When the weather is cold you do not have to wait for spring to enjoy great fishing opportunities. Ice fishing is a perfect way to enjoy the outdoors in the winter and target new species and waterways that may not be on your radar other times of the year. Following some ice fishing basics for beginners with gear, techniques and safety can help make your trip out onto the ice safe and productive.
Start by purchasing a valid fishing license and review our beginner’s guide to ice fishing.
1. How to Go Ice Fishing
Learning how to ice fish follows the same principals as other fishing – start simple. You will first want to scout fishing locations which you can find through your state’s Natural Resources Department or from local bait shops and word of mouth.
You will want to invest in some basic gear, appropriate clothing, and safety equipment (which we detail below) for spending time out in the elements. As your enjoyment and skills for ice fishing grow you can expand your collection of gear and tackle.
2. First Timer’s Ice Fishing Tips
Safety is the priority, so it is important to remember the cliche that there is no such thing as safe ice. Ice is moving all the time, thawing and refreezing, and it always changing. Prepare for your day on the ice by learning the species you plan to catch, the type of bait or jigs that you need and the depth for fishing. If you are just learning how to go ice fishing, it is recommended to hire a guide or take a clinic to gain confidence for when you do it on your own.
3. Clothing For Ice Fishing
The clothing you wear for ice fishing should be geared for warmth, safety, and comfort since you will be in the winter elements for long periods of time. Investing in basic items like cleats for your boots, insulating layers to keep your core body warm, gloves and a wind breaker jacket are necessary. You can also invest in insulated and waterproof bibs if you plan on to go ice fishing more often.
4. Ice Fishing Gear
You just need a few basic items to get started ice fishing and oftentimes you can find kits that have the essentials sold together which is a convenient way to start. You will want a sled to haul gear, an auger to drill holes and measure ice depth, safety gear, a bucket for carrying tackle and bait which will double as a stool on the ice, a small tackle box with jigs and bait, an ice fishing rod, and an ice skimmer. As your enjoyment of ice fishing grows you may want to invest in a shanty and a fish finder.
5. Safety on the Ice
Safety on the ice is the most important factor when it comes to ice fishing. A minimum of five inches of ice thickness is generally recommended to support an angler and gear, but that guideline will change based on many factors. Things like wind, wildlife, snow and current can impact the thickness of ice and its consistency. You can call local bait stores to check current ice conditions in the location where you plan to fish.
When traversing out onto the ice it is a good idea to stick to the footpaths that have already been created to and from your location. In the space where you plan to drop a line it is important to drill holes every 10-20 yards to monitor the ice thickness.
Safety gear is important to have with you and handy while out on the ice. Carry a cell phone and set up your fishing area near friends or other anglers. It is also a good idea to invest in a flotation device and spikes in case you should fall through the ice.