Ice fishing is a great way to beat cabin fever during the long and cold winter season and catch some delicious fish. An iced-over lake with public access offers ample fishing opportunities that you otherwise only would get using a boat.
If you are among those considering fishing through the ice, here are some of the essential types of ice fishing gear that will help make your outings a success.
|Clothing for warmth in freezing conditions.
|Face covering for cold protection.
|Insulated footwear for icy conditions.
|Insulated handwear for warmth.
|Tool for drilling holes in ice.
|For gear, bait, and seating.
|Ice Fishing Rods
|Rods designed for ice fishing.
|Ice Fishing Reels
|Spinning or baitcasting reels for ice fishing.
|Ice Fishing Line
|Line designed for cold conditions.
|Ice Fishing Lures
|Lures for attracting fish beneath ice.
|Devices for fishing with multiple lines.
|Sonar device to detect fish beneath ice.
|Ice Fishing Tent
|Shelter for protection from elements.
|Ice Fishing Power Station
|Device for charging electronics and heaters.
|Tool for checking ice thickness.
|Safety tool for self-rescue.
|Safety tool for rescue.
|Device for signaling distress.
|Tool for clearing ice debris from holes.
|Tool for chipping and shaping ice.
|Cargo or Duffle Bag
|For carrying all gear.
|Bags or Container
|For carrying caught fish.
|Seating option for anglers.
|Eye protection from glare.
|Hand, Feet, and Body Warmers
|Warmers for added heat.
|For drying hands.
|Scoop or Shovel
|For snow removal.
|Container to keep fish alive.
|For transporting gear on snowmobile.
|Rod Guide Paste
|For preventing ice in rod guides.
|Attachments for traction on ice.
|Release & Landing Gear
|Gloves, Gaff, Hook Removal Tools
|Tools for safely handling and releasing fish.
Dressing for Success: Ice Fishing Apparel Essentials
Ice fishing is an extreme-weather pastime that requires careful preparation, starting with wearing the right clothing. You don’t want to go onto the ice wearing tennis shoes, blue jeans, and a light jacket. That’ll ensure a fast return home to fend off hypothermia and possibly pneumonia.
The better you dress for success while ice fishing, the more fun you will have — especially when the fish are biting. Here are some essential ice fishing apparel that you’ll need to wear to protect your body and stay warm and relatively comfortable.
Layering for Warmth: The significance of quality thermal apparel, base and mid-layers, and outerwear.
You’ll need warm clothing, starting with a base layer of thermal underwear above and below your waist to keep your core body temperature up and your leg muscles ready for rapid movements when you need to hustle to a hole that is getting action from the fish. Thermal socks help keep your feet warm, and you can wear blue jeans below your waist and a flannel shirt with a sweatshirt and a sweater above the waist.
Your outerwear should include insulated leggings and a very warm ice fishing jacket. You can take care of both by buying a dedicated ice fishing suit.
Must-Have Accessories: Emphasis on warm boots, balaclavas, gloves, and other essential accessories.
Let’s start with your feet, which need to be kept warm and dry to enable you to stay on the ice. You need boots that are waterproof and have felt or similar insulated inserts that will keep your feet warm and dry. Gloves or mittens are terrific for keeping your hands warm while a scarf or balaclava will keep your neck and face warm.
A thick wool hat or one of those faux fur-lined hats with the ear flaps that come down will help keep your head warm. You also might try a ski mask that you can wear like a normal hat or as a ski mask to protect your face from the cold air and wind.
Expert Recommendations: Top brands and products for ice fishing clothing.
It is almost impossible to stay warm and comfortable on the ice without insulated bottoms and a good winter coat. A snowmobile suit will work great, but it could weigh you down if you fall through the ice into the cold water below.
The best option is an ice fishing suit, such as the Striker Ice Predator suit, the Simms Challenger jacket and bib, or the Eskimo Roughneck jacket and bib. They are waterproof, purpose-built for ice fishing, and double as a flotation suit if you wall into the water.
