Ice Fishing Fundamentals: Everything You Need to Know

Avid anglers no longer stay indoors just because it is winter. They are more ready to cast their reels in icy waters than ever before. And if you are willing to join the bandwagon, there can never be a better time. Of course, ice fishing is fun and pretty effective. With the right ice fishing reels and apparel, you will have a perfect chance of catching fish.

For a long time, the idea of ice fishing did not sound exciting to many. How would you consider cutting a hole on ice just to drop a bait and hopefully nosing some fish? That was farfetched, save for a few diehards. But the angling world continues to see an influx of ice anglers.  The trend is pretty consistent and will unlikely stop anytime soon.

Are you still contemplating the prospect of facing winter weather? Well, once you have a taste of crappie or perch freshly caught through the ice, you will understand that winter fishing is a deal-breaker. But wait, ice fishing requires elaborate preparation, thought, and preparation. You will need to think about its feasibility and success. Even more, your comfort and personal safety are at stake.

So, what do you need to know before you go ice fishing?


Ice Fishing Gear and Essentials

Whatever you tag along increases your chances of being successful. It would help if you had the right tools and equipment to have some luck in winter waters. Among the essentials that you need for winter fishing include;


Ice Fishing Reels

There are always two options when it comes to choosing the best ice fishing reel. You have the versatile spinning reels on one side and the performance-oriented inline fishing reels. Making a good choice can be overwhelming. However, you will confidently know whether to go with inline ice fishing reels or spinning models with good guidance. Or, you will know when to tag along both.

The naked truth is that there is a resurgence in the use of inline options. They are currently your ideal gear for ice fishing. Ideally, this is all for good reasons. Line twists when Mother Nature is not at its best is very daunting. But unlike spinning reels or any other reel types, line management is at its best. Thus, do not expect to face much of this nightmare.

Another advantage of inline fishing reels is that they feature many freezing points. Thus, it is less likely that you will end up with a sticky line. But on any occasion that it does, warming the reel or a few breaths on it will help.

Well, inline ice fishing reels also feature unbeatable precision and compatibility with nearly every rod out there.

But there are situations when inline ice models will fail you. Firstly, you cannot use them on large fish. They are also not ideal for fishing in great depths. Finally, you need advanced skills and experience to get the best out of them. In these situations, spinning reels are much better picks. So, why not carry an inline reel as your main device and a spinning model as your spare?

Ice Fishing Rods

While inline ice fishing reels are pretty compatible with all types of fishing rods, choose a rod that does not freeze much. Ice fishing rods come in different sizes. Shorter rods measure between 24 to 36 inches, while longer models measure between 40 and 48 inches.

The type and size of rod you choose should match your bait type, lure, and target fish species. So, you will need the right rod size for your mission.


Fishing Line

Your ordinary open water line is not what you need for winter fishing. You need lines that are ultralight if you want to win against the fish and the environment. So, you will need to downscale to 4, 3, or 2-pound test lines. You may find 1-pound test lines viable options as well.

You should not worry about your fish breaking the line. Ideally, winter fish or fish under the ice are lazy and sluggish. They rarely put up a hard fight like your everyday open water fish will. Light lines are also remarkably freer on light lines and will appear more enticing. Finally, these lines will rarely coil and tangle since they remain limp and supple.


Terminal Tackle

Towards the end of the line is the terminal tackle. Carry an assortment of split-shot weights of varying sizes. However, always prefer soft shot weights as they will less likely weaken your line. These will work as your terminal tackle and help to get your baits and hooks quickly. Interestingly, they also come in handy in helping you to detect light bites on your line.



Choose downsized jigs as your lures. You can use them with live baits or with tiny plastic baits. Of course, using both baits is also perfectly acceptable. The trick with jigs is to match your jig size with your bait and prey size.

Choose your hooks appropriately and ensure you carry several light wire hooks sized differently. Wire hooks ranging from size #8 to size #14 will work perfectly for delicate baits such as waxies and mousies. Start with hook size #2 or #4 if you are a novice, and use minnows.


Artificial Baits

Call them lures or baits; soft plastics are pretty common for use in ice environments. You can choose several plastic lures of different sizes and shapes. Also, consider choosing biodegradable options if you love the environment.


Live Baits

The types of live baits you want to use will vary from place to place. So, you can always inquire from someone more knowledgeable. However, larval baits such as waxies and mousies are incredibly universal and will work well nearly everywhere.


Auger and Auger Accessories

You will not cast your reel over the ice layer. Therefore, you will need ice augers and related accessories. But if you do not know what ice augers are, note that they are spiral cutting tools used for making holes on the ice. Hand drills, featuring “lazer” blades, are pretty common today. They cut ice more efficiently than models with conventional blades. Choose the right diameter when you go for these.

Other options available include battery-powered augers. They are comparatively more expensive than hand augers. However, you can easily use them to drill more and bigger holes without using too much energy.


Final Words

The above components are essentially what you need to get the best from your ice fishing reel. However, winter fishing goes beyond making a catch to protecting yourself. Ensure that you wear the right gear before you venture out. And since the freezing winter weather can be very unforgiving, do not augment the risk by venturing into riskier waters. You can start with little friendlier waters in your neighborhood before you try your luck on the large water bodies.