Before you can go out and have an ice adventure, you will need to have the requisite tools to ice fish like a pro.
For starters, you are going to need a way to transport all of your ice fishing gear while you are out on the ice. To that end, a quality sled or toboggan should do nicely.
Then, you will need tools to adequately drill a hole and handle ice-related tasks. For this, you will need an ice auger, an ice chisel and possibly a skimmer as well. The ice auger is your primary tool for drilling a hole in the ice, which should not be any larger than 12 inches across. Drilling a hole that is too large can pose an unnecessary safety risk. An ice chisel can also be used instead of an auger during the early ice fishing season when the ice is not as thick. A skimmer, or ice scoop, is used to scoop out excess ice slush and chips from the fishing hole.
Now that you have the tools you need to actually make and maintain the ice fishing hole, you will need somewhere to sit. A small stool should do the trick, and many an economical ice fisher has made do with a 5-gallon bucket. You’ll also need a bucket to hold your bait and a dip net to retrieve the minnows in your bait bucket while keeping yourself dry. Beyond these ice fishing essentials, you really only need standard fishing gear and hooks that an experienced fisherman already knows by heart. That said, a hook disgorger is worth a special mention since it can be difficult to get your fishing hook out of the fish in slippery, wet and icy conditions.
Finally, be sure to break warm and durable boots, clothes and a charged cell phone just to be on the safe side. And speaking of safety, here are a few important safety tips to keep in mind when stepping out on the ice.
Ice Fishing Safety – To stay safe while ice fishing, drill a test hole close to shore before venturing too far out. The test hole should indicate that there is four inches of thick, clear ice like the ice you can find in your freezer at home. New and clear ice is stronger than older ice. If you want to go ice fishing on white ice, double the previously mentioned thickness requirement. If there is two inches or less of new, thick and clear ice, avoid ice fishing because the area is simply too dangerous.
It is also a good idea to wear a life jacket for additional safety, not to mention the extra layer of warmth that it will provide on a frigid day. Also, many state laws require that your ice fishing hole be no more than 12 inches across in diameter for safety reasons, and this is a good general rule to follow.
Where to Ice Fish – Of course, you also need to know the best spots for ice fishing. While some ice fishers use fish finding technology, you don’t have to. If you prefer going the natural route, pay attention to where the fish might swim in warmer weather. If there is a popular coastline that is usually teeming with fish, that is probably a good spot for ice fishing as well.
Once you find a good spot for your hole, consider the depth at which you are fishing as well. Fish tend to swim horizontally at one depth during the winter, so if you aren’t getting any bites, raise or lower the depth level accordingly. And, if you haven’t had a bite after varying the depth levels for a half hour or so, switch locations and try again.