How to

22 June 2016

Ice Fishing: The Basics


Ice fishing is a popular pastime in many of the colder climates around the world, including the US, Canada and Finland, among many other countries. It is an age-old practice, with many different approaches being used by various practitioners in an effort to produce the best results, or to go after a particular prize.

Over the years, three distinctly different forms of ice fishing have emerged. These include classic line fishing using a small rod, tip-up fishing using frames to suspend bait at fixed heights, and spear fishing commonly used to catch lake sturgeon, as well as other large bottom-dwellers and rough fish.

Whichever approach you decide on, there are a few specialist bits of equipment that you are sure to need. The first, and perhaps most obvious, is an ice saw, auger or chisel, used to cut a hole in the ice. The size of the hole you need to cut will depend on your desired catch, but generally around 8 inches is advised. If you don’t have access to one of the aforementioned tools you can use an axe instead, but the job will be more difficult. For competitions or large fishing trips, power augers are often used to speed up the process.

You will also require a skimmer, which is essentially a large metal spoon littered with holes, used to clear new ice and slush from the hole, preventing it from freezing over again. You can also help the hole to stay open by utilising a small portable heater, which will also do you a favour in terms of body temperature. Beyond that, any further equipment you require will depend on the technique you wish to employ.

Line-fishers will obviously need to invest in a decent fishing rod, coloured lures and jigs. The rod wants to be fairly small and light; after all you’re not aiming to cast your line across a river here, more just drop it into a hole. A large rod will prove to be cumbersome and awkward to use.

It goes without saying that spear fishers will need a spear. I won’t go in depth here about the different spears available, but a little shopping around should locate a decent option.

Tip-up fishers, while not requiring a rod or spear, will need a spool of line, a flag and a frame for said line. There are four different types of frame you can use, listed here, so look into them properly before deciding which to use.

In recent years, some ice-fishers have also taken to using ‘flashers’ or sonar to locate their catch, but this is not necessary. Beyond the standard supplies and shelter you would take on any trip, the only other thing you will really need is some warm, well-insulated clothing to stop you freezing solid on the ice.


So, wrap up warm and hit the ice! Just remember to check the thickness before striding out upon it…


Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.