Recently a caller to Fan Outdoors stated he was interested in ice fishing and attempting to plan his first trip. Looking for some success he asked what knowledge and equipment he’d need? Initially my thought was “that’s easy!” But then if you put yourself in his place with his mindset and zero knowledge, with the exception of hearsay and tv ice anglers the answers become much more difficult and involved. Believe me I know because that was me with deer hunting a long time ago. Zero knowledge, an old borrowed rifle, red coveralls, no mentor and clueless. However I did have private family land to explore. The first 3 years of my experience were prime examples too seeing only tracks in mud and snow and being brutally honest I couldn’t tell if the animals had been coming or going! Obviously they were going and gone! Thus the caller’s question was one I could relate to. So if you’re looking for some advanced ice insight here sorry to disappoint. My goal is an attempt to create a foundation of sorts on which to build additional ice fishing experiences. So let’s begin:
First and most obvious would be to partner with experience, friend or family member having been there before with equipment and places to go making success much easier to find. But if that’s not an option, well here goes. Financially decide how badly you want to do this and how many dollars you want to invest. To make success easier begin with panfish and probably sunnies. They’re prolific, relatively common, not real fussy about biting and great eating along with being fun to catch. (Filleting fish is a topic for another time though) So now to start- you’ll need a rod and reel, probably light to ultra light action and open face spinning. Clam has a great lineup but there are many out there. Since the holidays are past most are on sale now too. Should be able to get by with about $30. Also pick up a spool of line and I’d recommend 2 lb Berkley XL or Fluorocarbon P-Line for these smaller species. Check You Tube for how to spool the line. Next you’ll probably need an inexpensive ice dipper to clean ice chips from your hole. If you choose a popular destination on a nice day probably can get by without an auger too using an old recently abandoned hole. Next is electronics. Although you can catch fish without these I highly recommend borrowing, renting or buying a flasher. I use the Humminbird 55 and a Helix 5 but a good less expensive unit is the Humminbird 35. If you look around you may even find a used unit. The Vexilar FL-8 has been around a long time and another good choice. Why electronics you ask? In my opinion it is the most important component to making ice fishing fun. Almost like a video game or a game of cat and mouse. You can actually see the fish coming to bite or even if there’s nothing there-that too. The other option would be bobber fishing with a hook, bobber stop, split-shot type of lead weight and a small yellow foam bobber. You’ll also probably need a heavier lead wt w/alligator clip to clip on your hook to find the bottom setting your bobber to put your bait 6”- 3’ off the bottom. This functions effectively but is much less interactive than using a flasher. Actually I find this boring and without electronics probably would prefer not to go. Now for some tackle. Really not much is needed but some hooks, split-shot, bobbers, a few assorted panfish ice jigs (check with a local bait shop to see what’s working) and some live bait, minnows, eurolarve and/or wax worms. Now for the fishing part. On the lake with bait rigged put the transducer into the hole deep enough to get the ducer just below the ice bottom. Next turn on the unit and adjust sensitivity to see the bottom. It will be a bright red line also showing the water depth. Drop your jig down being sure the flasher is turned up enough to see the bait drop and now the fun begins. Angle angle angle! You’ll see fish come to your bait on the screen and as it bites all this will begin to make sense. Dave Genz has told me he “loves fishing for those little red lines!” Oh yea bring a 5-gal bucket too for fish, sitting on and various things you will soon discover.
If choosing to buy an auger I recommend the K-drill powered with an 18V drill (you provide this). See it at www.Icefishingtoday.com . Quiet and light. A shelter and Buddy Heater might also be an option so be sure to check on the complete line of Clam houses from pop-ups to tub units.
The real bottom line is that the sport of ice fishing is tremendous fun. It’s easy and relatively inexpensive to get started. After that it’s really surprising how much there is to learn and the satisfaction you’ll get from becoming an active participant!
Now Good Luck - Have Fun and Be Safe!!! Remember no ice is ever 100% safe!
Questions? Give us a call on Fan Outdoors Saturdays from 6am-8am for answers!!!