Ice Fishing is an adventurous cold-water sport enjoyed by many fishing enthusiasts. As most anglers agree, fish caught during the winter just tastes better. But, before you take part in this unique way of fishing, it is essential that you have the proper gear so that your time on the ice is safe, fun, and enjoyable.
What gear do you need for Ice Fishing? You will need an ice auger, an ice scoop, a convenient way to move your equipment over the ice, and layered clothing as well as boots in order to stay warm.
You will also need specialized fishing equipment for winter conditions such as ice picks, an ice rod or reel, along with winter weather friendly lures and bait.
Ice Fishing requires specific techniques so if you want to catch fish, make the trip enjoyable, and stay warm, you will need the proper gear. Gear that is designed specifically for ice fishing will certainly enhance your trip and make it more enjoyable.
Whether you are a minimalist or prefer a more lavish experience, we’ve created the complete guide for your Ice Fishing trip.
The Basic Gear You Need For Ice Fishing
There are basic items that you need when you go Ice Fishing that are not needed when you are fishing under different conditions. As the Boy Scout adage states, “Be Prepared”.
Proper preparation in advance of your Ice Fishing trip will ensure that you are not missing any of the essential items while you are out on the ice.
Overview of Basic Ice Fishing Gear
You may not be totally familiar with what all the gear below is, and that’s totally fine – we’ll walk you through them all. First, here’s an overview of the basic gear needed for ice fishing:
- 5-Gallon Plastic Bucket
- Ice Auger
- Ice Scoop
- Ice Rod & Reel
- Ice Fishing Lures
- Ice Fishing Bait
- Ice Picks
- Warm Clothing & Boots
A More In Depth Look at Basic Ice Fishing Gear
Curious as to what some of the different ice fishing gear is and what it’s used for? Look no further!
A small sled will be needed to carry all of your equipment, such as your rods/reels, lures, bait, auger. These often come with a pull rope to allow for easy transporting of materials.
5-Gallon Plastic Buckets
A 5-gallon plastic bucket with a lid can be used with a two-fold purpose: as a chair to sit on while you fish and later, to carry the fish that you catch.
Ice Augers and Ice Chisels
An ice auger is what you will use to drill a hole through the ice. When deciding which tool is right for you, first decide the type of fish you are attempting to catch. Unless you are after larger fish, you will target a size between 4 and 6 inches in diameter. You can opt for either an ice chisel, a hand auger, or a power auger.
An ice chisel is quite cheap, but it requires a great deal of manual effort. A hand auger requires less manual effort, but the blades must always be kept sharp. And finally, power augers, though more expensive than the other options, are most preferred because they cut through the ice quickly and are easy to use.
Even though many Ice Fishing pros have switched to gas-powered augers, the hand unit continues to be the favored option packing light and traveling long distances.
After drilling the hole using the ice auger, the hole will be filled with slush. Leaving the slush in the hole will prevent you from dropping your line in the hole and catching fish. Use an ice scoop to get rid of this excess slush and then you can drop your line down the hole.
Ice Fishing Rods and Reels
You will need an Ice Fishing rod, which is approximately 2ft in length. With Ice Fishing, you will not cast your rod as in regular water fishing. Instead, you are only jigging your rod up and down, so you will benefit from the durability and sensitive nature of the shorter Ice Fishing rod or reel.
Ice Fishing Lures
Specialized lures should be purchased since Ice Fishing lures are jigged and not cast. These jigs come in various shapes, sizes, and colors. The type of lure that is bought is completely dependent upon the type of fish you want to catch.
Ice Fishing Bait
Anglers commonly tip their ice jigs with live bait, such as insects and larvae. Many anglers use minnows or shiners. Although many people think of worms and nightcrawlers for summer fishing, they are quite effective for Ice Fishing.
Anglers typically use a combination of lures and bait when Ice Fishing. The key is to use the type and size of lures and bait that is most appropriate for the fish you want to catch.
A Tip-Up is an amazing tool that allows you to set a trap for larger predator fish. You simply set it up over the hole and wait for the fish to bite. Once the flag “tips up” (or tips down, depending on the type of tip-up device), this is your signal that a fish has been caught, and you can retrieve it from the snare. Setting up a Tip-Up will allow you to actively fish in one spot while the Tip-Up traps fish in another spot. Live minnows are the standard bait used with Tip-Ups.
Ice Picks are a safety measure to assist you should you fall into the water. Once in the water, clothes get heavier and the ice is slippery, and so escaping from the water becomes very difficult. The ice picks can be used as a means of self-rescue to pull yourself out of the water. Keep them around your neck at all times.
