What is Ice Fishing anyway?

By Tom Keer

Dec 21, 2016

If you think that ice fishing is just an outdoor party guess again.  It's an activity with hard-core fishing at its roots.  But while waiting for tip up flags to fly what's wrong with a pick-up ice hockey game and some ice skating followed by hot onion soup and mulled cider?  Ice fishing is a celebration of winter that carries all anglers over until spring.

To many anglers' delight, the recent weather brought snow and freezing temperatures across the Northern part of our country.  From Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine, ice fishermen sharpened auger blades, lubed reels on jigging rods and on tip ups, and headed out catch fish.  For some, those fishing trips fell in between holiday parties. 

But wait, what is ice fishing anyway?  Non-believers chalk it up to being one, giant party.  There's always food and drink and in a way they're right.  Ice fishing is a very social sport.

At the core is fishing, and just like other types of angling, there are different levels.  Some ice fishermen are a fraternity of hard cores that use a wide variety of electronics to determine water temperatures and drop-off structure, find fish, and catch them up.  Some use live bait like shiners on tip ups while others prefer to jig for bass, panfish, trout, or walleye.  The range of shelters spans from sitting on a bucket to lounging in a tricked-out shanty complete with couches, heaters and bunks.  Flatscreen tv's are for watching a game.

Food ranges from onion soup and venison stew to freshly fried fish filets.  After putting a pout on your belly many ice fishermen strap on some Super Tacs for a pickup game of hockey.  Figure skaters twirl around while family members watch, hot chocolate or coffee in hand.

Ice fishing is a celebration of winter.  Sometimes the weather is cold, snowy or windy, but isn't that just the winter equivalent of summer's hot, dry, and windless days?  You know the kind I'm talking about; they're the ones where you'll fish hard and when the bite shuts off you jump overboard and go for a swim.  For many, this time of year just means you'll skate instead of swim.

Ice fishing is fun, and the camaraderie is infectious.  Don't knock it until you've tried it.  Pretty soon you might find yourself day-dreaming about cold days and frozen surfaces.  And when a tip up flag flies or a fish slams a jig you'll be reminded why you're here.  Fish, as they are during the other times of the year, are the hub of our wheel, you all know that.

Make sure you’re licensed, and have all the proper safety gear before you hit the ice this winter.
Tom Keer
Tom Keer
Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at www.tomkeer.com or at www.thekeergroup.com.