BlogDecember 2020

Ice Fishing: Essential Gear for Hard Water Season

Ice Fishing: Essential Gear for Hard Water Season

By Debbie Hanson

Dec 13, 2020

List of ice fishing essential gear to start hard water fishing this winter. Catch fish through the winter season by having your ice fishing gear ready

If you’re ready to give hard water fishing a try this season, it’ll be helpful to have a list of the ice fishing essential gear items you’ll need to get started. While it might seem as if you’d need quite a bit of specialized ice fishing equipment, you really don’t need much to start catching fish through the ice this winter.

Before you plan go fishing on a frozen lake or pond, you’ll want to be sure to read early season ice fishing tips on safety first. Once you have read up on the ice fishing safety basics, then you can get your ice fishing gear basics prepped.

Here are ten ice fishing essential gear items to help you start catching species like perch, bluegill and walleye through the ice:

  1. Ice fishing rods/reels. A standard ice fishing combo generally consists of a 24 to 28-inch long, medium-action jigging rod paired with a lightweight spinning reel.
  2. Jigs and live bait. Wax worms and fathead minnows are two of the best live baits to use when ice fishing. You can rig your live baits on a bare hook or tip your jigs with pieces of live bait.
  3. Terminal tackle. This includes hooks, sinkers, and swivels. Be sure to bring your line clippers and pliers too.
  4. Ice fishing electronics. You can utilize electronics to help you locate and catch more fish. These electronics can include sonar and/or an underwater camera.
  5. Ice fishing tools, including an auger. You can get a hand auger, which requires more work, but is also more budget friendly.
  6. Retractable ice picks. You should always have a pair of ice picks around your neck. Most winter safety flotation jackets even come with ice picks attached. Be ready to use them to pull yourself up onto the ice should you fall through.
  7. Sled. Use a sled to help you transport your ice fishing gear.
  8. Ice scoop. An ice scoop is essential to keep your fishing holes clear of slush. If you’re on a budget or can’t find one, a slotted spoon from your kitchen will do.
  9. Bucket, chair, or an ice shanty. You’ll need something to sit on while ice fishing, so be sure to bring along a bucket or chair. or something to sit inside of so you can fish in comfort.
  10. Ice cleats. Walking on ice with regular shoes, or even boots alone, can be very hazardous. Regular shoes and boots don’t have the proper amount of traction for slip-resistance. Get a pair of ice cleats that fit over most sizes of boots and clamp down on the ice to give you extra traction.

In addition to this gear list, remember to dress for the conditions in order to stay safe and warm on the ice. You’ll need to buy the right ice fishing clothing, such as an ice fishing flotation suit or bibs, along with a pair of insulated waterproof boots, gloves, and a warm hat.

Cold weather doesn’t mean you have to stop fishing. You can still get out and catch plenty of fish through the ice as long as you are prepared with this list of ice fishing essential gear items.

Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.