Breaking the Ice

Are you curious about ice fishing?

In many areas of the north small figures, often with huts, appear on ice-covered lakes. Though normally I don’t approach strangers, I’m drawn to anyone holding a fishing rod. And a vast majority of my new acquaintances like to talk fishing.

Are those ice fishermen out there any different? Would I be intruding like walking into someone’s camp, or would it be just like passing any other shoreline angler?

I asked Tim Johnston, a local ice fisherman, about this approachability issue.

“Most guys don't have a problem at all talking to other guys. We talk to a lot of people on the ice.” But he added that when drilling, anglers try to respect each other’s space.

To be successful with any type of fishing often requires some scouting and time on the water. Visit the right ice angler and you may just learn a thing or two.

  1. For instance, as a novice ice fisherman, I always seem to notice some new set up, organization, gear, or tackle.

  2. You can get the conversational ball rolling by inquiring about the ice thickness and condition.

  3. And if you are lucky they might even share their technique such as what bait or lure, what depth, and how they are working it.


I noticed a couple of anglers giving their minnow a little more action by nudging the line a few times with an insulated boot every few minutes. One fellow even let me photograph this technique, which lets you keep cold hands in pockets and not have to bend down. He grinned and said, “I don’t usually like to give away secrets.”

Even if you are not yet into ice fishing, I recommend you grab your ice cleats and polar ice picks and experience a slow walk on some really hard water. It might even be a good occasion to try out your new “it’s not my fault” joke. Or not.

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Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.