Ice Fishing 101

Ice Fishing 101

Ice Fishing 101: A Guide for Beginners

If you’re eager to catch the fish that live beneath the ice in the extreme north or south of the world, you’ll need to pick up ice fishing and make its methods into your own.

Ice fishing might appear to be a highly technical endeavor or something that is reserved for indigenous peoples, but in fact, it’s a very accessible hobby — so long as you’re willing to go where the fish are and bring the right gear.

In this article, we’ll be walking you through the basics of ice fishing so that you can start putting together your fishing gear and making the trek to the frozen lakes where there are plenty of fish for the taking.

What You’ll Need

The gear for ice fishing is a little bit different than normal fishing equipment.

To go ice fishing, you’ll need:

  • Reliable off-road transportation
  • An ice drill, saw, or pick
  • A fishing rod, spear, or club
  • Warm weather gear
  • Standard fishing equipment like bait, lures, and buckets

Though they aren’t explicitly necessary, you can also consider bringing along:

  • Decoys
  • A portable shelter
  • A fish finder
  • Snacks
  • Fresh water
  • Camp cooking equipment
  • Prep knives for fish

Setting Up

Once you’ve assembled the essentials, it’s time to find the right lake. Assuming that you want to catch herring or lake trout, you’ll need to head to the far north of the US, Canada, Scandinavia, or Russia.

The lake of your choice will probably have a reputation for ice fishing during certain months. If it doesn’t, you should be careful to only go fishing during the months when the lake is frozen to a significant degree.

In other words, you’ll need at least three inches of ice to safely walk on a lake and set up your fishing position. You should strive to measure the thickness of the ice yourself wherever you plan on setting up your position so that you won’t accidentally end up in the freezing water.

If you plan on bringing much gear, you’ll need to find a spot with thicker ice. Anything heavier than a person and a big bag of gear will require six inches of ice thickness or more to safely set up a position.

Once again, most ice fishing lakes are known for having the ice of this thickness at certain times of the year, and not at other times of the year. Late or early winter are especially dangerous, so be sure to check with locals before venturing onto the ice.

Aside from thickness considerations, you’ll also want to find a spot on the lake where there is water that is deep enough for fish to flow freely. This is where a fish finder comes in handy. You’ll have better luck far from the shore, of course.

Fishing In The Cold

Once you’ve found your spot, it’s time to drill. Using your ice saw, ice pick, or ice drill, make a hole in the ice that is one foot in diameter. Then, clear away the excess ice so that you can see down into the water.

Set up your lure, stool, bait, and pole. Drop your line in there, and take a seat. Now, you’re ice fishing. Not very hard, right?

As we all know, the hard part about fishing is that the fish have a mind of their own. You may need to wait for a long time before you get a bite.

The trick is to keep your lure about one or two feet beneath the top of the ice. It can be difficult to judge this from the surface, which is yet another reason why you may want a fish finder.

Aside from that, you’ll be able to feel your line tug normally when a fish takes the bait. Pull the fish right on up, and throw it into the bucket for later.

Remember to stay warm while you’re out on the ice — but don’t forget that making a campfire isn’t a viable option!