Getting Ready For Ice Fishing


With October drawing to a speedy close, it’s time to think about getting ready for ice fishing in the northern states. Hunting season is on, and that’s a timely reminder to start preparing for ice fishing. Early prep means you can go out as soon as it’s safe for deep winter angling experiences.

Events such as the Gull Lake Ice Fishing Extravaganza in Minnesota attract huge numbers of enthusiasts from all over the world, angling for the $150,000 prize money besides some great catches. 

# A Very Brief History Of Ice Fishing

Most people wonder who were the first people who thought of chopping through a frozen layer of water and finding live fish to catch. There is some evidence to show that the practice seems to have existed 2000 years ago among the Native Indian populations of the United States and Canada. They knew that there were live fish below the frozen water that could be a food source for them.

Early ice fishing equipment seems to have been sharpened wooden harpoons or bone tipped spears. The ancients discovered early on that if they built a structure above the hole chopped in the ice, the fish would not see the light that would shine in. Later, anglers constructed a hut or housing structure on top of the hole and hung a bait into the hole to attract bigger fish. This was the earliest type of dark-house fishing.

Europeans were first introduced to dark-house fishing in the 16th century. The ice auger was invented in the 19th century, and the tip-up technique was perfected in the 1930s, allowing ice anglers to maintain several holes simultaneously. The pop-up ice fishing tent was patented in the 1980s, making the construction of the “dark house” complete in a matter of seconds. Sonar locators, GPS trackers, and sophisticated electronics rule the sport today, with advanced styling in rods, reels, and lures.

# Top Tips To Get Ready For Ice Fishing



No matter how experienced or passionate you are about ice fishing, the cardinal rule is to wait until the ice is completely safe before you venture out.

Just because you see another person out there, that doesn’t mean it’s OK for you to immediately head out. However, if you see large groups and a couple of four-wheel vehicles, it could indicate safety.

If you’re not sure, err on the side of caution. Patience pays off finally, especially if you are responsible for someone else who has accompanied you.

Wait till there are at least 4-6 inches of solid ice. Some lakes may have underwater warm springs that could create patchy spots. While you wait, get your other stuff ready.


Dress Right

Always wear a life jacket, no matter how experienced you are. Invest in good quality winter attire. Your base layer next to the skin should mop up moisture instantly, but not retain it. Polyester fits the bill.

Wool or nylon shirts are ideal, but other great options include Spandex or Lycra. Layer three should be preferably of dense, top quality fleece/wool to retain body heat.

The final layer should be waterproof yet breathable. Feet require special attention. Make sure your feet are well protected and dry at all times.

Woolen, synthetic or fleecy socks with sturdy, non-slip ice boots are perfect. Waterproof, strong, flexible, and insulated gloves are a must. Keep a full, alternate set in your car, including innerwear. 


Prep Your Gear

If you use a power auger, ensure that you have enough fully-charged batteries and back-ups. Make sure the blades are sharp so that they cut through the ice smoothly and quietly to avoid spooking the fish.

Check your sonar equipment and make sure it’s working well. Try and open the season with a fresh line. Ice fishing requires lighter lines compared to the ones used on open water. Ice fishing needs fresh, top-quality line for maximum results.

Ultra light reels are chosen for this sport. Here are some good ice fishing reels. They are much less expensive than open water reels because the equipment you require to catch species such as crappie, perch, and sunfish is less complex and more common. Get your tackle ready for the hard water environment. 

The rods used for ice fishing are surprisingly tiny in the range of 24-36 inches and are in sync with the types of lures, baits, and presentations targeted along being specific to the fish species of your choice.

You can also buy good quality reel and rod combos specially designed for ice fishing. Small baits work best because of the vertical presentation.



Fit yourself out with handy accessories such as a big five-gallon bucket. This is a versatile piece that can be used to haul your gear, park your rods, and finally load up with your catch of the day.

You can also use them as seats to rest on while you wait for your fish to bite. Tip ups are great to give you a signal when the fish has taken the bait. Keep a good toolbox handy with pliers and forceps and a rod holder that fits on the rim of your bucket.

Invest in a small plastic sled with a flat bottom to help you haul your stuff about on icy surfaces. This is safer than an ATV or snowmobile, especially when you’re not sure about the quality of the ice.



Smaller jigs are the best lures for ice fishing. You can use them in combination with live bait or pint-sized softer, plastic ones. Spoon jigs and tungsten jigs are ideal if they’re matched to the bait and the target fish. Pick biodegradable baits for ice fishing so that you remain environmentally responsible.



Ensure that your ice shack is ready and fit for the season. If you use a permanent wooden structure check for rotten wood, rust, fungus, etc., and repair/replace as required early on in the season. For portable shacks, check them for tears, damage, or non-functioning parts. Set it up once before you take it out on the ice. 

For more information, advice, and assistance on ice fishing, get in touch with 

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