Warm Clothing and Boots
Staying warm is essential if you will be spending any significant amount of time on the ice. Even if you adjust well to cold temperatures or are fond of winter weather, you will find that standing on the ice without the proper gear will make you feel miserable, not to mention cold and wet. Choose a layered approach.
Generally, three layers of clothing are recommended. Include synthetics and wool to generate more insulation and warmth. You want clothing that is waterproof and windproof.
Don’t forget about your feet! Those cotton socks are not for this trip; choose wool, fleece, or synthetic socks and use boots that are well insulated and waterproof.
How to Find The Best Ice Fishing Gear
There is no shortage of venues selling gear for Ice Fishing. There are specialty shops that cater to outdoor sports as well as online shops that sell fishing gear in addition to a host of other services.
Even brick and mortar shops tend to have an online presence where you can find all of the specialized gear that you need at competitive prices. The best shops will have a diverse inventory allowing you to find nearly all of the items you need at once.
What Gear Can I Find, and Where?
See the table below for the type of gear you can find at more traditional places to buy ice fishing gear, online places to buy ice fishing gear, and other places to find ice fishing gear.
|Rods & Reels||Shelters & Sheds||Tackle||Ice Augers||Ice Line||Ice Tackle Storage||Ice Fishing Electronics|
|Field & Stream||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||–|
|Bass Pro Shops||Yes||Yes||–||Yes||Yes||–||–|
|DICK’S Sporting Goods||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Traditional Places to Purchase Gear for Ice Fishing
- Bass Pro Shops
- DICK’s Sporting Goods
What’s So Good About the Traditional Places to Buy Ice Fishing Gear?
The above listed shops have a large assortment of products specifically designed for Ice Fishing. The benefit of using these shops is that they have been around for many years and they are names we have come to trust.
Each of these shops has stores that you can drive to for your purchases, should you have one in your city, and they also have online shops. Many of the best deals can be found online. One major benefit of purchasing online is being able to see buyer feedback.
Most sites provide buyers with the opportunity to leave a rating of one to five stars along with a comment after they have purchased and used a product. By reviewing the comments, you can readily see if a product reportedly works as described or not.
Not many shops are dedicated to fishing alone. Most businesses prefer to strategically diversify their products in order to gain the interest of a wide variety of consumers; however, these three sites focus solely on fishing so you are almost certain to find the items that meet your needs.
Best Websites for Purchasing Ice Fishing Gear
- Field & Stream
Why Buy Ice Fishing Gear from These Websites?
FishingUSA dubs itself as “America’s Tackle Shop”. On their site, you can find a category of items designated specifically for Ice Fishing.
Field & Stream is a similar option. On their site, you will find a complete kit of items that will take care of your entire trip from rods to lures to Tip-Ups, flashers, jackets, and bibs.
Focusing on one set of products does not necessarily mean better. With that being said, there are two additional means for finding great gear.
Other Places To Find Ice Fishing Gear
What Are the Benefits of Purchasing Ice Fishing Gear at Scheels or Amazon?
Scheels is largely related to fishing, but they do sell products related to other outdoor water sports and hunting. The appeal with Scheels is that they have an awesome satisfaction guarantee. Whether you purchase a product that is on sale or otherwise, they guarantee that you will be satisfied or you can request a refund.
Amazon continues to be a go-to shopping place for any and all types of products you may be interested in, and Ice Fishing gear is no exception. You can find new and used gear at very competitive prices.
One of the benefits of using Amazon is that items can be grouped into lists. For example, you can see which Ice Fishing products are the best sellers. This provides some indication of the items that are being used by most anglers.
Ice Fishing Gear For The Minimalist
Perhaps you’re more interested in taking the bare bones approach to fishing and want to get started Ice Fishing right away and are not interested in a lot of complicated gear and the time it takes to learn to use this gear.
Or perhaps you’re just getting started and are not sure if you want to invest in all things Ice Fishing for what could be a one-time adventure. Taking the minimalist approach is a great way to decrease the anxiety and avoid purchasing unnecessary items.
In either case, you can cut out some of the bells and whistles and take the minimalist approach. Here are the things you need to have a successful trip without all the extras.
Overview of Minimalist Ice Fishing Gear
Thinking of minimizing the gear you need to take ice fishing? Below is an overview of what gear you’ll need at the bare minimum in order to ice fish. Notice that quite a few of them are the same or very similar to the gear listed above.
- 5 Gallon Plastic Bucket
- Hand Auger
- Large Spoon or Ladle (From Your Kitchen)
- Shortest Rods You Own
- Ice Picks
- Warm Clothing
Minimalist Ice Fishing Gear: A Closer Look
A 5-gallon bucket can store and carry all of your equipment, your rods, a small tackle box, a large spoon, and a hand auger. Using its lid, it can also double as your chair while you fish. And when it’s time to head out, it can carry the fish that you catch.
