The Cold Facts: Ice Fishing Fundamentals

While cold winter days make a perfect setting for various cozy indoor activities, for those looking for an occasional adventurous kick to break their comfortable routine, ice fishing can be just the right formula.

Even though this way of fishing has some dangers fishermen need to be constantly aware of, modern equipment transformed it from a survival skill into almost a recreational sporting activity. 

Still, for complete beginners, ready to drill their first hole in the ice, here are a few hints on how to get ready for ice fishing, and be safe and warm.

Don’t Do It On Your Own

The first rule for keeping yourself safe from any potential dangers is very simple – never go ice fishing alone! The greatest risk of this activity is hypothermia, which can quickly kill if one falls into cold water. 

When planning your first experience, make sure you find a partner. A pair of extra hands can literally make a difference between life and death if any accidents occur. Also, always inform someone about where you’re going, so that they will be expecting you to return and could contact the authorities if you fail to show up.

Know the Ice

When it comes to ice safety, again a simple rule follows – ice is never 100% safe. It can be a foot thick in one part of the lake, and just an inch in the other one, so you need to be cautious all the time.  To keep yourself alert, forget about booze when you’re on the ice. It won’t take the fun and joy away, and you’ll be safe.

To put a hole in the ice, the solid ice needs to be thicker than 4 inches, and it’s a minimum you should never go below. For a snowmobile or an ATV, it needs to be thicker than 7 inches. 

Apart from the fact that the thickness of ice varies in different parts of the lake, there is another one worth knowing – ice flows and tends to break because of the strong winds, sometimes leaving fishermen away from the shore. 

So, for the beginning of your adventure, choose friendly and popular waters, so you and other fishermen can look out for each other, and you can get some useful tips for successful ice-fishing.

Get Your Gear

You’ll need some tools and items, to have a complete ice-fishing experience. Here are the essentials you should bring:

  • Ice rods and reels,
  • Ice augers and spiral cutting tools for the hole,
  • A five-gallon bucket to carry gear, store fish, or sit on,
  • Rod holders,
  • Pliers and forceps,
  • A plastic sled for transporting your equipment.
  • Bait bucket and baits.
  • A fishing license.

Apart from this, make sure you’ve dressed appropriately for this occasion, wearing layered clothes. The material closest to your skin needs to keep you dry, so consider pants, pants, socks and mitten liners made out of moisture-wicking material, such as polypropylene. The next layer should keep you warm, so think about wool or fleece, and add windbreaker shell for wind protection. Wear hats with ear flaps and mittens, and make sure your boots have enough layers of insulation and protective rubber layer to keep your feet dry.

Have Fun Fishing

With your gear ready and your hole cut, you can now enjoy the thrill of fishing. 

Ice fishing most often calls for subtle movements of your bait, or combination of active and subtle bait movements. Try out several rod movements until you find out what fish prefer, and change lures and baits occasionally for the same reason. Given that fish are less active, the greatest odds of catching something will be right after dawn and just before dusk.

Follow these tips and pieces of advice in order to be safe and have a successful and fun ice-fishing adventure.


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