When it comes to most things outdoors, I have an overriding rule:
Keep It Simple. Keep It Fun!
It’s especially true for ice fishing.
First and perhaps the most important is clothing. Among the many reasons winter sports continue to grow in popularity, perhaps the most overlooked is the improvement in clothing.
Today’s synthetics are lighter, warmer and virtually waterproof. When equipping yourself, begin with the finest all-weather protection you can afford.
All the thermal, layered, insulated pants, shirts, jackets and underwear won’t keep you warm if your feet or head are cold. Get a good hat and the best boots you can afford and the warmest waterproof gloves you can find.
Pants should also be waterproof. Much of the time ice fishing is spent peering into a hole, kneeling in slush or water or on snow and ice. Once your knees get wet, you may as well begin packing your gear.
After you’ve paged through the ice fishing guides, mail-order catalogues and watched your collections of ice fishing videos a dozen times, do yourself a favor.
Forget it all and head for your local independent fishing tackle retailer. Workers there not only will suggest what you really need but they also will point you to the best fishing close to home. They want you back. They’ll work to make your trip a success — so, you will come back time after time.
Granted, the “toys” are part of every game, but to learn how to ice fish you really only need some basic pieces of equipment, things geared for the conditions found on local waters.
Start with the essentials:
An ice rod and a matching reel. You will be fishing in shallow water, probably for panfish, so keep it simple.
A hand auger with a good set of cutting heads. Your retailer stocks ones ideal for the thin ice on local waters.
An ice skimmer is a nice little tool that helps scoop ice out of the hole. It also doubles as a tool for picking line off the ice or for digging through snow when searching for car keys dropped accidentally.
Limp line is something to trust the retailer to recommend. Two-pound line is fine for bluegill and crappie.
Get a depth finder molded around an alligator clip. Simply clip the weight on your hook and lower it until it hits bottom. Pull the line up or mark it on the spool of your reel and you know exactly how deep it is. The fish are usually close to the bottom. Usually.
Depending upon where and what you will be fishing for, ask about jigs, spoons, lures and most of all which live bait they recommend. Ask the retailer to show you how to rig it.
It’s always best to get sound advice from your local fishing tackle retailer, as well as getting the basics down. Learn how to quickly bait a hook. Learn how to extract a tiny hook from a bluegill’s mouth with freezing fingers.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, the rest will fall into place.
Keep it simple. Enjoy the winter.