Beginner Ice Fishing Tackle
Ice fishing is the winter pass time for many in the North. A bad day out on the ice is better than a good day at work! Here are some essential gear you will need for getting started in ice fishing.
Fishing rods and reels – Ice fishing rods are typically shorter than rods used in freshwater or saltwater fishing. Lengths vary from 24-36 inches in length. Their material are usually made from graphite or fiberglass. For ice fishing a spinning reel will work well but ensure that the line chosen for the reel matches the rod. A fly reel is another option and the advantage of this one is that there is less twisting of the line. Get a ice fishing rod and reel combo that is balanced and is delicate enough to detect light bites.
Ice Fishing Tackle Starter Guide
Bait and lures – For ice fishing live or artificial bait will work well. Jigs are the best lures for ice fishing. Chartreuse, fluorescent or glow-in-the-dark jigs are often very effective. For live bait, the common ones are wax worms, maggots, spikes, wigglers, and minnows. Live bait are normally used with Tip ups. Get an assortment of ice jigs to keep in your tackle box.
If you’re in deeper and bigger waters where larger fish run, you might want to put larger live bait like minnows, smelt, salmon eggs or spawn bags on your book. If you’re going to jig using live bait, I’ve heard that salmon eggs or spawn bags work great.
Tip Ups – Tip ups allow you to fish without you actually holding the line all day. Tip ups are a device set above the hole. They hold a small reel submerged in the water with a flag attached at the top. The flag tips up on the rod signaling a catch. They are mostly used for fishing for larger fish like huge walleyes, pike, large whitefish, and lake trout. Most tip ups are made from wood and the best line for a tip up should be heavy and braided.
Ice Shanty – There are various kinds portable shelters one can use while ice fishing. They protect anglers from the harsh cold breeze especially if you plan to spend a long time fishing. Examples of shelters include flip overs, hub style and cabin style shelters.
Warm Clothing – Because Ice fishing is done in winter during icy periods, one has to be properly dressed while fishing. This is to prevent frozen fingers, frostbitten toes and ice covered ears. Wear two pairs of socks; long underwear; wool pants; a thick turtleneck sweater; and a windproof, waterproof and breathable jacket. Make sure your boots and strong with a thick sole. Neoprene gloves and a face mask are also recommended.
Chisels, augers, and other tools:
Bucket – This is to hold your catch and it can also act like a seat on the ice while you fish
Ice fishing Sled – Your equipment can easily be carried on a sled and pulled along on the ice.
Metal Ice Cleats – Ice fishing cleats for boots and shoes are a must have to make walking on the ice much easier and safer.
Of course, before you can drop any line and start pulling in fish, you have to drill your hole with a top rated ice auger, which is a key part of ice fishing. Ice anglers use an auger, which is sort of like a big cork screw with a sharp blade that spirals through the ice as it’s hand drilled. Usually, the bigger the fish you want to catch, the bigger the auger and the hole. For really thick ice (and for really lazy ice fishermen!), augers may be powered by batteries or small gasoline engines. Ice fishing requires a lot of drilling on the ice sometimes through 3-4 feet of ice. An auger is what will help to cut through the ice. They are efficient but more expensive and are used for extremely thick ice.
A chisel – or spud – is another tool you’ll find in an ice fisherman’s gear. It’s basically a blade with a long handle, used to chip into the ice by hand or break through thinner ice. This tool requires a lot of effort which is why they have been replaced with more advanced tools.
You also might want to carry a skimmer, some sort of scoop or deep ladle with holes in it to remove slush from your hole without picking up water, too.
Many ice anglers also carry a portable heat source in the coldest conditions. When temps drop below about -20 °F (-29 °C), ice holes start freezing again and closing up almost instantly, so a heater will help keep the air warm and the hole open. It also can make the fisherman more comfortable!