When someone first attempts ice fishing, often the best resource for advice on locations and safety is a local fisherman. Fishermen love to talk and are almost always willing to share all their knowledge and acquired wisdom.
However, here are some basic tips on equipment, bait and locating good spots for ice fishing.
The most important thing to remember when finding a good location for ice fishing is “safety first.” Make sure the ice is not thin or cracked. Many times “hazard” signs will already be up at sites where the ice is unsafe.
The ice, at minimum, should be three to four inches thick. The fisherman should be certain of a steady, cold temperature before ever setting out to a location. Watch for snow — snow acts as insulation, making it difficult for ice to freeze underneath. It is unwise to fish where there is snow on the surface.
In locations where ice fishing is a common sport, there will often be holes left by others. When the holes are iced in a bit, it is still easier to unblock an existing hole than to make a new one.
The fisherman should take an “ice bar” to measure the ice. In order to make holes in the ice, the fisherman will need a pole commonly called a “spud” which features a chisel at the end. These are available at almost any sporting goods store. Any kind of strainer will be sufficient to skim floating ice from the surface. The same strainer can also serve as a dip net, or one can be obtained separately. There are also “ice grabbers” available for clearing ice.
Make sure you are warmly dressed, including head gear and gloves or mittens.
Of course, the ice fisherman will need bait, a pail, and fishing lines. A compass and a rope will be handy for safety reasons. It is wise to take along hot soup and drinks in thermoses to keep nourished and warm. In order to transport equipment, have a place for sitting, and possibly fashion a windbreak against the chill, a sled will be necessary.
Windbreaks can be invaluable when fishing in a cold wind. However, make sure you check your location to make sure they are allowed. In some places, windbreaks are forbidden. A tent with a hole in the bottom and a Coleman lantern is ideal. However, tarps can be adjusted to serve as wind breakers.
Experienced fishermen always advise to change bait often. Most of the time, shiny weighted lures are best to draw the fish from the deep waters. Minnows, grubs and mealworms are generally considered to be effective bait.
Again, local fishermen or sporting goods stores can often offer good advice for bait that’s working best at a particular site.
Ice fishing can be highly satisfying for the intrepid fisherman. With “safety first” always in mind, any patient person can become a happy ice fisherman!
“Joy of Nature” p. Reader’s Digest, 1977