What Gear Do I Need For Ice Fishing?
The gear you need for ice fishing is not much different than open water fishing. You need the right bait for the type of fish you are fishing for, a fishing pole with a hook, and patience. But there are a few extra things you need when ice fishing. An ice chisel or ice auger to cut a hole in the ice and an ice scoop to keep the hole from freezing over while you fish. These are the most basic things needed to ice fish.
Before Heading Out On The Ice Dress Warm
Ice Fishing can be fun, but you need to realize that the weather is not always your friend. You need to make sure you have a nice thick winter hat, winter jacket, snow pants, gloves, and good warm boots with well-insulated soles. You need to factor in wind chill temperatures when you look at the thermometer. Out on a pond or a lake, a small breeze can make a 30 Degree day turn into a sub-zero day depending on how windy it gets. So be sure to dress warmly.
Can You Use A Regular Fishing Reel For Ice Fishing?
Considering there is simply a hole in the ice for fishing, there is no casting involved. You can use a regular fishing pole for ice fishing but a shorter length pole is ideal for jigging. you can either buy a specially designed ice fishing jig pole or use a 3-foot long fishing pole with a spin cast reel. You could actually get away with using a telescopic pole too.
Generally people ice fishing want to have more lines in the water considering there is no casting and you can’t reel in over different areas. So multiple holes are cut or drilled and ice traps (Tip Ups) are used at each hole.
What Is An Ice Trap or Tip-Up
An Ice Trap or Tip Up is in simple terms, an unmanned device placed over the hole in the ice that holds a spool of fishing line. You chose the depth you want your bait and suspend that amount under the trap. Once the hook is baited and the trap is set, anything that causes the spool to spin will trip a pop-up flag that you can see from yards away. Once you see that flag, you know you had a bite.
What Do You Need For Tackle When Ice Fishing
There is a wide range of opinions when it comes to what tackle you should use for ice fishing. But first, you need to decide if you plan on jigging or just using ice traps. I’ll give you some suggestions that have worked well for me personally.
Let’s start with Ice Traps (tip Ups).
When I use traps, I use a swivel, a spinner, and a short leader with a hook. The size of the spoons on the spinner as well as the size of the hook varies depending on what I’m fishing for. I never use lures on Tip Ups unless I don’t have a fishing pole with me and I’m jigging with one.
Now with fishing poles.
I use a variety of different lures, spoons, and jigs depending on what I’m fishing for. If I am fishing for small baitfish, I use a small hooked jig with a piece of mealworm or a small piece of earthworm. For larger fish like lake trout, I will use a rattle crankbait. I have also just jigged with a plain baited hook when jigging for salmon. For the most part, what tackle you use for open water fishing can be used the same for ice fishing. There are always exceptions. Every lake or pond is different, Don’t be afraid to ask someone else that ice fishes in the same area what they use, most of the time people ice fishing love the sport and are willing to give you tips and ideas. Just don’t try to take their hole.
What Bait To Use For Ice Fishing
The most common live baits are shiners, smelts, mealworm, nightcrawlers/worms
When using bait, always check the fishing laws that pertain to the state and body of water you are fishing. Some places allow you to use live bait for ice fishing while others only allow dead bait. Sounds crazy I know, but in some places, you can fish and catch the bait fish but have to kill it before hooking it up to fish for bigger fish. So be sure to look up the laws in your area.
How Do I Keep My Ice Fishing Bait Alive?
So you have checked the fishing laws in your area and are allowed to fish with live bait. Now you need to keep them alive from where you buy them until you are ready to fish. You need a bait bucket. A bait bucket is simply a bucket that holds water that you can place your shiners, smelts, or whatever baitfish you chose to fish with inside. It is best to get a bait bucket with a battery-operated air pump that is attached to the side so to keep the water oxygenated. This will ensure your bait will live longer and be more active when it comes time to put them on the hook.
