How To Get Started In Ice Fishing

How To Get Started In Ice Fishing

Ice Fishing has changed significantly over the years is now one of the most popular activities during the wintertime.

So for some people, sitting on a frozen lake, staring down a hole the size of a dinner plate may not sound like fun, ice fishing for others is a quite rewarding activity.

Besides, ice fishing is more than just about fishing. It is an opportunity to gather with family and friends, pack your favorite snacks, and of course, catching the fish to take home for dinner is just icing on the cake.

Why is ice fishing so popular?

Over the years, ice fishing has slowly but steadily gained in popularity.

People around the US and Canada have started to look forward to ice fishing activities for more than just catching the fish.

Ice fishing is an opportunity to gather with family and friends and take part in a mutual activity while enjoying drinks, snacks and good company.

It’s also a great way to get out of the house during those cold, icy days and have an excuse to enjoy some delicious yet unhealthy snacks.

However, on a serious note ice fishing does have some real benefits as well, so let’s take a look at some of them.

1. Physical exercise

Man Drilling Ice For Ice Fishing

Unlike with rod and reel fishing, when it comes to ice fishing, you need to put in some hard work into it in order to score a trophy fish.

Additionally, you can’t just cast off wherever you like or move your boat to a new spot when the fish are not biting. So in order to be successful at ice fishing, you’ve got to be mobile.

If the fish are not biting, then you’ll need to pack up your gear onto your sled or on your snowmobile and take your car to a new location.

One of the things that can really work up a sweat is drilling holes which needs to be done whenever the fish are not biting. One of the most useful tools to drill holes is called a hand auger.

Depending on the circumstances, you may very well drill over a hundred holes in a single day on the ice during your ice fishing escapade.

Furthermore, once you drill your holes, you’ll need to keep an eye on them constantly to make sure they don’t freeze over again.

Either way, this all amounts to you breaking a sweat and staying in shape during the winter months.

2. Exploring Nature

Lots of people just hang up their outdoor gear during the winter and spend the colder months cuddled up indoors.

However, ice augers know that these are some of the best times to look out for nature’s incredible beauty.

Aside from drilling holes and catching fish, many ponds, lakes and rivers present an opportunity to see sights and animals that you would otherwise never get a chance to see from your couch.

Lots of wildlife can be spotted depending on your location. Moose, Deer, Elk as well as owls are all active during winter and can be spotted if you simply keep your eyes and ears open.

If you’re fishing at night, you’ll see the starry night sky without all the light pollution present in major cities. And if you are far enough north, you may very well see the northern lights as well.

Lots of ice fishing locations offer additional activities such as dog sledding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling to give you some variety.

3. Good eating

Group Of Man Eating On Ice Fishing

The fish that are most often targeted by anglers also happen to be the tastiest freshwater species out there.

Lake and rainbow trout, walleye, yellow perch and northern pike are both absolutely delicious in the pan, and as a bonus, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as frying your catch after a long day on the ice.

And if you stay on the ice overnight or for a long period of time, remember to bring along a small stove or grill which will allow you to cook your catch for lunch or dinner and prepare other food to keep you going.

4. Cost

Getting started in ice fishing will not cost you much. While you are certainly entitled to splurge on the latest ice fishing gear, clothing and accessories, you don’t necessarily have to.

All you really need to get started in ice fishing is a rod and reel, hand auger, as well as an ice chisel along with some appropriately warm clothing.

You can always step up your game with a pop-up shelter, heaters as well as high-tech fish finders and other fancy gear but it’s not completely necessary.

5. Cold exposure

While you might not think of the cold as a potential benefit of anything, least of all ice fishing, modern science is confident that cold exposure has a number of health benefits.

Much like long-distance running, and lifting heavy weights, cold exposure is a form of beneficial stress, and it is this type of stress which is referred to as eustress or hormetic stress.

Cold exposure is said to provide a number of health benefits such as increasing metabolism, improving sleep, reducing inflammation as well as improving immune system function.

Repeated exposure to the cold also causes the release of feel-good neurotransmitters which act to improve your mood and relax your body.

So when you think about it, there is nothing quite like the feeling of jumping in an ice-cold river, stream or lake.

You might have heard of the “wim hof method” which is a system of cold therapy and breathing techniques that are used by many people to induce a series of health benefits.

6. Stress relief

Woman Enjoying Ice Fishing

The solitude of ice fishing is attractive to people for lots of reasons.

Being out there on the ice and away from the hustle and bustle of daily life is one of the best ways to relieve your mind from stressors.

Similar to hunting or hiking, getting out in nature and away from the routine distractions of life allows you to clear your head.

Irrespective of whether you choose to fish with family and friends or alone, you’ll find that being out there on a frozen lake with a simple mission of catching fish is a welcome reprieve from normal life.

7. Safety

Ice fishing is probably one of the safest outdoor activities to take part in, though it may not seem like it at first.

As long as you stick to the basic guidelines and take the necessary precaution, don’t take unnecessary risks and remain aware of the ice thickness at all times, you’ll do just fine.

They are a few key pieces of ice fishing safety gear that will help to enhance your overall ice fishing experience. 

An ice chisel for checking ice thickness and quality, cleats, ice picks and a flotation suit with all work together to keep you out of danger.

8. Great for the kids

It’s true that kids love ice fishing just as much as their parents. It’s one of the best ways to introduce your kids to the great outdoors and get them accustomed to ice fishing early on.

It will take some work to get your kids to sit still long enough just to catch anything; however, once they get the hang of it, they will probably be enthusiastic ice anglers for life.

However, if you are focused on doing some serious fishing, then you may want to leave the kids at home until they are older.

