Ice Fishing Tips

On this page you’ll get to learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about ice fishing. You’ll learn how to successfully and safely catch fish when out on the ice. We don’t just give you a bunch a tips on ice fishing and send you on your way, we educate you on the basics of ice fishing, give you the best tips, and help you choose the right gear. Our goal is to make sure you a better ice fisherman and it doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or expert angler, there is something in this article for everyone.


Ice Fishing Basics and Safety

Vintage Ice FishingIce 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 aspects to remember when ice fishing is that safety should always be your number one priority.

Ice Fishing HoleIce fishing is one of the most dangerous methods of fishing and it’s important to follow the correct safety precautions to ensure that you make it back home in one piece. The recommended 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. We are always looking for new, bold ways to improve success at this unique art.

  • 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 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 then 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. Try 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. Try 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 in 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 the ice fishing equipment and tackle you’ll need. This is not a complete checklist, it just mentions some of the more important tools that you’ll want to bring with you. Feel free to contact us if we’ve left anything out.

Note: The links below are Amazon affiliate links. If you make a purchase, then I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Ice Fishing Tackle
» 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 ice fishing bib
» Back-up winter clothing (in case you go into the water)
» Fully charged cell phone


Additional Resources on Ice Fishing

  • Ice Fishing The Ultimate Guide – This book will tell you everything you need to know about the sport. Both beginners and experts can gain value from reading it.
  • Ice Shanty Forum – A great discussion forum to talk with other ice fishing anglers about the latest techniques and strategies.