Ice Augers and Ice Scoops: Minimalist Style
A small hand auger will be needed to dig your fishing hole. Ensure the blades are sharp prior to your trip.
After drilling the hole with the hand auger, you will need to clear out the slush that is left behind. You can either purchase an Ice Scoop or you can bring a large spoon or ladle from home to tackle the job.
Minimalist Ice Rods and Reels
Instead of buying a specific Ice Rod or Reel, many minimalists simply use the shortest rod they already own. Typically, a medium weight, 26-28 inch, straight-line type reel is recommended as it weighs less and packs much flatter, allowing for more room inside of your bucket.
Ice Fishing Lures and Baits
Pack your small tackle box with assorted lures such as Swedish pimple, forage fry, vertical small spoons, rattle spoons, and slug bugs.
A few slip bobbers, a small assortment of artificial wax worms, grubs, and other assorted artificial lures should also be in the tackle box along with a pair of hemostats and a good knife or multi-tool. These items may very well already be in your tackle box.
Safety should still be front of mind even when taking the minimalist approach; therefore, you will want to include ice picks in case you accidentally fall into the ice. These will allow you to dig yourself out of the icy water. Layered clothing as mentioned above should also be a part of your Ice Fishing essential list.
Additional Accessories For Ice Fishing
Some occasions call for extra bells and whistles. If you don’t like roughing it but instead like to go all out and have everything at your disposal, then you will want to add these items to your list of must-haves for your Ice Fishing trip.
These items will not only increase your safety, keep you warm, and fulfill your safety; they might also be fun to play with.
An Overview of Additional Accessories For Ice Fishing
Not everyone wants to ice fish with minimal gear, and that’s perfectly okay. Here’s a look at additional ice fishing accessories and gear:
- Creepers or Strap-on Cleats
- Ice Fishing Flasher
- Ice Hut/Fishing Tent
- Propane Heater
- Waterproof Landing Gloves
- Ice Hold Cover
- Underwater Fishing Camera
All About Additional Accessories for Ice Fishing
But wait – what’s a creeper? What’s an ice hut? Why would you need a cookstove to go ice fishing? Let’s find out.
Creepers and Strap-On Cleats
Icy conditions certainly increase your chances of falling. Creepers and strap-on cleats are boot accessories that keep you from slipping on the ice. Creepers are strapped to the bottom of the boots whereas strap-on cleats fit over the boots.
Ice Fishing Flashers
Wouldn’t it be great if you already knew where the fish were before you start to jig your rod? Using an Ice Fishing Flasher, you can see below the surface of the ice, making it much easier to see where the fish are lurking.
But Flashers don’t simply show you where the fish are, some models also reveal how the fish are responding to your bait, so you know to try something different. Some models display the depth of the water and even offer adjustable cone angels, all with the goal of helping you catch more fish.
Cookstoves and Grills
Take care of your hunger needs while out on the ice with a small, tailgate-style cookstove or grill. These come in a variety of sizes and styles. In minutes, you can cook up hotdogs, brats, burgers, soup, or even enjoy some of the spoils as you catch them. Consider cooking with propane so that you don’t have to worry about any spills.
Ice Huts and Fishing Tents
When planning to spend long hours out on the lake, an ice hut or a fishing tent can make the stay much more comfortable. This can also protect you in the event it starts to rain or if the wind chill dips to less than comfortable temperatures. Opt for a portable hut or tent so that you can move easily around the lake.
A small propane heater is great to have on cold days. Using a heater while you are in your hut or fishing tent can keep you warm and toasty even in the iciest of conditions. Make sure you do not leave the heater on unattended inside the shelter.
Sunglasses are sure to come in handy to protect your eyes from the sharp glare of the sun as it reflects against bright snow and ice.
Waterproof Landing Gloves
The perfect accessory for your hands are waterproof-landing gloves will keep your hands warm and dry. Make sure the pair you purchase is breathable, has a water- and windproof softshell designed to repel both water and snow and you will be able to fish though the dusk hours of the evening.
Ice Hole Covers
What if due to frigid temperatures, your ice hole refreezes? That can be super frustrating; however, an Ice Hole cover will prevent that from happening.
Underwater Fishing Cameras
An underwater fishing camera will allow you to take beautiful pictures inclusive of the ones you leave behind. What better way to chronicle your journey?
All in All
In conclusion, the world of Ice Fishing can be fun and exciting. It is also a great way to meet other anglers who have participated in Ice Fishing for many years.
The reward of catching your first fish through the ice will be exhilarating. Use this guide to ensure you have the proper gear so that you can go out on the ice safely and have a productive trip, a trip that will make you want to go Ice Fishing again.