Just because summer is over, doesn’t mean fishing has to be. Each year, ice fishing becomes more and more popular as people new to fishing realize how easy and inexpensive it is to get started.
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 by yourself, or 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 and do to get started as soon as your ice is ready.
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. The rest of the items are standard and inexpensive. Chances are you have most of them already.
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 4 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. Just driving past or checking out different lakes will give you a good idea of where to start.
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 ishing etiquette.
How to Set Your Line and Catch Fish on the Ice
Here are the main steps for fishing on the ice.
- Drill a hole.
- Use the ice skimmer to remove any chunks of ice from the hole.
- Set your bait on your line, and drop it all the way to the bottom.
- Reel in about two feet so your bait is just off the bottom, in prime fishing space.
- Depending on the type of fish your targeting, different lures, and jigging techniques might work better. Doing some research beforehand on ice fishing basics and the types of fish in the lake, and what works best for certain types of fish will help make your trip a successful one.
- If you are set up at a hole for over an hour with no bites, grab your gear, head to a different spot on the lake, and try again.
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.