ice fishing

Ice Fishing Basics for Beginners

Ice Fishing by Sean Obrien

We know that summer has just ended, and we are still in the heart of the fishing season.  This is just a quick reminder that even through the winter is approaching, the fishing season does not end.  Ice fishing is an unbelievably fun time out on the (frozen) water, and you can wind up with some serious fish as well.  We will take a look at some of the gear, techniques and safety concerns of standing on ice and then fishing through a hole you have cut in it.

The equipment required is multi – tiered, as you can get started for a very small amount, or you can go full on with many different updated items and specific ice fishing enclosures, and tools, etc. One of the most important items you will need is a tool to assist in cutting through the ice.  After you have verified the thickness of the ice, and that it is safe to not only walk on, but to cut holes in, the method that you utilize to cut becomes dependent on the tools at your disposal.   I have used everything from an axe (not recommended) to a hand auger ( works fine but tiring ) to a battery powered auger ( highly recommended, but expensive).  The bottom line is that you need some way to cut the ice.  After you have created your hole, you have options as far as what you will use to fish with through the hole.

I like poles specific to ice fishing, as they are very sensitive, and very small.  Another favorite is a tip up, which is basically a line attached to a flag, that will pop up when a strike occurs below the ice.  Either way, sensitivity is key for this part of your gear.   Another item that many place a great deal of importance on is some type of structure to fish from inside.  Although I can see the benefit of getting out of the wind, I have never used anything and have done just fine.  Some structures are little more than a tent or a windscreen, while others may have some type of coal or propane heating system inside.  Either way, although not necessary for the bulk of ice fishing, it does get a little chilly out there some days.


Techniques vary depending on the body of water and gear you are using, but there are not a whole lot of options because you are literally dropping line through a hole.  One of the better techniques is the use of strike indicators and a very small diameter line, because as the fish get sluggish in the colder weather, they will not strike aggressively.  Live bait can work wonder, as can small jigs under the ice. Jigging constantly is a tried and true ice fishing technique, especially for trout.  Sometime just twisting the line between your fingers is enough to get a strike.  Variety is important, and trying many different lures and baits and motions will result in more strikes overall.


Another key is to stick to the shore, as the panfish and trout in freshwater ponds and lakes switch spots during the winter.  The panfish go to the deeper areas of the water body while the trout go to the flat beds in shallower water.  For trout specifically, focus on what they would naturally be eating.  In the flats, they will dining on small invertebrates, and nymphs, small minnows, and various types of worms and maggots.

Ice fishing can be a great time with the right people and the right preparation.  It can also be a cold, uncomfortable length of time freezing your extremities on the ice.  Grab a thermos and your gloves, and get out there this winter.




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