Having the correct ice fishing gear is essential to ensure that you have a good day fishing and remain warm and comfortable out on the ice. Ice fishing can be a thrilling experience for those who enjoy the social aspect of being on the ice with others or for those who enjoy the quiet solitude of the winter landscape. One thing that is essential, however, is quality gear.
Here are some basic things you will need before you hit the ice:
The very least you will need is a rod, a reel, a hook, lines, bait, a stool to sit on, and of course a current fishing license. Wax worms or meal worms are the easiest to keep alive in cold weather so they are the most highly recommended sources of bait. If you want to use lures, buy ice flies or small jigs. Fish bite more softly in the winter months so buying a spring bobber or tip ups will help you detect when the fish have bitten. Many experienced fishermen like to use a sonar system to help them detect where the pools of fish are located.
You can opt to use pre drilled holes made by other fisherman and if you choose to do this you will want to bring something with you to break the thin ice that will form over the holes as time passes. If you enjoy drilling your own holes you will need an ice auger or digging bar. A manual auger is perfectly fine if you are digging through a small amount of ice. To form a hole in ice that is more than two feet deep you will probably want a gas powered auger. A gas powered auger will enable an angular to drill hundreds of holes per day as they follow the pools of biting fish.
One important thing to note is that it is essential to bring something with you to check the thickness of the ice before venturing out. Ice safety guidelines advise that ice walking is safe for 4 inches of ice, snowmobiles are safe in 6 inches of ice, cars are stable in 12 inches of ice, and trucks require at least 16 inches of solid ice. Be aware that in the later months of winter ice can become unstable in some areas. However, ice is generally shallower the closer you get to shore so you are likely to be safer the further out you go.
For extended ice fishing trips (more than one day) the angler may opt to fish out of a shanty. Portable houses are made with heavy material and are watertight. Permanent shelters are made of wood or metal and have wheels for easy transport via snowmobiles or trucks. Some ice shanties can be quite elaborate and include beds, kitchens, bathrooms, and even satellite dishes. Having a heated cabin can be essential when fishing for extended periods of time.
And let’s not forget one of the most important pieces of ice fishing gear: proper attire! Without the proper clothing a wonderful ice fishing experience can turn into a miserable excursion. Your aim is to retain heat, keep dry, be wind resistant and light so you can move freely. Luckily there is a new fabric on the market, the moisture wicking microfiber fabrics are excellent at providing the qualities you need.
Dress in Many Layers!
In selecting your gear, you need to concentrate on keeping warm and dry. This is best achieved by wearing several layers and not one large jacket that attempts to do it all. There are primarily three layers required.
An inner, middle and outer layer. Each layer has a purpose, the inner layer needs to keep moisture off your skin. The middle layer is where you need the insulation and the outer layer should be the protection against the wind and moisture.
Since ice fishing has many risks attached to it, careful consideration must be given to your gear. There could potentially be an emergency or blizzard that could leave you stranded, without the correct protection hypothermia is a real possibility. This should still be the considered even if you have a shelter.
The essential ice fishing clothing:
Moisture wicking underlayer – this material is commonly available at most good sport stores. The material is designed to absorb the moisture from your skin, in so doing will not leave you with a damp feeling that the cold can grip and penetrate down to your bones. The clothing will be marketed mainly for a work out in the gym, but these items will surely benefit you in winter as an inner layer.
Warming layer- an essential part of your ice fishing gear can be found in the more traditional materials that have always been used for warming against the severe cold. Fleece and Wool are the most common fabrics but remember that if you use these then they need to have one side with an additional qualities for wind and moisture. The most popular choice presently is Microfiber as it has all the qualities, warmth, lightweight, wind and water resistant.
Wind and water resistance – The two common materials used for the outer layer are leather or nylon. Both can act as a wind and water resistant layer; however nylon is much lighter and can be carried in pouches or even in a tackle box.
Foot Protection – You do not want to get frostbite on your feet so take care of them. You need a pair of Ice Fishing Boots, moisture wicking socks, extra socks and if you can, two pairs of felt liners. Felt liners will be very welcome if you have a tendency to get damp feet. You may also want to consider a good pair of ice cleats and ice spikes to help you walk.
There are also the miscellaneous ice fishing gear items that are required to feel comfortable in freezing conditions such as: Ice Fishing Gloves, goggles, scarves, face-masks or wool hats with ear flaps. Keeping your extremities warm is paramount to a successful and enjoyable trip.