By Stacey Sutherlin
Literally, I am a beginner to ice fishing. After my first year hitting the hard water and with a title as “Newbie”, I am hoping maybe you’re a beginner too, and seeking some tips & tricks to help you be successful on your ice fishing adventure! For this article, I am going to keep it “old school” and focus on the gear that will get you started and the safety that’s most important.
I have a wild side and the dead of winter won’t stop me from getting out there. If you live in an area where ice fishing is popular during the winter months, then this will hopefully help get you started!
Grab your coffee, your notepad, and make sure your mind is ready to take this all in! I promise it’s going to come together easier than you think.
The nice part about ice fishing is the fact that it’s quite simple and straight forward.
Where to ice fish: In North America, the best places to ice fish tend to be the Northern United States, Canada, and Alaska! Keep in mind you will find better, stronger and more stable ice where it’s colder. Lakes and reservoirs are safer than a river or stream any day. You’ll obviously need to research your specific area for where exactly you’ll be able to ice fish.
What to catch: Anglers who tackle ice fishing most likely target trout, perch, crappie, walleye, northern pike, and kokanee. However, there are several other species that can be targeted depending on where you’re fishing which leaves quite the variety of fish to target. Again, you’ll need to research the area you are planning to ice fish to see what fish species you’ll be able to target.
* Fishing License
* Reel with line
* Ice skimmer
* Dry bag – to pack your gear in to keep it dry and safe
* Pole holder
* Chair or something to sit on
With no need for casting to ice fish, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get started! You simply just need to drop your line down the hole with your bait of choice and hope the fishing are biting!
A simple ice fishing pole with a spinning reel spooled with 6-10 pound line works well for most fish. I personally use Trilene Micro Ice fishing line. I do recommend using line specific for ice fishing to avoid failure.
When it comes to bait and lures there is quite the variety out there that anglers use. A simple tube jig or paddle bug in most cases will get the job done. An 8-inch auger is a good start and I am here to tell you don’t let the ‘manual’ factor intimidate you, if I can do it as a newbie so can you!
An ice skimmer is truly a must-have as it removes the slush and ice from your hole which is important for fishing. You often have to clear your ice hole to keep it from freezing over.
Some anglers don’t like the cold and prefer ice fishing from a tent, I haven’t had this luxury yet but there are many brands out there that offer a simple pop up tent to shield you from the elements and offer a little more comfort while fishing.
With the use of a tent, you can also incorporate a heater but be mindful of carbon monoxide poisoning. Having a dry bag to pack your gear into is a good idea as it keeps everything dry and it’s the place to store your first aid kit and an extra set of clothes in case of an emergency. I highly recommend being prepared and having a dry bag for your gear, it could save your life.
Having a chair or even a bucket is nice so you can sit and enjoy yourself while fishing. If you decide you want to take a break from jigging, a simple pole holder comes in handy to give you a break.
Lastly, a sled to haul everything out to the lake is a must-have. I personally use one of my kid’s sledding sleds at this time, but companies make what’s called a jet sled that truly is perfect to pack all your gear in and pull behind you.
Once you’re set-up, have your line in the water ‘jigging’ (which simply is raising and lowering the tip of your rod) is the way to go. When you jig it gets your tube jig or paddle bug dancing in the water which mimics a baitfish’s natural behavior. You don’t have to always jig; you can set your rod in a pole holder and hope for the best.
I’ve had the best luck with jigging. Once you feel that bite and the excitement sets in, be sure to set your hook and play that fish as you reel in. Be cautious of your line and the ice hole edges on your line as you don’t want a mishap and don’t get too aggressive as you reel! After you catch your first fish on the hard water, you’ll be addicted and ready for more.
Don’t get discouraged. Learn as you go. Keep a fishing journal of your adventures so you know what works and what doesn’t. It’s also a great place to write tips and tricks. Using a fishing journal has truly been a blessing for me this year fishing the hard water. Along the way, I have connected with some great people who have offered some sound advice. I have come a long way myself in my first year, and with at least 4 weeks left to hit the ice I can’t wait for what’s to come!
Get out there and have fun! Take this first year as a learning curve so when next year rolls around you’re ready to hit the hard water like a pro!
As you get more familiar and comfortable with ice fishing, tip-ups can be very useful and aide in catching more fish. You can incorporate bait such as shrimp and eggs that lure the fish in more. And when you’re ready you can upgrade to a gas-powered or battery-operated auger but know the risks that come with the power. As your love for ice fishing grows a great investment can be the fish finder that ultimately ups your fishing game tenfold.
Tight lines my friends!