- Ice Fishing Basics and Safety
- Ice Fishing Tips, Tricks and Tactics
- Ice Fishing Tackle and Equipment
- Additional Resources on Ice Fishing
Ice Fishing Basics and Safety
Ice fishing is a method of fishing where an angler catches fish through a hole in the ice of a frozen body of water. The frozen body of water can be a pond, lake and in some instances a river. Some ice fishermen will have elaborate setups that include heated cabins while others will simply sit out on the open ice and fish. Ice fishing has changed a lot over the past 25 years. With modern equipment and augers with 2 to 3 times more power the days of drilling a single hole and praying for a fish to come by have faded. Most states designate specific public ponds and lakes where you can ice fish. One of the key things to remember when ice fishing is that safety should always be your number one priority.
Ice fishing is one of the most dangerous methods of fishing and it’s important to follow the safety steps to ensure that make it back home in one piece. The recommend depth for walking on frozen water is 4″. While many fishermen will risk walking on 2 1/2″ ice, we don’t recommend it. Situations can occur on the great lakes where mile wide spans of ice can break off due to offshore winds. Always make sure you have a charged cell phone and tell someone where you’re fishing, when you’re leaving and when they should expect you back. Beware of ice rot in the late-winter warm-ups, even if ice is at the required depth it cannot support the standard weight.
Ice Fishing Tips, Tricks and Tactics
Below are some tips and strategies that should help improve your next ice fishing experience. If you have a tip that you’d like to submit please use our tip submission form. We are always looking for new, bold ways to improve anglers success at ice fishing.
- Depth Matters – Fish generally will stay a specific depth during the winter, making it easy to find them. Do some simple internet research to find out what depth the species of fish you’re trying to catch stay around during the winter months.
- Slow and Steady Wins the Fish – Fish don’t expend as much energy during the winter months. If you move your bait or jig too fast a fish might let it go in order to save energy. This is the biggest problem novice ice fisherman have when they start out.
- Use a Bobber to Set the Hook at the Right Time – Not only do fish use less energy during the winter months, they are also less aggressive. They won’t hit your bait or jig as aggressively as they would during the summer months. This is where a slip bobber comes into play. With a slip bobber you can set the depth of line and see when a fish might be giving you action.
- Cover the Hole – If you’re ice fishing in a shallow area then it’s best to keep some ice shavings in the hole to prevent the light from penetrating the surface. This keeps the fish from avoiding the area where you’re fishing. However, if you’re trying to catch crappie the light can actually attract small plankton that in turn attracts crappie.
- Bait the Bottom – Both bluegills and perch love to feed off the bottom during the winter months. Trying bouncing your bait off the bottom to stir up some mud and debris, this can attract fish from a distance.
- Chum the Hole – Sometimes chumming your hole can actually bring more fish to your location. While most fish don’t want to exert too much energy in the icy water, they can still be attracted to other fish feeding. Trying grinding up some minnows or dropping some wax worms in and let them go crazy.
- Learn How to Treat Hypothermia – Most ice fishing related deaths are not due to drowning, but instead due to hypothermia. Make sure you educate yourself on what to do if you or a fellow angler fall into icy water. Remember, someone can die as soon as 20 minutes of being soaked in icy water. Always have a cell phone on hand to call for help and a spare set of winter clothing nearby.
Ice Fishing Tackle and Equipment
Ice fishing requires some special equipment and fishing tackle. Below is a basic list of ice fishing equipment and tackle you’ll need. This is by far not a complete checklist, it just mentions some of the more important tools that you want to bring with you. Feel free to contact us if we’ve left anything out or if you feel we need to remove an item.
» Bucket (can double as a seat and a bait bucket)
» Ice Scoop (to remove excess ice from the hole)
» Warm and Durable Boots
» Ice cleats
» Ice chisel or auger
» Ice safety pick (can save your life in a dangerous situation)
» Proper winter clothing, or Frabill suit
» Back-up winter clothing (in case you go into the water)
» Fully charged cell phone
Additional Resources on Ice Fishing
- Ice Shanty Forum – A great ice fishing discussion forum to talk with other ice fishing anglers to get tips, tricks and techniques.