Many people have never experienced fishing beyond what goes on at the lake during the summer. Avid anglers know about a whole other world of fishing waiting for them once the temperature drops. Ice fishing is a fantastic winter sport and an excellent family activity. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and it’s fun to do. Here is some basic information about ice fishing in the winter:
Dress warmly, more so than usual. Ice fishing takes place in the open, which means that winds will be noticeable and can be a factor in staying comfortable. You should have plenty of layers beneath a windproof coat – it’s better to take off layers than not have enough from the start, as cooling down is easier than warming up. If the temperature is not very cold and no wind is present, you will probably be able to take your coat off and remove a few layers.
Waterproof boots are a good idea, as are thick, waterproof gloves. A good pair of mitts and a spare set (just in case) are a good idea too. A neck warmer and a hat are a must. Also, watch out for sunburn – the reflection of the sun’s rays on the snow and ice can pack a double whammy and leave you with a red face. Your eyes will also take a hit from the combination of sun and snow, so wear sunglasses to avoid eye damage.
There is not much equipment involved in ice fishing. If you choose an outfitter, they will supply you with everything you need from drilled holes to lines to bait. Many people like to purchase their own ice-fishing equipment for convenience’s sake, but it’s best to give the sport a couple of tries to see if you really enjoy it before heading to the store. If you do decide to buy your own ice-fishing equipment, here is what you will need:
An ice auger for drilling holes will be your biggest expense. There are hand-cranked models that can cost about $100 or gas-powered ones that ring in around $300. Hand-cranked models may be attractive for small budgets but they can be very tiring to use and demand a certain amount of strength and stamina. It will also be difficult to open a number of holes in a short amount of time. Gas-powered models are easier and faster, cutting through ice very quickly, but they can be heavy to manipulate, though there are smaller models hitting the market each year.
Beyond the ice auger, you will need lines. There are traditional stick models that are very simple in construction or rod and reel models. Both models can be jigged manually to attract fish or can be affixed in the snow or on a rack so that you don’t have to provide hands-on attention. Fishing lines are not a big expense and lower-end models cost less than $10 each. Flags and gimmicks of higher-end models don’t really affect results.
The last few accessories are very cheap (less than $10 each) and are easy to obtain. You’ll need a bucket to hold your bait (usually live minnows), a net for scooping, an ice spoon to remove slush from holes when they start to freeze over, and a second bucket to turn over for an impromptu seat. Small hot pads tucked into your mitts or pockets will help to keep fingers warm, as putting minnows on hooks usually requires bare hands in frigid temperatures.
When you head out for your day, bring a lunch and some snacks as well as something to drink. The fresh air will leave you hungrier than usual. Avoid drinking alcohol, as it’s quite easy to go overboard in the cold air and not notice the effects of one too many until it’s too late. In addition, alcohol tends to lower the body’s temperature and makes it difficult to stay warm.
Be sure that the ice is safe to walk or drive on. Test the thickness and keep an eye out for water or any suspicious areas. The recommended thickness of ice for walking on is 6 inches. If you are planning to drive a vehicle onto the ice, wait until the thickness is well over 10 inches. Never drive fast on ice, even when thickness isn’t an issue, as ice is flexible and the weight of a vehicle creates an air bubble in front of the car. An automobile moving too quickly can drive over the air bubble. With no water support beneath, the ice can easily break beneath your vehicle.