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How to Start Ice Fishing in 8 Easy Steps

Ice fishing is an amazing winter sport that involves catching fish in frozen lakes. You don’t need a boat or expensive gizmos, just a few tools to cut holes in the ice and some basic gear to fish them. Ice fishing is fun for the whole family and you can get started in 8 easy steps.

Step 1

Find a good fishing spot on the Where to Boat and Fish map. Target the first 50-100 yards from shore in depths of 5-15 feet. Try to fish near other anglers who have likely found some fish on safe ice.

Step 2

Make sure the lake you choose has safe ice, at least 5 inches thick. You can check ice reports at your local bait shop. Drill holes as you walk out every 10-20 yards to check ice thickness.

Step 3

Staying warm and safe on the ice is critically important. Make sure to dress up in warm winter clothes and gear up on the safety items below.

  • Safety Picks: Ice picks worn around the neck to pull yourself back onto the ice if you fall in
  • Life Jacket: Flotation device in case you fall in
  • Cleats: Metal spikes worn on your boots to safely walk on ice

Step 4

Equip yourself with essential ice fishing gear. The checklist below contains the necessities to get out and fish through the ice.

  • Auger: 6 to 10-inch ice drill that rotates to cut holes in the ice
  • Scoop: Small ladle to clear slush out from your ice hole
  • Ice Rod & Reel: Smaller reel on a 28-inch rod to conveniently fish over a hole
  • Ice Jig Heads: Small metal jigs with small hooks to fish live/artificial ice bait
  • Spikes: Live wax worms used as bait to entice a bite

Step 5

Drill your holes and scoop out your slush with an ice scoop.

Step 6

Tie on your ice jig and bait it with 2-3 spikes.

Step 7

Jig your bait 1-2 feet off the bottom with small lifts and pauses. Bites often happen on the pause.

Step 8

Reel your fish up, remove the hook and gently work the fish’s tail back in the hole to release.


Ed Hitchcock

Ed Hitchcock

Ed Hitchcock is the owner of Tailored Tackle Fishing Kits & Combos, a beginner-focused fishing tackle company. Ed's team creates beginner fishing tackle packages paired with educational content to help new anglers learn to fish and improve their skills. Check out their educational resources and beginner fishing tackle.