Save the family trips for days when you want to simply relax and take it easy and getting a catch is just a bonus.

9. Character building

Holding Fish

This is probably one of the major benefits of ice fishing, however, also one of the most overlooked benefits.

When something is easy, anyone can do it, even an average Joe, making it ordinary. However, when something is hard, only those who put in the required effort and discipline will make it succeed.

Ice fishing definitely falls into the latter category. In order to be successful at this sport, you need to brave the cold and wind, drill hole after hole and also enjoy the disappointment of coming up empty-handed.

The rewards, however, in spite of these possible pitfalls are worth these inconveniences. When you do finally catch a trophy fish, the feeling of accomplishment is more satisfying than anything else.

Main differences between regular and ice fishing

While regular fishing and ice fishing both involve catching fish, there are some differences.

For one, regular fishing can be done all year round in open water.

Most people who do regular fishing also take their boats out into the water, so when the fish are not biting in one spot, they can simply move the boat to another.

With ice fishing, snowmobiles and sleds are used on the ice. And before you even start fishing, you’ll need to drill a hole. If fish are not biting, then you’ll need to drill another hole and so on.

Unlike ice fishing, since regular fishing is done all-year-round, you have the benefit of fishing in warm weather, so you don’t need special clothing or protective clothing. 

With ice fishing, it’s done during the winter season which is usually in the biting cold and wind.

So you’ll need to wear warm, protective gear such as ice fishing bibs, jackets, hats, gloves, waterproof boots and so on in addition to plenty of warm underlayers of clothing.

With regular fishing, you would use a regular rod and reel whereas, with ice fishing, the reels are much shorter; however, they are more sensitive.

The reason for this is because it is hard to detect the fish biting under the ice, so ice fishing rods and reels usually have sensitive tips to make the detection easier.

You also need to use special gear such as fish detecting equipment to find out exactly where the fish are since you can’t exactly see them through the ice.

The difference in the gear

Ice Fishing Rod and Bait

Ice fishing is an incredibly rewarding sport, and enthusiastic anglers already know this. However, you certainly don’t want to be in the biting cold and wind without preparation.

Therefore you need the essential ice fishing gear to pierce through the ice and fish comfortably.

Ice fishing clothing

When it comes to apparel, there’s special clothing for ice fishing. In addition to this, you will need some upper body layers as well.

Some of the recommendations from experienced anglers for upper body clothing are:

  • An athletic compression long-sleeve
  • A second layer such as a cotton long-sleeve that is absorbent
  • The third layer of fleece which is water-resistant is appropriate.
  • The fourth layer of clothing should be wind-resistant and water-resistant as well.

For legs:

  • A general use bib snow pants is ideal with suspenders.
  • To keep your feet protected, medium height water-resistant snow boots are recommended paired with wool socks.
  • Keep your hands warm, and water-free when you invest in a pair of water-resistant mittens.
  • When it comes to keeping your head protected, anything that covers your ears such as a beanie will do the trick.
  • For especially windy days, a neck and face warmer is also recommended.

Ice fishing huts/shanties

Yellow Ice Fishing Shaunty

If you spend any time at all ice fishing, then you know the value of an ice fishing shelter.

For serious ice augers, a good and preferably portable ice fishing shelter is essential to the overall ice fishing experience.

For those that don’t go ice fishing, they think that anyone who spends any time at all on a frozen lake in the biting cold has to be just a little crazy.

However, for ice fishing enthusiasts, you couldn’t pay them enough to stay away from the ice.

Ice fishing shelters have evolved over the years, and one of the biggest advantages of the models and styles these days is that they contain ease of collapsing, setting up and moving around.

It also provides somewhat of a personal haven and protection from the cold and wind when you want to take a little break away from ice fishing.

Ice fishing gear

Some of the ice fishing gear you need to heighten your experience include:

5-gallon Bucket

This is basically the body of your ice fishing operation.

Not only does it help to keep the bait fresh and store the tackle, but it also facilitates the transportation of gear and provides you with a makeshift seat while ice fishing.

Ultimately, this is a critical component of the process.

Ice Auger

Ice Fishing Auger In Hand

The ice auger is your go-to tool to break through the ice and fish.

Most of them are adjustable, and they are an effective and affordable way to get started. The hand-held augers are a practical way to get started as well.

Ice Scoop

The ice scoop is probably one of the most effective ice fishing tools. Once you drill a hole, a sizable portion of slush will fill up the channel.

This hinders, dropping a line and landing fish. So all you need to do after you drill the hole is lower the scoop horizontally and scoop vertically letting the waterfall filter through and discard the slush to the side.

Rod And Reel

The rod and reel used in ice fishing is different to the regular ones.

In most cases, you’ll find a combo which is light enough to feel Panfish while also giving you a chance to target modestly sized predators like Pike and walleye.

Ice fishing reels are also more sensitive since it is harder to detect fish through the ice.

So you’ll find that the rods and reels designed for ice fishing have a more sensitive tip to make detection easier.

Jigs, Spikes And Bait

Lures Hanging

Jigs and spikes are also essential for your ice fishing experience. Live bait is also recommended, but you may choose to use plastic ones if that is your preference.

Provided your state allows it, it is recommended that you pair your rod and reel combo with a tip-up set up.

The tip-up allows you to target larger species such as walleye and pike, if they are present in the body of water you’re fishing in.

It also allows you to set a trap for larger predators while jogging with your combo setup for Panfish.


Ice fishing is one of the best ways to remain active and spend time with family and friends during the winter season.

Catching your trophy fish is simply a highlight of the entire experience.

Be sure to invest in the proper gear and equipment to make sure that your overall ice fishing experience is a safe, comfortable and memorable one.

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