The Core Gear: Essential Equipment and Tools for Ice Fishing
Once you have your ice fishing clothing all sorted out, then you’ll need appropriate ice fishing gear to make it possible to fish through the ice. Here’s a quick rundown of ice fishing equipment you should consider for your first ice fishing trip.
Breaking the Ice: The role and selection of ice augers
An ice auger quickly drills a uniform hole through thick ice so you can ice fish. Your options are a hand-powered ice auger that can get your heart rate going and cause you to break a sweat before you have all of your holes drilled when using a hand auger.
A powered ice auger is much faster and powered by rechargeable batteries, gasoline, or propane. A powered auger is essential ice fishing equipment for thick ice.
Rods, Reels, and Lines: Insights into choosing the right combo for the icy waters
Your ice fishing gear essentials should include at least a couple of ice fishing rods. Three is generally a good number so you can have at least two lines in the water at any given time (if legal in your area) and up to three that are rigged for different depths and maybe have different baits or lures.
A quality ice fishing rod and reel combo that is between about 3 feet and four feet in length is terrific for catching a variety of fish. You should match the ice fishing rod and reel with the kind of fish you want to catch.
A noodle rod and reel work great with panfish while an ice fishing rod that is medium-light or medium power will do fine for bigger fish, like walleye, pike, or lake trout.
Ice Fishing Line: Ice fishing line works best to prevent the line from icing up at the top of the hole. You might use 2-pound-test line for panfish and go heavier for larger fish with a 6- or 8-pound-test fishing line.
Monofilament or fluorocarbon work best because they resist abrasion caused by the ice.
Find out which lines are best for you at, The Ultimate Guide To The Best Ice Fishing Lines
Lures and Jigs: Tips on selecting the best ones based on target fish species
Your ice fishing gear should include a variety of the best ice fishing lures that work well with the type of fish you want to catch. Small jigs that glow in the dark and are tipped with live bait are terrific for panfish and perch. You can try Jiggin Raps, flutter spoons, and Swedish Pimple lures for bigger prey that like the flash and vibration created by many jigging ice fishing lures.
Tip-Ups: The advantage of fishing with multiple lines and top tip-up recommendations
A tip-up is another essential type of ice fishing gear that you can use to catch lake trout, northern pike, and other large fish. Tip-ups are simple in design and easy to use and tell you when a fish has hit the bait or lure by raising a flag. Once you see the flag flying, you check the line and set the hook if the fish is still there.
Advanced Ice Fishing Accessories for an Enhanced Experience
Some advanced ice fishing equipment can help you catch more fish and make your ice fishing trip more fun. Here’s a look at some of the more advanced ice fishing equipment that you might consider using.
Locating the Fish
Fish finders are essential ice fishing electronics that you should include with your ice fishing gear. You can drill a separate hole and use the fish finder to locate baitfish that attract predators and learn their depth. You also could locate panfish and other prey to make your time fishing more productive.
Comfort on Ice
An ice fishing shelter is terrific for giving you some shelter from the outdoor air and creating a warm and relatively comfortable ice fishing environment. Many ice anglers have an ice fishing shelter that they can use to make it easier to spend several hours or even a full day or night on the ice.
It’s also easier to see into the hole when the sun isn’t shining down on the ice fishing hole. A light and portable ice shelter is a great and reasonably affordable addition to your ice fishing gear.
Power on the Go: Introduction to ice fishing power stations, with a spotlight on the Anker 757 PowerHouse
The more time you spend on the ice during your ice fishing trip, the more you will need a portable source of power. Ice fishing power stations, like the Anker 757, are great additions to ice fishing gear that could power a portable electric heater, charge your cellphone, and provide light when the sun goes down. Those who started ice fishing long ago will marvel at the advancements in portable power.
The best way to stay warm is to have a portable propane heater or an electric heater if you have a power station among your ice fishing equipment. A propane heater requires ventilation when used inside an ice shelter.
