There are few outdoor hobbies more fun and relaxing than fishing. Dropping a line in the water during the spring, summer or fall can be anything from a cathartic way to wind down to a fast paced sport, depending on how seriously you take it. But no matter how much you love to fish, Old Man Winter brings a lengthy, cabin-fever inducing halt to all the fun for many each year. This does not have to include you. By learning how to ice fish, you can extend your favorite outdoor activity through even the coldest months of the year.
What you need to ice fish
Because many bodies of water in the Northern Hemisphere freeze over, there are some special tools that ice fishermen bring along. First is what’s called an auger. They are corkscrew-like tools with a handle attached, and are used for essentially “screwing” a circular hole in the ice. The colder the climate you plan to ice fish in, the more heavy-duty your auger will need to be. Additionally, you’ll need a skimmer. It’s essentially a gigantic strainer that you use to scoop slush and refreezing water out of your hole. The last – and most obvious – tool to bring along is a specialty rod and reel. Because fish tend to get more lethargic as the water gets colder, the bites will be very tough to feel. Therefore, you’ll need a very lightweight rod, low test line, and a reel that allows you to feel the slightest movement of the line. You can also carry a flasher with you for an added advantage. It acts as a depth finding sonar tool, helping you decide at what depth to fish.
Before setting foot on the ice, be absolutely certain that it will support you and your equipment. For an adult male to walk out safely, the ice should be about 4 inches thick at the very least. After making sure it’s safe, find a spot that you think might hold fish, and drill your hole. Clear it with skimmer, and drop the line. Most ice fishermen prefer slow acting baits. They include jigs, soft plastic worms, and live bait. Drop the line in the water, and suspend it at a specific depth for minutes at a time. Proper ice fishing presentation doesn’t take a lot of work – all you really need to do is jiggle the bait slightly every 30-40 seconds or so. Doing it any faster will make the bait look unnaturally active, considering the water is so cold.
Repeat the process with different baits and at different depths until you’ve exhausted your options. If it’s been unsuccessful up to that point, don’t be afraid to change spots. As with other types of fishing, ice fishing is most successful when you’re willing to try different things in search of a bite.
With some practice and a little patience, you’ll learn how to ice fish effectively in no time. Just remember: nailing down the techniques, getting a feel for the tools, and having the perseverance to stay on the water will give you the best chance for ice fishing success from the get-go.