Ice fishing is a very popular and fun outdoor activity and with the right gear, you can catch a lot of fish on hard water, despite the somewhat unfavorable conditions of winter.
The essential gear and tackle to bring on an ice fishing trip include an ice auger, an ice skimmer, and ice picks for your safety. Depending on the fish species you are targeting, you will need an ice rod for jigging or a tip-up or beaver dam for live and dead bait fishing. You may also be in need of a bait bucket, a chair, a thermos, and an ice shelter.
Keep in mind that you really don’t have to overdo things if you’re new to the sport, just keep it simple and learn as you go. Ice fishing requires some basic and essential gear, but you really don’t have to spend a fortune in order to successful on the ice!
Keep reading this article for helpful and valuable tips on the best ice fishing gear.
Best Ice Augers
An ice auger is the most essential tool for your ice fishing adventures! You can choose between a manual and an electric auger.
Manual ones are great for beginners, as they are easy to transport and operate. Of course, you will have to use your muscle power in order to drill your ice holes and you can only drill so many in one day!
Manual ice augers are best used when fishing statically, with e.g. tip-ups for northern pike.
On the other hand, an electric ice auger both allows you to drill as many holes as you want, and to drill them fast. This saves you time and energy, and can increase your success rate when, as you can cover a greater area on the ice.
An ice skimmer, or ice scoop, is needed to keep your ice fishing hole free of floating ice and slush, as it otherwise might freeze over.
Pro Tip: Avoid plastic scoops and skimmers, as they easily break in the cold!
Never forget your ice picks when fishing on hard water. You just never know where the ice might be thinner or weak. These picks are a cheap life insurance that will enable you to quickly pull yourself out of the freezing water.
Ice Fishing Rod
If you want to fish rather actively for e.g. walleye or panfish, you should get yourself an ice fishing rod for jigging.
This is a very short one-piece rod of about 25-30” with a light to medium-light action.
The short length of the rod makes it possible to fight and control a fish through the ice hole without much difficulty, while the light action allows you to feel and detect even the most careful of bites while jigging.
Often, ice rods come with a matching ice fishing reel, but any small-size spinning reel will do in the beginning!
A more passive approach to targeting northern pike or bigger walleye is to fish with a classic tip-up.
A tip-up lets you suspend live or dead bait through the ice hole and present it at a set depth. There, it will remain until a predator goes for it.
If and when that happens, the fish will take line and set off the red signal flag, which hence acts as a visual bite indicator. And so, you don’t actually have to guard or fish the tip-up actively.
For longer sessions in harsh weather conditions, an ice shelter can come in very handy.
These super compact and light pop-up tents can be easily transported to your intended fishing spot and are equally easily erected once you get there.
This way you can always fish in a comfortable and sheltered environment, no matter how bad the weather or how cold it might get while you’re on the ice!
If you plan on fishing with live bait, you will have to bring a bait bucket with you.
Not only does it allow you to smoothly transport your baits, but it also keeps them alive for many hours, thanks to the included aerator.
Pro Tip: You can even use your bait bucket as a seat while ice fishing.