Ice fishing is one of the winter joys. So, if you are a summer angler, it is time to indulge in your favourite outdoor activity, no matter the season.
It is not necessarily easier, but the challenge of ice fishing is what many anglers yearn for. The serenity and solitude of cold weather plus other obstacles are some of the interesting things you might not experience in summer. Plus, you will enjoy a bug-free environment.
Of course, you will have to make some changes to your gear and attire to enjoy fishing all year round.
Below, I will explain important things you need to know before going ice fishing.
5 things you need to know before going ice fishing
1. Safety when ice fishing
Just like any outdoor adventure, your safety comes first while ice fishing. The most important safety precaution is to tag a friend when heading out. You should always ensure there is someone who can help in an accident. Hypothermia can set in at any time and can kill easily. And, having someone respond immediately to the emergency saves the day.
Inform someone at home about your day’s activity, i.e., ice fishing location and your return time. If you fail to come back at the expected time and no one can reach you, they can call emergency services for help.
Another important safety tip is always to carry a first aid kit, cell phone, life jacket, flotation suit, throw rope, and ice rescue claws or picks. While it might seem a lot, it is better to have them as they come in handy in emergencies. And read the owner’s manual before operating the ice drill for the first time. The tool is used for drilling holes, and it can cause injuries if mishandled.
When you get to your fishing location, always check for points of weakness, i.e., discoloured, wavy, or broken patches, before walking to your angling spot. Ensure the ice you are walking on is at least 4-inches thick. When driving, the ice should be over a foot thick.
Keep checking as you walk along, as the ice thickness may vary from one foot to the other due to undercurrents. Please do not take a step until you are sure it is safe for you.
Lastly, it is important to leave your fishing location before dusk. Finding your way out off the ice can be tricky at night, especially if you do not have a navigation device.
2. Ice fishing gear you will need
Before heading out to your fishing location, you will need to buy basic gear, i.e., a rod, an ice skimmer, a drill or auger, and a few jigs. You can use your normal fishing rod, but consider getting an ice fishing rod if you plan to ice fish regularly. It is shorter to keep it free from ice and monitor your fishing closer to the hole.
Apart from basics, you will need proper clothing to keep you warm. Get yourself a waterproof jacket, snowsuit or a bib overall, sweatshirt, long underwear, moisture-wicking base layer, waterproof boots, thick wool socks, gloves, ski mask, and a hat.
An ice fishing shelter is another gear that you can consider carrying along. Though not essential, it makes your time on the ice more comfortable, especially on windy or extra cold days. Plus, if you plan to fish for long hours or tag your kids along, the shelter comes in handy.
3. Fishing species to expect
The available fish species depend on the exact angling location and water body size. It would be best to research the ideal lakes and species that can be found to prepare the best ice fishing method to use.
Most of the fish you can catch during winter are the same as those available in summer. Fish don’t just leave the waters; therefore, you can get sturgeon, trout, walleye, pike, sunfish, perch, bluegill, and crappie during the cold season.
But your fishing style is definitely going to change. The fish tend to be slower in winter due to food scarcity and cold waters. So, fishing techniques such as light rod angling, tip-up fishing, spear-fishing, and clubbing work well. Be slow and easy to land a catch!
4. Familiarize with ice fishing basics
Before you head out to your ice fishing location, familiarize yourself with the local laws and regulations. Also, ensure your fishing license is ready at all times.
Ice fishing also involves making a hole to get to your catch. Once on the ice, you will use an ice saw, auger, chisel, or drill to dig down through the ice.
The hole should be between 8-10-inches wide. This is small enough so people won’t accidentally fall in and big enough to pull the catch through. Once your hole is ready, use ice skimmers to keep it clear and ice-free.
5. Patience pays
When I say patience pays, it might sound funny. But, in ice fishing, you will have to learn and expect to be patient before you head out. The fish are slow, and you may strike out and go home empty-handed during your first trip. Do not lose hope! Use the failure as a lesson for your next trip.
If you are determined, you might end up fishing on ice the whole day. Carry food and other distractions to help you pass the time as you wait for the catch. For instance, you can tag a dog along to watch it play with balls to avoid getting bored. Hot drinks and water are also necessary to keep you hydrated all day long!
Key Insights & Takeaway!
Ice fishing is the secret of transforming the dull winter months into a fun and rewarding experience. Of importance is to keep safe, dress properly, get the right gear (you can repurposed some of your summer gear), research on the best ice fishing location and species to expect, know the basics, and above all, be patient. With time and practice, you will become a pro!