Up for Ice Fishing
popularity of Ice Fishing experienced an explosion in recent years,
mainly due to improved outerwear and other related cold-weather gear.
Couple this with product price declines due to increased retailer and
manufacturer competition, and it all equates to more enjoyment for the
hard water angler than ever before. Yet, with more choices comes more
confusion, as consumers face a wider array of choices, which sometimes
can cost a shopper more money in errant purchases, or too many impulse
buys. Following these simple guidelines can keep your costs down,
allowing you to have more resources to work with when it comes time to
hit the ice.
Your Existing Gear
ice still a couple months away, now is the time to get out your gear and
inspect it for any defects or damage. Let us start from the bottom, up.
- A good
pair of waterproof, insulated boots is an absolute essential to the ice
angler. Be certain your boots first fit these criteria (waterproof and
warm.) If your footwear is not made of a waterproof material, such as
rubber, Gore-Tex or another comparable waterproof substance put a new
pair of boots on the list. If your boots are waterproof, but damaged
(either cut or worn,) you should do the same. Protect your feet in the
cold weather, as they are your primary means of getting around on the
ice, and if your feet go numb, or get wet, a shortened day of fishing
ice-fishing boot is one that is 100% waterproof, with at least 800 grams
of Thinsulate, or comparable insulation, which also has a sweat-wicking
property to help keep your feet dry during your walks. Choice of rubber
or Gore- Tex, or the like is really a personal preference or limitation
of budget. So long as your boots perform the intended task without fail,
the choice of material is not critical. Yet, waterproof and heavily
insulated boots are not the entire picture. You must also look for a
boot that provides a relatively thick sole. Remember, the closer your
feet are to the ice, the quicker they will lose precious heat. A thicker
sole provides a higher degree of comfort, while keeping your feet
further from the ice, thus reducing thermal loss. Your boots should also
sport a "high-rise" style; at least 9" high, if not higher. Veteran hard
water anglers are all too familiar with the occasional slush pile that
can be mid-shin deep. Stepping in one of these watery obstacles can
drench lower cut hiking style boots, no matter what they are made of or
how new they are. Also, refrain from the steel-toed variety of boots.
That protective piece of metal gets cold fast, allowing your toes to
literally become surrounded by cold (ice from the bottom, cold steel
from the top.)
(Socks, long johns, etc)
- Every cold weather
type will preach the necessity of quality thermal socks and long johns.
Without these undergarments, the simple task of walking to and from your
fishing spot would work up such a sweat that you would experience a
"boil over". Once you sat down, the sweat would cool, making you very
uncomfortable. Socks should be thick and made of a hydrophobic material,
such as wool or berkaline. Cotton is hydrophilic, or holds water, versus
wicking water away from your body. The same idea applies to long johns.
Duofold makes a fantastic line of long johns, in a variety of different
weights. Again, try to avoid cotton. Be sure to choose proper fitting
garments. Socks should fit with very little extra room, as to avoid
bunching and blister-causing snarls. Long johns should be snug, but not
overly tight, as tight long johns can restrict your range of motion. Be
sure to purchase both the pants and the shirt (or bottom and top) of the
have spent any amount of time during a Northern winter, you should be
familiar with the "dress in layers" principle. A pair of jeans,
turtleneck long-sleeved shirt, a flannel or sweatshirt over top, should
(Overalls, Coveralls, Pants, Jacket/ Parka, Hat, Gloves) The next
critical component to your assembly is your outerwear. This includes
your hat, gloves, jacket or parka, snow pants, coveralls, overalls, etc.
Many choices face the consumer, and costs can really escalate if you are
not careful here.
"Suits" - The first recommendation is to understand how much time you
intend to spend out in the elements during the winter months, in
addition to ice fishing. Getting the biggest bang for your buck is the
most effective philosophy to employ when purchasing cold-weather gear,
and, if your time outside is limited to only shoveling snow and hitting
the ice once or twice, then a heavy pair of pants, or rain pants (which
is better!) over your jeans, plus your winter parka is fine.
can generally use the same coveralls or overalls that would be worn
during late season hunting. Skiers and Snowmobilers can generally employ
their existing garb, or purchase something that can address the needs of
Ultimately, your goal is to wear something that will keep you very warm,
be somewhat, if not totally, water repellant, and, most importantly,
will help break the wind. Remember you will be out on a frozen lake,
with nothing to break that cold, north wind, so you must wear something
that can stop the bone chilling gusts from cutting right through to your
jacket should have a warm, insulated hood attached, to act as a
supplement to a hat when the wind chill dips well below zero.
