you need for ice fishing?
To start, make sure you have a warm coat, gloves, toque, waterproof winter boots, etc. There’s nothing worse than heading out on the ice, getting set up, then realizing you’re freezing and have to head back in. Be prepared and wear multiple layers.
You can also buy pop-up shelters that are lightweight and insulated to stop give you some relief from the cold wind on the ice. These shelters are great, but not a necessity for ice fishing.
Once you’re buttoned up in your cold-weather gear, you will need these items to get started ice fishing:
- An ice auger (manual or gas-powered), 6 – 8 inch
- Ice skimmer
- Folding chair or stool
- Ice fishing rod
- Bait (live minnows)
- Ice safety kit
Related: Ultimate Fishing Gift Guide
When purchasing an ice auger, I would suggest just starting with a manual one. They are much cheaper than the gas-powered ones, and you don’t want to spend a lot of money if you don’t end up loving ice fishing. Plus, gas-powered augers require annual maintenance and care and often have issues operating in the coldest of climates.
The rest of the items are standard and inexpensive. Chances are you have most of them already. If not, you can get creative repurposing tools from around the house to suit your needs.
As a side note, if you don't want to invest in an auger of any kind, people do chisel through the ice with a spud bar. You can buy a spud bar, or make one yourself out of a sharpened piece of rebar. Chiseling a hole through thick ice with a spud bar would be tedious and tiring, but it's possible.
Safe Ice Fishing Conditions
The most important part of fishing on ice is safety, so always check the ice conditions before going on any ice in the winter.
You want a minimum thickness of four inches to walk on ice safely, but the thicker the better. Keep in mind that ice is generally thicker close to shore, so use an ice pole to test the ice in front of you as you’re walking on the ice.
Avoid any areas of the lake that have current or natural springs, since they can create dangerous ice conditions. If you’re unsure of the ice conditions, most counties or popular ice fishing lakes will update ice conditions on their website or other signage.
Where Should I Go Ice-Fishing?
Before getting out on the lake, make sure you have a valid fishing license for your state or province. Most states sell fishing licenses online, or at various stores and establishments. If you’re not sure where to get one, check out the U.S Fish & Wildlife Services website. In Canada, you'll need to check your provincial or territorial website to get your fishing license.
Once you have the proper license, find a local lake or pond popular with ice fishers. Driving past frozen lakes in the winter, you'll notice huts scattered throughout the vast ice covering.
If you see lots of huts, anglers, and tip-ups on a lake, it’s probably a great fishing spot. The experienced ice fishers know more than you do, so head towards the area of the lake with the most people fishing to get a good spot. Don’t drill your hole too close to existing holes, try and give a minimum of 30 feet spacing between you and the next closest fisherman. It's basic fishing etiquette.
How to Set Your Line and Catch Fish on the Ice
Ready to give it a try? You'll find basic instructions on how to set your line and catch fish on the ice in the handy instruction card below. ⬇️ ⬇️ Print it out and take it with you!
Fishing on ice might seem like a cold, boring winter activity but it’s just as enjoyable as summer fishing. Bring your family and friends, good food, warm drinks and you’ll have a great time even if you don’t catch anything. There’s a lot of different and expensive ice fishing gear that can seem attractive to beginners, but it’s not necessary. If you’re just starting out, get the essentials and see if you like it. It’s simple to learn, and a nice way to break up those bleak winter days. As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Fishing on ice might seem like a cold, boring winter activity but it’s just as enjoyable as summer fishing. Bring your family and friends, good food, warm drinks and you’ll have a great time even if you don’t catch anything.
There’s a lot of different and expensive ice fishing gear that can seem attractive to beginners, but it’s not necessary. If you’re just starting out, get the essentials and see if you like it. It’s simple to learn, and a nice way to break up those bleak winter days.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
This post is part of the Homestead Blog Hop 317