Ice Fishing Basics

What do anglers do when they learn their favorite fishing spot has turned hard - they turn back to ice fishing basics.  Turn to Ice Fishing Basics when you find your favorite fishing spot freezes over in the winter.  There first two questions you face are:  What do you absolutely need?  and  What is available that will make you adventure more comfortable, fun, productive and safe?  Before this, you must be absolutely certain that the ice is thick enough to even venture out onto its surface.

Ice Fishing Safety

There is no substitute for local information when thinking of ice fishing basics.  If you are not familiar with an area - you must ask the locals about the safety of a particular body of water.  What appears to be frozen solid may or may not be ready for ice fishing.  Certainly as the surface freezes what is safe for walking may not be safe enough for a snow mobile, SUV or Ice Fishing Shelters.  A sign such as the one below may be used to warn of thin ice or may be used to indicate that ice fishing is never allowed on that lake.

Inland lakes will freeze faster than a river or lake that is part of a river system.  Ice that is four inches thick will support the weight of a walking adult, but will not support a snow mobile and certainly not an SUV.  Ice that is four inches thick in one location may not be that thick in a deeper part of that lake, or where there is a current.  Exercise caution.  Many northern lakes will freeze to several feet thick.  When this occurs you may find that on large lakes there are roads plowed through the snow, and often will see supplies being delivered to island properties such as building materials.

Safety Ice Pick Kit

Frabill Ice Safety Kit

Early season and late season ice fishing can be more treacherous.  With temperatures often not consistently well below freezing, what appears to be thick ice across the entire surface of the water can be difficult to judge.  It is always a good idea to carry safety gear including a set of ice picks, or ice spikes with handles in order to pull yourself out of the water and back onto the ice should it break and and you fall into the frigid water.  Always research local conditions and carry this extra protection.

Hole in the Ice

Ice Fishing Hand Auger Ice Fishing Augers
The most important ice fishing basic need is a hole in the ice so that you can fish. Most Ice Fishing Anglers will make an eight inch hole which is wide enough to bring most fish through and large enough to be easily kept from freezing solid again. When it is well below zero it becomes a battle not just to stay warm but also to keep the hole from freezing over. A variety of tools are used to make holes in the ice:

Ice Fishing Rods and Ice Fishing Reels

Ice Fishing Rod

The next ice fishing basic need is something to hold fishing string with a hook on it. Most Ice Fishing Anglers will use an ice fishing rod and Ice Fishing Reel to do this. There are a variety of rods and reels to choose from. Some anglers use conventional rods and reels that are small, for example five feet or less. Long rods can be a disadvantage when ice fishing. Lures for ice fishing tend to be weighted such as the spoons in the following picture.

Ice Fishing Lures Lures for Ice Fishing

Ice Fishing Stools

More ice fishing basics:  will you stand up or sit down?  If you think you will be there longer than a few minutes it is really nice to have something upon which to rest.  Some anglers will use a five gallon bucket with a cushion.  You can also find tripod stools that are even more comfortable. Remember whatever you want to use you will have to carry to your spot.

Ice Fishing Stool Bucket Stool

Ice Fishing Shelters

Ice Fishing Shelters come in a variety of sizes, materials, and amenities.  Some are meant to be very portable, while others are meant to be more permanent.  They can be placed on a trailer with tires, on skids or sleds, or can be made more like a pop up tent.  Just in case you are not certain what the shelter is designed for you can put a sign on the side of your shelter as this person did.  Click on the following link to review the different types of shelters that are available.  When would you want a shelter?  Whenever you want to get out of the weather, stay for a longer time out on the ice, and whenever you would like to play cards with a friend while fishing.

Ice Fishing Shelter Ice Fishing Shack

Click on these links to read more ice fishing basics details about the various tools and accessories available to make your outing the most comfortable and productive:

Really Roughing It

Ice Fishing From Your Family Room Ice Fishing From Family Room
Ice Fishing Tip-Ups which will trigger and flip up a flag when a fish strikes their bait. In this manner they can sit in the comfort of their own home and watch from a window overlooking the lake, and race out to bring in the fish. That is what I call "Roughing It"!

Modern Ice Fishing

Ice fishing basics originally meant chopping a hole in the ice with an axe or chisel and sitting there all day till fish came along and you caught some. As you know fish tend to move, and you either picked a good spot, or you would face a long time in between catches. Today, with the introduction of portable power, electronics and power augers, Ice Fishing Anglers can become more mobile. Portable electonic sonar devices can detect fish below the surface, a power auger enables the angler to drill multiple holes in a relative short time frame, and they can move from spot to spot.

Of course, you must consider what your overall goal is for the day, to relax, play cards and stay in a warm shelter, or to catch a limit of fish. If the latter is the goal then check out all the power equipment you can own. Bass Pro has a complete line of ice fishing equipment including portable shelters, skimmers, tip ups, strike indicators, rods, reels, lures, line, and sleds. They also offer a complete line of electronic sonar units, as well as hand ice augers and power ice augers.

Ice Fishing Goal

Of course, the whole reason you are out there in the first place is so that you can catch some delicious fish. Here is a nice crappie being pulled out of the lake. No need to worry about spoilage, just lay your catch on the ice - you have a built in refrigerator. This is the bottom line: the end result of all of this, the bottom line ice fishing basic leads you to a catch that you will be proud of. All About the Catch - Ice Fishing Crappie / Walleye

Black Crappie