- A warm
hat can be a lifesaver in extreme cold. It is a documented scientific
fact that nearly 80% of your body heat escapes through your head! You
should therefore cover that dome up, even if it means you are not
looking the most fashionable, or despite the fact that it can ruin your
do. Standard knit hats will work fine, especially in conjunction with
wind stopping hoods. Other options include berkaline or polar fleece
balaclavas. These relatively new products incorporate the hood! scarf
combination, and can be worn either with the balaclava covering your
head, or pulled off your head and left around your neck. These work
great for the outdoorsman who hates to part with that favorite, lucky
- Next to cold feet, cold hands are the worst nightmare of an outdoors
enthusiast. Ice fishing combines bitter cold with cold water, and your
hands will be exposed to cold water, often, especially when baiting your
hook, cutting a hole in the ice or landing a fish. Heavy, waterproof
gloves, made of Gore-Tex, come highly recommended. So, too, do the
heavyweight Neoprene diving-style gloves. Best bet is to carry two pairs
of gloves with you when ice fishing. Even the most waterproof of gloves
can be water logged if you dunk your hand too deep into the hole, or if
you take your gloves off and on when baiting minnows to a hook. When it
comes to your hands, it is best practice to carry an extra set with you!
fishing is more inherently dangerous than open water angling. This is
pretty obvious, as the frigid water temperatures alone will get an
angler into trouble in seconds if exposed. Add to that the fact that you
are on ice, which becomes slicker when wet, your clothing becoming
heavier when wet, and the danger of a lifeOthreatening situation if you
do happen to break through the ice becomes a very harsh reality.
Although one should never venture out on thin or bad ice, accidents do
happen, even to the most seasoned ice angler, and advance preparations
can be the difference between surviving a fall through the ice and being
recovered by a cold weather dive team.
Picks - Ice picks are the number one lifesaver ice anglers can own.
Relatively simple in design, the ice pick is inchlong steel picks set in
handles. This device is generally worn around your neck and, in the
event of a break through, can be grabbed, and pulled apart into action,
allowing the fallen angler the ability to get a grip on the ice. They
retail for $10.00 - $20.00, and are worth every penny.
- Always bring a good length of rope with you when out ice fishing. If
you fall through, someone may not be able to walk up to you and pluck
you out without risk of becoming victims themselves. Having a rope, at
least 50' in length is usually the best bet. Be certain to tie some
knots in the rope, each knot being about a foot or so apart, as to
provide the victim with something to grasp. Remember, if someone has
fallen through the ice, chances are their gloves have become wet, and
water will freeze, making the rope itself very slick and nearly
impossible to hang onto. The knots help with the grip.
- Each angler should consider wearing a life preserver during the walks
to and from your fishing spots.
can change, ice can shift and the safe walk to your spot may become
dangerous; and these dangers can be unseen. Wearing a flotation device
can keep you from drowning, in the event help is not immediately
or Two-Way Radio
- Always bring a communication device with you, and know the emergency
channels or numbers. Be sure you put fresh batteries in your radios, or
fully charge that cell battery before hitting the ice. Being able to
call for help can be the difference between life and death to someone in
your fishing party. Also, if using a cell phone, be sure you can get
service that is reliable where you are planning to fish. Lakes do not
have relay towers, you know.
is to do a complete inventory of your hard water fishing tackle. Now is
the time to check your reels, make any additions to your rod and! or
tip-up collections, re-spool with new fishing line, and make certain you
have the right assortment of terminal tackle to handle the task of
fishing whatever species you intend to hit the ice for.
fishing presentation when ice fishing is 100% vertical, jigging will
encompass just about all your efforts when working rod and reel. Ice
fishing rods are typically 3 feet long or shorter, can accommodate a
spinning reel, and come in a range of weights from super ultra-light to
heavy action for big game fish like walleye, northern pike, trout and
range from around $10.00 for a serviceable model to $75.00 for the
high-end competition ultra-lights that many use during the crappie and
perch tournaments that are held each year during the winter months.
