Ice fishing is all about catching fish with fishhooks, lines or spears through a hole in the ice.
While some people may think that it’s highly unusual, many anglers enjoy it, because during the ice season you can go anywhere on the surface of the lake, something you cannot do in the summer without a boat.
If you’re up for some adventure, then this is worth a try.
Before you go fishing, here are some reminders: do not fish on ice alone, and always tell someone where you’re going and when you will return.
In addition, bring the right tools and make sure you bring along ice picks, an emergency lifejacket and a mobile phone.
Of course you should dress in warm clothes and make sure you’ve got lots of hot tea, chocolate or coffee and a chair to sit on.
Augers and Spuds – Create Holes in the Ice
To start you’ll need to make a hole on the ice, and for that you’ll need augers and spuds. An auger looks like a corkscrew with a blade, and it works like a drill and creates a hole in the ice. If the ice is very thick, you’ll need power augers that use batteries or gas engines.
A spud has a long shank with the end resembling a chisel, and it’s the ideal tool to use if the ice isn’t that thick. Once you’ve created a hole in the ice, you have to remove the slush and ice chips, and for that you’ll need a slush scoop or a skimmer. A skimmer is basically a cup with holes to let the water run through.
When creating holes, make sure that’s it’s large enough to get the fish out, but not so large that someone could fall into it.
The rule of thumb is to limit the hole size to 10 inches, as that’s enough for most fish.
Once you’re done fishing in the hole, cover it with ice chunks or a tree branch so people will know there’s a hole.
They’re divided into three categories; spears, tip-ups, and hook and line.
Hook and line means fishing with short rods with spring tension spools or reels to keep the line in place. You might see the rod with a couple of pegs for wrapping the line around. With limber rods you’ll be able to use a light line, which is great when the fish is struggling.
You can use an artificial lure, live bait or both to catch different types of fish, though usually an angler uses minnows, wigglers, spikes or wax worms. You can also try a bobber just like you would when you’re fishing during the summer, and you can use a spring bobber with a tight line. Usually you fish close to the bottom and make your way up until you find fish, and then continue at that location.
Tip ups are devices placed on the ice over the hole where the bait is dangled under them. The reels are in the water so when a fish bites into the lure, the reel begins to turn and the line is released. A bent over flag will suddenly “tip up”, notifying you that there’s a fish.
To use spears, you have to create large holes in the ice using a chainsaw. Usually, those who use spears fish in shanties (small portable tents), as these block light and allow you to see in the water where the fish are. What these anglers usually do is dangle live baits like suckers to lure the fish. These shanties by the way, are available at online and local sporting goods stores.
Timing is Key
There are several things you have to consider when you fish in ice, and one of the most important is timing. The best time to go fishing is from dawn until mid-morning and late afternoon until the sun goes down. This is definitely the case if you’re after walleye and panfish.
Ice fishing aficionados usually bring along an electronic fish finder as it’s very useful in locating both aggressive and passive fish. Rather than guess if the hole you dug up is active or not, you can just use this device and find out. Finally, make sure that you’re physically prepared for the experience.