Ice Fishing Basics
As winter approaches, we want to remind you that a little cold weather doesn’t have to hold you back from your favorite activity. If you’ve never been ice fishing before, it’s an excellent, inexpensive way to spend time with friends or nature during the coldest winter months and reel in some awesome catches like walleye, northern pike, and crappie. It does require some preparation and precautions, but it's worth it.
Where to Ice Fish
First and foremost, in order to ice fish, you must have ice. During the winter months, lakes in the Great Lakes region, Northeastern states, and especially Minnesota are great spots to catch tons of fish. And that’s just the U.S. Really, any lake or pond that has plentiful fish when it's not frozen will most likely have just as many fish when it's frozen over!
Finding a Good Fishing Spot
At the beginning of the winter, you’ll want to start where the fish used to feed before the lake froze over. However, as the cold months progress and the weather gets more frigid, fish tend to feed in deeper waters to stay warm.
When looking for spots, steep shorelines are a good bet. Another common rule of thumb is to stick to smaller lakes early in the winter season and larger lakes later in the winter because fish will gravitate towards deeper waters throughout the winter.
How to Ice Fish
Ready to fish? If you’re a traditional angler, you may be thinking it's time to get out there and cast. With ice fishing, though, you have to drill first.
Drilling holes is the key to ice fishing and the thing that differentiates it from any other type of fishing. Most anglers use a large drill called an ice auger, which can be drilled by hand or with a motor. The diameter of your drill will depend on the size of fish you want to catch, but most augers are between 6 and 10 inches in diameter.
Ice Fishing Rods
Once you’ve drilled your hole, it’s time to fish! There are two main methods of ice fishing: jigging and tip-ups.
Probably the most popular ice fishing technique, this is one you should know for sure. Jigging poles are fairly light and short - usually around 2 feet. This technique requires an angler to move the pole up and down, jerking the bait to get the fish’s attention.
You can use live bait or artificial lures to jig, but one necessary piece of tackle is a bobber. Most anglers prefer spring bobbers to regular bobbers because they are more sensitive to the slightest bite, allowing you to secure more catches.
A Tip-up, also known as a trap, is an ice fishing device that uses a flag to alert a bite, allowing an angler to fish hands-free. Once the flag pops up, you’ll reel in your fish by hand. One of the biggest advantages of using tip-ups is that you can set up multiple lines at once, at varying depths or locations, and keep an eye on several at one time.
Before you set out on any ice fishing trip, you must be aware of the dangers and prepared to take safety precautions. Hypothermia is no joke and it can easily occur if an angler falls through ice into the frigid winter waters.
Here is a chart with some rules of thumb for ice thickness depending on your set up:
Take these guidelines with caution and always go for thicker ice if you can.
Another important tip for amateur ice fishermen is that moving water does not freeze well, meaning rivers should be avoided for ice fishing while lakes and ponds are ideal.
Before you head out, there are a few things you should make sure to bring with you that will help ensure your safety.
- Metal cleats for ice traction
- A life preserver
- A whistle to call for help
- An ice spud to test the ice in front of you
For more safety information to make sure you’re completely prepared, check out this article and video safety guide.
Appropriate Fishing Apparel
When you're out in the winter fishing, you should wear the correct fishing clothing. Find the perfect mix between protection, comfortable, and durable. Most people don't realize that fishing apparel affects your performance and efficiency while on the water. You should make sure your fishing clothing brands have the highest quality fishing apparel in all weather conditions. Apparel By Home Run's long sleeve fishing shirts have UV protection, moisture-wicking, anti-odor, lightweight, and stain-resistant features that make fishing easy and comfortable in all weather conditions.