is most often used with live bait, and is a rig that uses a flag as the
strike indicator. Unlike fishing with rod and reel, the tip-up required
the angler to hand-line the fish to the hole. A tip-up is simplicity in
itself, consisting of a spool, with a "stop arm", a stop lever, which
keeps the flag in the down position when at rest. A wooden frame, or
plastic frame keeps the flag and top assembly above the ice, while
allowing the spool and line to remain below the water line, which keeps
the spool from freezing up. When a fish takes the bait, the spool turns
to let out line, which disturbs the stop lever, allowing the flag to tip
up. The spool of a tip up is typically lined with Dacron, or comparable
braided fishing line, to which the angler can tie either a monofilament
leader, or a steel-snelled hook, depending on the species being
targeted. Use just enough weight to take your bait to the bottom, and
keep it on the bottom. Many states have regulations governing
the use of
tip-ups, including limiting the number per angler, and having your
personal identification written or affixed to each tip-up. Be sure you
check your state or province's specific regulations, and be sure to
check for exceptions for a specific body of water you intend to fish.
standard monofilament fishing line will serve well ice fishing, the
angler must be aware of the fact that cold, freezing temperatures will
affect the performance of your fishing line more so than a typical
summer day of fishing.
conditions, monofilament becomes brittle faster, and brittle line can
accelerate and exacerbate line twist. In addition, the higher pound test
line used, the faster these factors will affect the performance of your
line. Newer, icefriendly line is available, which is more tolerant to
cold temperatures, offers less memory and can give more life to the
spool than standard monofilament. Avoid fluorocarbon, as this line gets
brittle under cold conditions. Lines like Spiderwire, Kevlar, and other
braided lines are too visible to fish when hard water fishing, and
affect the natural presentation when jigging. A good choice of line is 4
Ib or 6 Ib test monofilament, ice or standard. When fishing for salmon
or steelhead, you may wish to use as heavy as 10 Ib or 12 Ib test, but
that is really pushing it. Remember, when it comes to line diameter when
ice fishing, less is more.
critical component to ice fishing is a device to cut a hole in the ice,
giving the angler access to the water. Two classes of tools exist of the
angler to tackle this job. These are augers and spuds. The spud is
perhaps the oldest holemaking tool in existence. A spud is a heavy iron
pole with a handhold on one end, and a flat, maul-like head on the other
end. To cut a hole with a spud, simply slam the spud into the ice
repeatedly, until you make your hole. The more preferred tool of choice
is the auger. Available in either a manual style or gasoline engine
powered, the ice auger makes perfect circular holes, cutting quickly and
efficiently. The cutting action comes from the razor-sharp blades that
screw to the base of the auger, while the spirals help to remove ice
shavings from the hole. If you have an auger, check to be sure the
blades are very sharp. If they are worn, replace them. Augers come in a
range of cutting diameters, up to 12". The larger the diameter, the
harder it will be to cut the hole. Also, be certain you are familiar
with the regulations governing auger diameter, as many states prohibit
augers that can cut larger than 8" or 10" holes. This could apply on a
lake-to-lake basis, so please review the specific regulations before
purchasing an auger. Strikemaster is the maker of the most popular
manual Augers. Jiffy makes a great power auger.
doubt, the advent of affordable, portable ice shanties has had a
tremendous hand in the recent explosion of ice fishing popularity. After
all, being in a shelter in the middle of a frozen lake during a blizzard
makes ice fishing more enjoyable than sitting on the ice, exposed to the
wind on a bucket. If you are planning to ramp up your ice fishing, a
portable shanty is a must-have. If you are planning to introduce your
wife, girlfriend or children to this sport, then having a shanty will
keep them coming back for more ice fishing adventures. These shanties
are affordable, but can become very expensive. Before you make that
purchase, be certain to understand exactly all your needs, so that you
do not buy something too small, or buy something too big. Ice shanties
can be as small as a single person hut to the 10-person ice condominium.
