Fishing is a beloved activity and just because it's gotten colder out, doesn't mean you have to stop. With ice fishing, you can head out on the ice and catch your fish and have a great time with your friends or family. In fact, ice fishing can yield more than 30 percent of the annual catch in some places. The reason why ice fishing is not only fun for you but can be great for catching a large amount of fish is because the cold temperatures slow down fish metabolisms. In order to conserve their energy then, the fish are slower to react, allowing them to be caught easier. To take advantage of this, all you need to do is get out on the ice and start fishing.
Basics of Ice Fishing
Decided to start ice fishing but aren't sure what you'll need? Well, we're here to help.
In ice fishing, the first thing you're going to need is a way to cut through the ice. To do this, you can either use a spud or an auger, depending on whether the ice is thinner or thicker, respectively. For the auger, the width of the hole is determined by the diameter of the auger, just like a drill bit. For most fishing, a 6-inch auger is fine. 8-inch augers are also quite popular and if you're looking to land a huge fish, then you might be looking at a 10-inch auger. Just be aware that a larger auger means more work.
Once you've got your hole, you have two choices; rods or traps. Rods are used for vertical jigging (lightly bouncing the bait in the water) and dangling live minnows or small grubs. These tend to be short and simple, so much so that many people don't even use a reel. Traps on the other hand (also known as tilts or tip-ups), are great for catching those really big fish that people tell stories about. They keep a large bait in the water for hours on end where these monster fish live. Oftentimes, these allow the fisher to cover more water than they could with a rod. When the fish takes the bait, it triggers a spool of line to release a small flag, which shows a strike. The fisher then runs to the trap, takes up the line, sets the hook, and plays the fish hand over hand.
Once you've decided how you'll be fishing, there are a few essentials you'll need, from a slush bucket to a rod holder. With our selection of different types and sizes of various essential tools, you can get out on the ice and start fishing. Also make sure to bring along your warmest clothes and even a space heater for your tent or trailer.
Because ice fishing takes place on ice, there are many different safety measures that are specific to this sport. Hypothermia isn't something you want to play with, whether from the water and ice or from the air above it. To keep yourself safe, there are a few things to consider. First, always wear warm, dry clothes and take precautions to keep hydrated. Bring enough food with you to last through the trip and if possible, even bring along a space heater to keep yourself and others warm. Second, check the ice. This is perhaps the bigger safety issue, as a fall through the ice is a very serious situation. You can do this by piercing the ice with a spud bar or an auger. A good rule of thumb for this method is: a minimum of 4" for people, at least 6" for sleds, snow machines, and snowmobiles, at least 7-12" for light cars, and at least 14-16" for full-sized trucks. Also, always look out for rotten ice. Rotten ice will be discolored and will have cracks, holes, and water throughout it. There is a saying that goes "Thick and blue, tried and true. Thin and crispy, way too risky." There are also a few things to keep on hand to help you out for the ice search, including metal cleats for traction, a whistle in case you need help, an ice spud to check the ice ahead, a life vest, and safety spikes. If you have any doubts about whether or not the ice is safe, practice caution and stay on shore. Before your trip, contact your local bait shop or resort for current ice conditions and make sure you go with a friend or two. It's more fun and safer this way.
Where Should I Fish?
Just like regular fishing, picking the spot for ice fishing is an important part of getting a good catch in. To do so, first find the fish. During the early ice season, fish still like to feed in the same places. As winter moves on, however, they move to deeper, warmer waters. If you're on a lake for the first time, you could try fishing the basin or the steepest shoreline possible. The bigger fish are more prone to move along the steep shorelines for food. If you're new to ice fishing, you can try looking for schools of fish near the bottom. Also, ask the local bait and tackle shop for any useful pointers.
There are also a few places in the US that are really terrific for ice fishing, including (but not limited to):
Lake of the woods, MN
Lake Winnebago, WI
Devil's lake, ND
Lake Champlain, VT
Fort Peck Lake, MT
Eleven Mile Reservoir, CO
Whether you're new to ice fishing or are a seasoned fisherman, fishing on the ice is a ton of fun. For your various essentials and tools, check out our selection.