As fall comes to a close, the snow is starting to pile up and the ice is getting thicker by the day. This is the time for us fishermen to start discussing what to take ice fishing. Ice fishing is often a brutal albeit effective way to catch some great fish in the winter season. During this time, there is always more to say about what to bring with you so you can catch fish, stay warm, remain safe, and have a great time.
In this post, we will discuss all of the basic equipment you will need to catch fish under the ice and have a great time doing it. Forget the extras. If you can just manage to bring the basics, you can catch fish! Just remember to include certain things so that you can fish effectively and stay warm.
Always remember that ice fishing is a great method to use if you do not want to stop fishing in the colder months. It is always possible. You will just need some basic equipment to ensure success. For the essentials, let’s see what those are.
Bring Some Items To Wick The Cold
1. A Great Ice Shelter Or Shanty
If there is one thing you shouldn’t be without, it’s shelter. Having a great ice shelter is imperative when you will be spending a prolonged amount of time in snow, sleet, and possibly rain or hail. Having a good shelter will ensure that you can catch fish comfortably because it will keep you out of most of the elements.
I don’t believe that there is another piece of ice fishing gear more important than an ice shelter. At temperatures as low as -10 degrees or less in some instances, you should want a great ice refuge. I did a review on a great one that I believe fits many people for a reasonable price!
Okay, so you probably saw this one coming. Ice fishing for bass and other fish consists of a lot more than a goodwill jacket and a pair of sweatpants. When we are talking about what to wear ice fishing, layer it up. Although it’s unusual to think of wearing bison fur jackets and Eskimo trapper hats to your favorite fishing spots, it’s not wrong. You don’t need to go that far but dress in layers.
Long-sleeved undergarments, long socks, long pants and shirts, jackets, insulated gloves, and a suitable hat will work wonders for your internal body temperature.
3. A Portable Heater And A Power Supply
A heater is an optional but very welcome addition to any ice fishermen’s arsenal. I have never met anybody who fishes in sub-zero-degree temperatures and told me that they wish they didn’t have their heater with them. A heater does a great job of helping by serving many functions.
It does put out heat and it can heat your shelter from the inside out keeping you warmer as a result. In addition to that, the heat is enough to defrost your other gear if it gets frozen such as your reel or even numb hands.
Don’t Forget The Main Ice Working Tools
1. An Auger For Drilling Holes In The Ice
Putting a hole in the ice that is big enough to put a lure or hook in is going to be impossible without an auger. You can use a hand drilling auger or a motorized one. Really, the only differences between them are weight, price, and convenience. Both will achieve the same result.
You will want to use a good auger that is well-designed to cut through the ice sheets with ease. Another way of staying warm is to conserve unused heat. Use an auger with a sharp blade to cut down on the amount of effort exerted when using a hand crank system.
2. If An Auger Is Not Available, Use An Ice Spud
The good old ice spud is all there used to be before augers were a thing. back in the good old days, the ice spud or ice chisel was all an angler could take with them. It is a long steel bar with a blade on one end. The primary purpose is for making holes, cleaning up holes, breaking through refrozen holes, and even testing the ice. Even today, they still remain a versatile tool to have on you.
The ones made today boast higher-quality material construction than the ones of yesteryear and they still serve as a cost-effective option for many.
3. Ice Skimmer To Clean Up Drilled Holes
Once you have a hole drilled, the next thing you should do is clean it up. Use an ice skimmer to accomplish this. An ice skimmer is for the task of taking the slush out of your fishing hole. In other words, it helps grab the ice and makes the hole clean.
It doesn’t do much good to finally break the ice when it’s filled with snowcone slurries. Ice skimmers look very similar to turkey skimmers in their appearance and for all intents and purposes, they also serve the same function to the user in removing the surface solids from the liquid.
1. A Great Ice Fishing Rod And Reel
There is a ton of value inside a great ice fishing rod paired with a quality reel. There are so many brands, designs, and models out there today that there really are none that beat the rest. They all have their place and this subject alone is about as deep as the ocean is already. What to look for in a quality ice rod and reel combo is quality, materials, and weight classes.
Apply the same logic that you would to open-water fishing. Ultralight graphite rods for panfish and stout heavy fiberglass for trout, salmon, char, and pike.
2. Always Use Coldwater “Ice” Fishing Line
While basic fishing lines and “ice” fishing lines are all made from the same materials, the ice fishing lines are better suited for working well on the reels used. These specialty lines are better at imparting action to lures, have less line memory, and can be seen easier than the competitors. Fishing lines have differences that can be seen when you expose them to certain temperatures.
I recommend you use those. As far as comparing monofilament to fluorocarbon and fluorocarbon to braid, none are right or wrong. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.
3. Always Bring The Right Lures Or Bait
When it comes to bait, choosing the right one is key to success. Some live baits don’t perform well in the cold and the ones that do are not always readily snapped up by our scaled friends. Which bait you use depends on what fish you want to catch. Bring wax worms, maggots, mealworms, nightcrawlers, and minnows.
Insects for your trout or panfish and minnows for your pike bass, or salmon. Rig them on a jighead. When you choose a lure, use a jigging option. Use a jigging spoon or a suspending jig regardless of the intended species.
Extras That Are Optionally Amazing
1 A Fish Finder And A Portable Power Supply
The fish finder works wonders by using sonar frequencies to find the fish. Although the approach is a little different, most fish finders of today can be converted readily to pick up signals and locate fish through a hole in the ice. All you would need is a portable power supply and the right adapter.
The best fish finders let you know how far the fish are in any direction which will allow you to plan accordingly. I believe a fish finder is actually more helpful for ice fishing because you cannot see under it. Certainly, consider getting one if you don’t have one already.
2. Pliers Multitool
A good multitool is something you should have with you anyways. Not a simple pair of pliers either. While those are certainly needed for removing hooks, you should also have a tool that packs a knife, a screwdriver, a file, a split ring tooth, and so on. The more tools you can have in one device, the better.
It just better equips you for that one time that you wish you had a knife and don’t. Things are never foreseen happening when they actually do. Whether that situation is mild or serious, you just don’t know. It is better when you are prepared.
3. Rod Holder
Finally, a rod holder can completely free your hands as you wait for a bite to bend your rod over. These are not essential and you certainly can catch fish without them but they help manage fatigue a lot. Just anchoring a rod holder to the ice sheet and waiting is a great alternative to holding the rod the entire time waiting on it.
They also allow the use of fishing multiple holes at the same time without jeopardizing setting the hook or losing the rod. I believe that they allow you to not just fish easier but better as well.
Conclusion – The Basics Are More Than Enough
To conclude, the items you take ice fishing are for keeping you warm, efficient, and safe on the water. An ice shelter is a must, a way to break the ice is needed, and your special ice fishing gear should come too. On top of that, you need a tool in case the hole refreezes. If you have all of the basics, you can catch fish with this sport anytime there is ice.
It is just important that you remember where you are fishing, what species you are after, and that you adjust your skills accordingly.
Although I am a minimalist and prefer carrying the least amount necessary to any given spot, I also realize that for ice fishing, you can consolidate a lot with what you bring. The basics are essential but anything else you decide is purely up to you. What has been your experience with bringing items on the ice? Let us know in the comments!
David Moore is the CEO and founder of Moore & Co. He has experience in tackle-making, fishing, boating, and wildlife conservation. Now an established name in the industry, David calls Ohio home. You can reach him at www.onestoptackleshop.com.