Safety First: Ensuring a Safe Ice Fishing Expedition
Checking the Ice
You can use an ice sput to check the thickness of the ice by cutting a small hole in the ice until you hit the water. A ruler or tape measure can give you the exact thickness in a particular spot.
Safety Gear Essentials
Falling through the ice could happen even when there appears to be very thick ice underneath. You can check the ice thickness with an ice fishing spud bar that also is called an ice chisel. You also could buy an ice claw that you can use to dig into the ice to help pull yourself out. Mountain climbers use them to help stop them from sliding off the icy sections of mountains.
You also might use ice cleats to help maintain your balance and grip on slick ice. Carrying a section of rope that is 10 feet or so long can help give you a safety line. I’ve seen someone ice fishing with rope tied around his waist and dragging behind him in case he fell through the ice.
You can improve your traction on ice with a pair of ice cleats that have metal spikes and strap onto the bottoms of your boots. The cleats don’t have to be big, but they do need to help you maintain your footing.
Expert Tips and Tricks for a Successful Ice Fishing Trip
You’ll need to match the bait for the fish that you intend to catch while ice fishing. Many anglers use wax worms, spikes, and larvae for bluegill and other panfish. Live minnows are great for crappie, yellow perch, walleye, and other popular fish that also are delicious when caught through the ice.
Your fishing gear should include several commonly used ice fishing lures that you can use by jigging spoons and lures. Jigs that are brightly colored or glow in the dark are especially useful with soft plastics or live bait. You also might try a Swedish Pimple, jigging or flutter spoons, or flies that
Jigging vs. Tip-Ups
You can either jig your bait, lures, or flies or leave the rod or tip-up alone and let the lures, flies, or baits do the work of attracting fish. Some ice lures, like a Jiggin’ Rap or a flutter spoon, require jigging to make them work.
Bright colors usually are best when ice fishing because the ice and any snow cover make it impossible for much light to get through. I love glow-in-the-dark jigs, lures, and soft plastics to make it easier for fish to see them and strike.
Other Ice Fishing Gear
Release gear and landing gear
An ice angler should have hemostats or pliers to help quickly remove hooks from caught fish. If you are targeting pike or other larger fish, you might keep a gaff handy to pull a big pike or trout out of the water.
Every ice angler keeps an ice scoop nearby to scoop ice shavings, newly formed ice, and snow from ice holes. You need to keep the holes clear so the line does not freeze in place and cause you to miss strikes.
An ice chisel also is called an ice spud and serves two important purposes. It helps you open holes in the ice with the ability to make your hole as big as you want it. It also helps you check the ice to make sure it’s safe to walk on with your ice fishing gear.
Sled for transporting gear
A sled is great for hauling your ice fishing gear to where you intend to fish. You can put your ice fishing rod and other gear in the sled and pull it behind you, which helps to spread out your total weight while crossing the ice.
A bucket is a universal item that you can use on the ice and when fishing from shore during warmer months. You can use it to carry your ice fishing rod and other gear and then turn it upside down when your gear is deployed and sit on the bucket. When you are done ice fishing, you can use the bucket to hold your catch and your gear when you leave the ice.
Folding Chair or Stool
An ice fisherman spends a lot of time hunched over an ice fishing hole jigging or otherwise waiting for a strike. Ice anglers can carry folding chairs or stools to stay off the ice and prevent backaches from leaning over
A lantern powered by either fuel or a battery is the best way to give yourself a good amount of light while fishing after dark or when leaving the ice after sunset. A propane or kerosene lantern gives you the added benefit of heat to warm your hands.
You can include a floating livewell that is designed for use in ice fishing holes to keep your catch fresh and alive. A floating livewell extends down into the water and can hold a sizeable catch of fish. It’s too narrow to enable fish to move the livewell by trying to swim away.
Rod Guide Paste
You can use rod guide paste, like Stanley’s Ice-Off, to stop ice from forming in the eyelets and freezing your line in place.