Ice Fishing Guide for Beginners

It’s ice-cold dead. You’re staying in bed under fluffy blankets, having a warm cup of hot chocolate, and watching your favorite Netflix show. Someone comes into the room and tells you: “let’s go ice fishing.” If I were you, I’d say:” you’re insane.”

Maybe he is not that crazy. If you tried ice fishing, you would know that ice fishing is the sport to get out of bed for. You may ask how you can go fishing in the winter when all the lakes are frozen and you can barely see the fish. That’s what you will find out by the end of this article. 

What Is Ice Fishing

It’s exactly as it sounds, fishing on frozen lakes and rivers. You start by digging a hole in the ice then, casting your rod, and finally, waiting for a fish to catch on. It’s interesting how this sport is perfect for all levels of experience. With the right equipment and proper training, you can have one marvelous fishing experience.

When You Can Can

It’s quite apparent that ice fishing is a winter sport. But, the best time for ice fishing is either in the early winter or the late winter, because at that time of winter, ice is more comfortable to dig in and make holes. 

If we are getting more specific, the best time to do ice fishing during a day is to start either at dawn and finish in the morning or start at noon and finish at dusk. That changes from a fishing spot to another. 

Where You Can  Can

The USA and Canada are rich ice fishing spots, especially on the borders between both countries. 

1. Devil’s Lake in North Dakota

It’s an excellent location for ice fishing, where you can find a wide variety of fish like pike and trophy perch. The area is well prepared for ice fishing as you can find a place to stay nearby. Also, if you are a beginner and seeking some training, you will find fishing guides to get you through the day.

2. Lake of the Woods on the Borders

It is rated the best ice fishing spot in the world. The lake is rich in different fish species like walleye, perch, and lake trout. You will find all that you need there, whether it was a place to stay the night, a guide to offer you help, or even some new friends to get along with.

Of course, we can’t restrict ice fishing to just these two areas. There are many other famous lakes all around the world. You may change your ice fishing spots as much as you want, but the dangers that you may face are all the same. Let’s take you through a tour of the most common risks of ice fishing.

Is It Safe

Absolutely YES! If you took the right precautions when you go on your trip, you are one hundred percent safe. Fishing is a relaxing sport that most people prefer to do on their own. But, if you are going ice fishing for the first time, don’t risk going alone. A mistake in a frozen lake can be your last ever mistake. I know it might sound dangerous, but what sport isn’t?

Here are a few tips to keep your mind at ease:

  1. The fresher the ice, the safer you are. Old ice tends to be weaker and more liable to cracking.
  2. Believe it or not, snow warms up the frozen layers beneath it, so keep away from lakes covered in snow.
  3. Stay Alert! Not every cracking sound is dangerous, but whenever you see a crack, avoid fishing in that area.
  4. You can determine the safe area for fishing, depending on the color of the surface. Grey means that this place is unstable even to walk on so that you can’t settle on that surface. Unclear white means that this spot is less than 4 inches thick, which is very thin. If it were pressured, you would find yourself under the ice. Clear-cut blue is your green light to settle in and start digging.

All these dangers can be overcome by choosing the perfect gear, which includes your clothes, digging tools, and fishing equipment. We’ll walk you through it step by step.

Ice Fishing Gear

1. Get Dressed

Stay as warm as you can. After all, you are fishing on ice. Wear as many layers as possible so that if you get hot, you can just remove a layer. But, if you get cold, there is pretty much nothing you can do except going home. 

Try wearing polypropylene in your first layer as it absorbs water and dries quickly, unlike cotton. After the polypropylene, you can layer up with cotton. 

Since a fisher should be layered with clothes, two pairs of wicking wool socks would do the trick for you. You will need some good quality waterproof boots to keep your feet warm and dry. 

Ice surfaces are slippery, so get yourself a pair of ice cleats that can stabilize your balance.

2. Choose a Spot

Experienced fishers can sit on a bucket and have a fantastic fishing trip. As a beginner, you may need more than just a bucket. A light chair and a cool box are enough as a start, to avoid splurging your money.

3. Measure the Thickness

As the thickness factor can make or break your fishing trip, a spud bar is a must. It can save your life. A spud bar measures the ice’s thickness. If the thickness is lower than 4 inches, that’s a no go. The safest fishing thickness is 12-inch thickness.

4. Dig a Hole

You are dressed and settled in a safe spot. Now, it’s time to dig a hole and trap your fish. An ice auger will help you do that. It cuts holes with diameters ranging from 5 to 8 inches, which changes according to the type of prey. Manual augers are affordable and need some muscle work. Power augers make things easier for starters but are a little pricey. However, they are recommended for beginners, to save their energy for fishing.

To complete your digging process, you will need an ice scooping tool to get the ice shaves out of the way. Be careful not to remove the whole thing because fish run away if they see direct light. 

5. Set Your Rod

On choosing your ice fishing rod, you need to get a little specific. An ice fishing rod is different from a traditional rod, typically because ice fishing is different from regular fishing. The fish species in cold areas are comparatively smaller. So, a more sensitive rod would be more practical. Based on that previous information, you will decide the rod’s power and action.

The Rod’s Power

A rod’s power refers to its stiffness. It is the power that you need to apply to make a rod bend. The stiffer your rod is, the heavier your catch could be. In ice fishing, you need a less stiff rod, so don’t go for a heavy one.

You need to decide the power of the rod based on the weight of the fish. An ultralight powered rod is perfect for small fish like a panfish. A walleye could be caught by a medium powered rod. Pike could be maneuvered by a heavy powered rod.

The Rod’s Action

It is how a rod bends and how fast it can go back to its original posture. Slow-action rods bend along its length. Medium-action rods bend at its center. Fast-action rods bend at its tips. In ice fishing, you need a very sensitive rod because of the prey’s lightness. Medium and fast rods can provide the power and sensitivity required for ice fishing.  

Ice Fishing Rods for Beginners

Buying the rod is the first step in your ice fishing journey. Choosing a rod is a hustle that most people avoid. Here are some examples that were rated the best ice fishing rods for beginners for the year 2020.

1. Shakespeare Ugly Stik Ice Fishing Spinning Rod

This rod is famous for its lightness, which makes it perfect for small fish. It comes in different powers, which makes things easier for a fisherman. Not all people agreed on its technicality, but most of them thought it was great for the job. It’s perfect for beginners because it only costs 25$. So, it is good value for money. It’s rated as the third best ice fishing rod on Amazon.

2. Fenwick Elite Tech Ice Fishing Spinning Rod

It costs around 40$, which still makes it budget-friendly to most fishers. What stands out in this rod is its sensitivity, firm grip, and strong backbone. People kept going on and on about this rod’s capabilities. Things can never go wrong with a Fenwick as it comes in different lengths and powers.

Final Thoughts

The first rule of ice fishing is “ always be prepared.” Ice fishing is fun and exciting, but as fun as it can be, it’s dangerous. Always bring your gloves and medical kit along. It’s okay to have some alone time, but not when you are a beginner ice fisher. Ice fishing is rewarding on the professional level, some countries host competitions, and the winner gets 150 thousand dollars as a prize. Start small, and as time passes, things will get easier. Who knows! Maybe one day you can be 150 thousand dollars richer.