7 Essential Ice Fishing Tips

In this article we have listed out 7 tips to make your trip out on the ice more safe, productive, and enjoyable.

Ice fishing is an enjoyable activity for those of you who actually have a winter (Sorry southerners). It is rather inexpensive and can be very addictive when the fishing gets hot. It allows the angler to feel closer and more in tune with the fish and is done in beautiful environments that will get anyone’s attention. Ice fishing can be a daunting activity for beginners however. Sure it can be as dangerous as any other form of fishing. But taking the proper precautions and learning more safety in ice fishing will prove invaluable.

Safety First 

Measure the depth of the ice before anything else

If you are a beginner to ice fishing, the first ice can be tempting. First ice will usually present fantastic opportunities to catch fish. The fish have not been educated to all the tricks that ice fishermen have presented to them. First ice is likely the most dangerous ice however. That means unless you are a seasoned ice fishermen, it is probably best to sit out fishing the first ice. Let the ice get at least 4 inches think before venturing out. 

When checking ice for thickness, make sure to carry a heavy rope that is anchored to the shore. This can prove to be a lifesaver if you happen to break through the ice. It is also absolutely necessary to wear a life vest out on the ice. I would even advise wearing the vest as you fish. Better to be safe than sorry. If you fish around moving waters, make sure to stay away from them. The moving water underneath can weaken the ice and cause issues you will not find on lakes or ponds. 

Keep in mind that all bodies of water do not freeze at the same rate. Various factors such as depth, sunlight, movement, etc. factor into the rate at which the water freezes. Always treat each body of water with respect and check the ice thickness at each trip. Don’t rush to get out on the ice when a few extra minutes of checking could save your life. 

When checking the thickness of the ice, use a tool with measurements marked on it, such as a spud bar. If you are looking to bring motor vehicles on the ice, make sure that the ice is thick enough. 

7+ inches for snow machines and snowmobiles 

9-12 inches for light cars

15+ inches for full sized trucks 

Make sure that safety is the first priority when ice fishing and you will always have a safe and enjoyable trip [1]. 

Go with a Friend

Fishing with a friend is safer and more enjoyable

Ice fishing is an activity that can be done solo, but can be more fun with a friend. Like any other type of fishing it is most fun when sharing it with someone else. Having a friend close by helps to pass the time among other things. It is also much safer to have a friend present when ice fishing as checking thickness is best done with someone present in case things go south. 

A friend could also be someone who is more experienced as an ice fisherman. They could possibly be able to share information and techniques that would make you more productive as an ice fisherman. If you find that you don’t have any friends who share this interest, try meeting someone out on the ice. You might be surprised at how receptive solo fisherman are to having someone around. It is also not a bad idea to contact a guide and try to learn from them out on the ice. These are people who ice fish day in and day out. They usually have a wealth of knowledge and most are willing to share that knowledge with anglers who are excited to learn. 

Invest in a Fish Finder/GPS

A fish finder and GPS combo is invaluable on the ice

If you want to be successful on the ice in today’s day and age, you need to invest in a fish finder. The fish finder allows you to scope out the holes that are holding fish and not waste time on holes that are not holding fish. The fish finder allows you to get to know the hole you are fishing much better. Modern technology on the fish finders will identify the state of the bottom and precisely at what depth the fish are swimming. This is crucial because it will save you a lot of time and headaches. Being able to see what is below is also very helpful when the fish are not biting. Anglers should take that opportunity to try different lures and methods to see what works. Make sure to take notes if you find a technique that is working that day. It could prove to be helpful later down the line. Without a fish finder, you will need a lot of luck and who has time for that. 

If you have the means, invest in a fish finder that also comes with a GPS. The GPS can prove invaluable in marking those fantastic holes. The information from the GPS and fish finder can also be reviewed from home to improve your tactics and techniques. 

Cover the Hole 

Ice shavings over the hole keep excess light from penetrating

One of the mistakes that a lot of beginners make is leaving their hole uncovered. This can be an issue with wary fish. They see the amount of light coming through the hole and know that something is not right. Try taking some ice shavings and covering up the hole to block the light out. This should be the practice in all types of water clarity. If you have issues with the hole wanting to freeze up on you, try out some tools such as an ice skimmer or thermal hole cover. They will provide ample options to keep the hole from freezing and can be more necessary if you plan to fish with tip ups. 

Chum the Hole 

Chumming the hole with worms or baitfish can be very effective

Chumming the hole can provide an advantage over anglers around you. Chumming can be done by taking a little extra bait and scattering it into the hole. Try it with wax worms, for example. When done properly, it will attract fish to the area around your hole and will have them feed more aggressively in most instances. It may be advisable to try chumming if things slow down. No need to use up bait if the fish are biting well in the first place. Take the opportunity when the bite slows to try chumming along with other techniques. These can provide some of the best opportunities to learn and become a better ice fisherman. 

Twist the Line 

Twist the line when the bite slows to give your bait a different movement

Twisting the line is a different technique to try out when the bite slows. As you know, most anglers will jig up and down in a methodic motion. Fish see this type of jigging day in and day out on the ice. To switch it up, try twisting the line. Roll the line between your thumb and index finger, while keeping it at the same depth. You can also move the lure around the hole while keeping it at the same depth. This method can be very productive if you find the bite slowing. This technique can also be an effective method in shallow water. Give it a try any time, but especially if there is a lull or if you are in an area that has been heavily fished. 

Change up Your Line 

Try fluorocarbon if you want virtual invisibility underwater

If you are not having the best of luck out on the ice, try changing up your line. When fishing in clear water, fluorocarbon is a fantastic line to try out. It is virtually invisible underwater and has no stretch making it very sensitive to bites. So if you believe you may be missing bites, fluorocarbon is also a great alternative. Monofilament tends to have a greater amount of stretch and can cause issues if you like to fish deep. It can also be tough to feel light bites on monofilament. Search for options like fluorocarbon to ensure you are as productive as possible on the ice. Check out our article on the types of fishing line for more information on what type of line can help you up your game. 

What’s Next

Hopefully this article will help you to be more successful on the ice. If nothing else, maybe it will lead to a safer trip out each time. If there are things that you would like to learn more about, or discuss in further detail, please reach out to us. We would love to hear from you and discuss different ice fishing tips. Good luck out there! 

Save on Fishing Essentials!

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Leave a Comment