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 during this time of year.
essential ice fishing gear that you’ll need for your fishing trip includes an ice auger, an ice skimmer, and ice picks for your safety. Depending on the fish species you are targeting and your preferred method, you will also need a light ice rod or a tip-up. 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 succeed on the ice!
Keep reading this article for helpful and valuable tips on the best ice fishing gear.
What Auger Do You Need for Ice Fishing?
An ice auger is the most essential tool for your ice fishing adventures! You can choose between a hand and an electric auger.
Hand augers 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!
As hand augers generally have a somewhat smaller diameter, they are best used for smaller species such as perch, crappie, or bluegill.
Electric ice augers are both heavier and a little more difficult to operate (at least for beginners).
On the other hand do they allow you to drill as many holes as you need, and to drill them fast.
This saves you time and energy and can increase your success rate, as you’ll be able to cover more water.
You can take a closer look at some of Amazon’s manual and electric ice augers in order to see which one fits your needs better.
Ice Fishing Rod&Reel Combo
If you want to fish rather actively for e.g. walleye, crappie, or perch, you should get yourself an ice fishing rod for jigging.
This is a very short one-piece rod of about 25-30” with 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 when jigging.
Often, ice rods come with a matching ice fishing reel, but most size 1000 to 2000 spinning reels will do in the beginning!
A more passive approach to targeting bigger predators, such as northern pike or lake trout, 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 your tip-up actively, allowing you to have several lines in the water (always check fishing regulations before heading out!).
RELATED ARTICLE: What Is the Best Ice Fishing Line for Northern Pike?
Never forget your ice picks when fishing on hard water, as you just never know where the ice might be thinner or weak.
These picks are the best and cheapest life insurance when you’re on the ice, as they will enable you to quickly pull yourself out of the freezing water.
If and when you go through and the ice surface is too slippery, you just won’t be able to hold on to anything with your fingers, and so wearing these picks around your neck is really something you should always do! I cannot stress that enough!
Oh, and one more thing; do not panic when you’re in the water! Paradoxically, it’s panic that kills most anglers that go through the ice, not the cold water!
If you panic, you’ll quickly lose orientation and probably end up drowning. But if you remain calm and keep cool-headed (pun intended), you’ll be able to gather your thoughts and know what to do to get yourself out of the water.
Just don’t be afraid of the cold or of getting hypothermia, that actually takes several minutes to seriously affect your body!
Think about it this way, people ice bathe all the time, and they don’t drown, right? Remember that if you fall through, stay calm (even though you’re body will be in a temporary chock), get back on the ice again, and you’ll be fine.
Just make sure to go somewhere warm as soon as you can!
For longer sessions in harsh weather conditions, a portable ice fishing 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!
RELATED ARTICLE: For even more comfort, many ice anglers have portable propane heaters in their pop-up shelters, which keep them dry and warm during their fishing trip. You can read up on how to heat your ice fishing shelter by reading this article!
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.
Slush in your ice hole is definitely something you’ll want to avoid! For one thing, it’s really annoying. For another, it will affect the action of your ice lure when jigging, as there won’t be much space for your line in the hole!
A skimmer can easily prevent that and will make your ice fishing trip both more effective and fun!
Pro Tip: Avoid plastic scoops and skimmers, as they easilycrack or break in the cold!
If you plan on fishing with live bait, you will have to bring a bait bucket with you to keep the fish alive throughout the trip.
Not only does it allow you to smoothly transport your baits, but it also keeps them alive for many hours, thanks to an often included aerator.
Just make sure to check on your bucket water and live baits through and then if it’s really cold outside. If the water freezes over, the pump might not be able to enrich it with oxygen, which, in turn, will kill all of your valuable live bait!
Pro Tip: For shorter sessions, you can even use your bait bucket as a chair while ice fishing. It’s pretty basic and not really comfortable, but it’s better than having to stand on the ice all day!