You Can Also Use Cut Bait
Cut bait is cut from larger fish such as suckers into small pieces that you can place on a hook. Most often cut bait is used for jigging. An example of how I used to use cut bait jigging for lake trout would be to cut a rectangular piece of meat from the back part of the sucker, then removed half the meat so that there would be half meat with skin and half just skin. Slice the skin side in the middle so it would look like legs. Once hooked into the meat side and jigged in the water, the “legs” would move independently creating a wounded frog-like movement. Once you have decided on the proper depth of your location, jig away! It has worked like a charm, I have lost count of how many lake trout I have caught this way over the years.
What Ice Fishing Gear Do I use To Cut A Hole In The Ice
You can use an ice chisel, a hand-powered ice auger, or a gas-powered ice auger. Let’s discuss each one.
Gas Powered Augers
No question the gas-powered auger is the preferred choice. They are the fastest way to drill holes and least tiring when you need to drill 5 or 6 holes. But they are expensive and sometimes if you just plan on ice fishing a few times per year, it is hard to justify that expense.
Hand Powered Augers
Hand-powered ice augers work surprisingly well providing you keep the blades nice and sharp and removed as much snow off the ice where you plan on drilling your hole. Surprisingly, snow is one of the fastest ways to dull the blade. Normally not recommended to use if ice is more than 2 feet thick.
An ice chisel is basically just a steel rod with a square piece of steel welded on one end, the bottom edge of the square piece of steel has been crafted into a sharp cutting edge. Ice chisels are great for reopening ice holes that have partially frozen back over for making holes in ice under 6 inches thick. Not recommended for ice over 6 inches thick simply due to the fact it is a TON of work.
Keeping The Hole Ice Free While I Fish
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome while ice fishing in freezing temps is the fact the hole you drill will want to refreeze. If you are jigging the constant movement of your fishing line will keep the water moving which will prevent the water from freezing over. But what about the other holes that are equipped with an ice trap and everything is stationary for 15 minutes or longer before a fish might bite? That hole will have ice forming on top. It will be thin ice. So how do you remove all this slush and ice when you catch a fish and rebait the line? You could scoop the slush out with your hands, but that is cold and very uncomfortable.
You need an ice scoop. An ice scoop is a scoop with a long handle generally made of metal. The scoop has a bunch of holes in the bottom to let the water strain out. Don’t forget, the ice scoop is really handy when you first drill thru the ice with your auger. There will be a lot of slush to remove then.
Things That Will Make Ice Fishing More Comfortable
Now that we talked about the items you need for ice fishing, let’s talk about items that will make your ice fishing trip more enjoyable.
Is That A Small House On The Lake?
When you go ice fishing you will notice that most of the more experienced fishermen have some kind of shelter they pull out on the ice, sometimes the “shack” is so big and heavy, they have to wait until the ice is thick enough to pull it out with a truck.
Some are smaller, lighter and they are able to be pulled out by hand or behind a snow sled or UTV. Some are homemade with whatever material the builder had laying around, while others are store-bought. They look like a glorified tent with holes cut in the floor. There are now even full-size tow-behind campers made from the factory-made just for ice fishing.
An ice shack or ice house is the best way to stay out of the cold. On a pond or lake, there are no trees to help block you from the wind, and windchill is a real thing. Getting your hands wet from baiting up a hook, tending a caught fish is not a fun experience. Prolonged exposure can leave you with frostbite. Having a place that can shield you from the wind, have a small stove, and a place to eat while waiting for the flags to pop up can make spending hours on the ice more enjoyable.
Small Stove For Heat
A small portable propane heater like Mr. Buddy is a great way to heat up a small place like an ice shack to keep the chill off. Some people even put small tent stoves in their ice house. Most use the wood stoves because they already have a wood stove in their house so they have split wood on hand. Also, time is limited with a propane stove depending on what size tank you have.
With a Mr. Buddy heater, you can attach a 20-pound tank and enjoy ice fishing a little longer than if you are just using the 1 pound cylinder.