Factors to determine what you need should be as follows:
people will typically be fishing with you?
anyone in your fishing party already own a shanty?
drag this portable shanty, by hand, alone?
have use of a machine, like a snowmobile or A TV?
shanty fit in your truck or trunk of your car? . Where will you store
your shanty during the off-season?
do you need set up and tear down to be?
gear will you be bringing with you on the ice?
need a sled to drag your shanty?
affordable shanties available today are the tent-style shanties. These
typically resemble a Coleman camping tent, and can accommodate up to
four persons, on average. Newer models come equipped with shock-corded
tent poles, and are set up in a similar fashion to the Coleman-style
camping tent. Tent-style shanties typically have a floor, with a floor
flap built in to allow access to the holes. These tents can require more
set up time, and must be air dried after use to prevent mildew from
ruining your shanty. You will also need a sled to drag the tent and
poles out onto the ice, so be prepared for an extra spend if you go this
brand of Ice Shanties were introduced around 15 years ago, and was the
answer to many hard water anglers' prayers of having a more durable,
easier to set up, no need to dry out solution. One person can typically
set up and tear down a Clam shanty, no matter their size. Larger models
can be rather heavy, which is a drawback, and most models still require
a sled to transport them. Newer models do have the ability to be dragged
on their bottoms, and are a bit lighter than their older predecessors
Fish Trap brand Ice Shanties hit the market less than a decade ago, and
really are the optimum in convenience, ease in set up and tear down,
roominess, and durability. The aluminum frame construction is very
durable, able to withstand 50+ MHP winds. Unlike other models, the Fish
Trap shanties come attached to its own sled, and even sports chairs with
backs and all! Drawbacks include the fact that these models have no
floor, the sled can be a real bear to pull in deeper snow cover, and the
shanty is difficult to anchor in place in the event you are fishing in
high winds. The Fish Trap comes is sizes ranging from one person to five
person or more, and range in price from $100.00 to $600.00.
If you own
a shanty, you will want a propane heater. This makes the day of fishing
far more comfortable, but does add to the gear and the weight of
equipment you will have to drag. Coleman makes a great catalytic propane
heater, which has two heat settings, low and high, and can be perfect
for the smaller shanties, or if carbon monoxide is a concern. Mr.Heater
makes a fantastic high BTU output heater that can also double as a
stove, but these models really bum up the fuel.
the shanty, the larger the heater you will want. Most, if not all,
propane heaters will use the standard 1 Ib propane screw-on bottle, or
you can purchase an adapter and use a 20 Ib canister! Again, weight
considerations and availability of a machine will dictate your choice of
keeping your feet warm Many ice anglers will experience the cold feet
syndrome at least once during their ice fishing excursions, despite
having the warmest, driest boots and heaviest socks available. This
usually happens during long periods of inactivity Gigging over the hole
for hours,) and is typically because your feet are resting on the ice,
having the heat sucked right out of them.
You may be
very comfortable everywhere else, but your feet can be going numb. As
was mentioned earlier, heat transfer between your soles and the ice is
the biggest culprit here, and can be remedied if you can keep your feet
off the ice. The best method to do this is to bring a plywood board out
on the ice with you, to act as a foot matte. Find a piece of scrap
plywood, one inch thick, that is roughly the size of a welcome matte.
Place this on the ice, and set your feet on this. You will be amazed at
the results. Some folks use remnant carpet pieces, or even a rubber
welcome matte, but the carpet will be waterlogged in a hurry, and the
rubber matte is not thick enough to do the trick. Rubber also is a heat
conductor, rather than an insulator, so not much benefit will realized
from the rubber matte, unless it is so thick it becomes too heavy to be
practically carry with you. Wood has natural insulating properties, and
plywood is relatively lightweight. Wood will also not become
waterlogged, and can be used again, and again without fail.
Lines and Fish On!
Editor's Note: Rich Davenport maintains a website
www.weloveoutdoors.com The site is filled with great articles about the
outdoors. I met Rich and his partner (sorry, I forgot the name) at the
Sports Expo last March. They are local guys who enjoy the outdoors and
are what I call computer techies. They put together this website for all
of us who love the outdoors. Great reading. Visit the site soon.
Another great article from