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You Want to Go Ice Fishing? Know These 9 Effective Tips for Ice Fishing

tips for ice fishing
Written by Simon Michel
Last Update: March 8, 2022

Many fishermen and women, mourn those long, warm summer days when they were in a boat or beside a body water casting their bait, waiting for the thrill of a bite on the line, but die-hard anglers don’t let a bit of winter weather stop them indulging in their favourite sport. They take up ice fishing! First time ice anglers may find it strange at first until they start catching fish. It’s not only the cold that makes it different, but also how it’s done. The bleak surroundings and staring at a small hole is not the same, but it can be just as rewarding as fair weather fishing.

Tips for Ice Fishing: The Basics and Safety

Tips for Ice Fishing

Safety First

Some ice fishing tips on safety will make you aware of the dangers. Ice fishing can be a tricky business, so be cautious and choose a top-class ice fishing reel. Don’t go out on the ice unless it has a minimum of four inches of thickness. Remember, ice isn’t always uniform underneath, some parts may be thinner than others, especially the further out you go from the shore. Experienced ice fishermen may go out on thinner ice, but they probably know the area and the strength of the ice. Anyway, there are a few basic things you can do to ensure your own safety or mitigate possible problems.

An extra set of warm clothing, just in case you fall through the ice. A space blanket or something similar would be a good idea. Hypothermia is a greater danger than drowning.

Tell someone exactly where you going before you set off and approximately when you will return.

A fully charged cell phone. Keeping it in a ziplock bag would be prudent too.

A GPS device would also be a good idea.

Tips for Ice Fishing

Here are some ice fishing techniques to try once you are on the ice and all set up. Of course, like all experienced fishermen know, fish don’t always rush to take your bait, so these ice fishing tips, shared by avid ice fishing enthusiasts, may help.

  1. Like other kinds of fishing, chumming the water before you drop your line is always a good idea. You can use ground up fish bait, worms or any small bait like minnows.
  2. Moving your tackle very slightly, may attract the attention of fish. Either an up and down motion or even rotating the line between your fingers. Fish can detect minute movements or vibrations, that’s how they find their food. In winter fish conserve their energy, so they aren’t so inclined to go after a fast-moving bait.
  3. Dropping the line so the tackle hits the bed of the lake or river. This creates vibrations and disturbs the sediment, which attract sharp-eyed fish to your bait.
  4. If you are having no luck, you can change baits. If you start with live bait you can change it for plastic or vice versa. With plastic lures you can change colours and even sizes. Arrive prepared and ready to mix it up. Changing lure size will change the size of the fish that you attract. Try starting small and gradually increase, if you aren’t satisfied with the results.
  5. As fish are sensitive to the tiniest vibration, try resting your rod, so that any movement caused by your hand can’t travel through your tackle and be detected. Remember, fish are smart and cautious.
  6. Some fish suck in their food and then spit it out before taking the plunge and swallowing it. They do this very delicately and many times your float or bob won’t indicate that the bait is being touched. To combat this, bore a large hole that you can look into. That way you can see the fish tasting your bait and know when to strike instead of relying solely on your indicator.
  7. Some fish may be wary of boreholes in the ice because of the light that penetrates the water through them. They sense danger and steer clear of them. The way to combat that is to fill the hole with the ice chips you made by making the hole. This cuts down on the amount of light penetration.
  8. Fishing depth is another tip for ice fishing. Before going it is recommended to research the water where you are going to fish and find out what species inhabit it and the kinds of bait they respond to. Different species feed at different depths. With that knowledge, you can vary what type of fish you are trying to catch. If you don’t have an ice-fishing reel available, get any decent trolling reel for reaching the right depth.
  9. You may not need to use these ice fishing tips and techniques, you may just drop in your line and the fish start to bite, but they are good to know anyway. Like any new and different way of fishing, it is a question of trying and testing, it sees what works best.


You can go ice fishing either high or low tech, depending on your preference. Going low-tech, you can just bundle yourself up like a Michelin man, take a crate to sit on, and an axe to smash through the ice. Always use the best ice fishing rod out there. On the other hand, you could take the right gear to make your ice fishing trip easier and more comfortable. Whatever you do, remember to conform to the fishing regulations.

  1. Clothing: As it is cold weather fishing and you will stationary for long periods of time, it’s important to stay warm. Padded bib overalls that cover your legs and chest, leaving your arms free for ease of movement are a must.They can be easily worn over your other clothes. Don’t forget to wear the best balaclavasto keep your face from freezing.
  2. Gloves: A good pair of non-slip gloves are also recommended.
  3. Sunglasses: Although the weather may be dull because its winter, what sun there is will reflect off the ice and a pair of sunglasses will cut down on the glare.
  4. Boots: A decent pair of lined boots to keep your feet warm.
  5. Ice Cleats: Attach ice cleats to your boots for grip and to avoid slipping on the ice. Ice is hard and you don’t want to injure yourself by falling over.
  6. Shelter: A shelter to guard you against the wind or rain. Wind-chill can get into the marrow of your bones and the cold could make your day miserable. Shelters come in different designs and sizes. It’s up to you to choose which best suits you or your budget.
  7. Ice Scoop: Use this to clear excess ice from your borehole or alternatively, when you need to cut down on the amount of sunlight penetrating your fishing whole.
  8. Bait Bucket: Don’t forget your bait bucket or bait!
  9. Augers: An auger is essential to bore a neat and stable hole in the ice. They come in different sizes, that is bore diameters, anything from 6 inches to 10. The low tech, manual augers are lightweight and easy to carry. A manual auger will at least warm you up and can be used inside a shelter. There drill-driven kinds that are fitted directly to a normal, cordless hand drill. The drill has to be powerful and fully charged. Unfortunately, very low temperatures can affect the efficiency of the batteries. Going high tech, other augers are powered by petrol (gasoline), built-in electric motors or propane gas. All are weighty and can emit fumes, so it isn’t advisable to use them inside shelters. These models are also noisy. Choose carefully before picking which to buy.
  10. Heaters: If you have a shelter a portable heater would be a good idea too, especially if you are going to spent all day out on the ice. They come in various kinds and because they are a heavy duty, add a lot more weight to your gear.
  11. Sled: A sled would be advisable to transport all your equipment, if you are taking the more comfortable and high-tech option. With a sled you can add a lot more items to take along all in one journey from the shore.
  12. Underwater Camera: This is going really high-tech!


Ice fishing is a great way to extend your favourite hobby into an all year round activity. To do it properly it only takes a bit of preparation and the right equipment, especially the right type of fishing reel. It will cost a bit of money to get the gear, so choose carefully and set off with the knowledge that has everything you need. The best recommendations from other ice anglers would be not to forget carrying a high-quality fishing headlamp to make your ice fishing experience more enjoyable even in the early morning or at night.

Happy ice fishing!

About the author

Simon Michel

The plight of life sometimes takes you to extremes of nature and guess what, you learn the best lessons in your most difficult times. As a keen sea explorer with several years spent in yachts business, I had damn busy schedules throughout 13 years of my career. I used to free my mind from my mundane days in the sea with extreme fishing expeditions when this became not just a fun activity, but a life saver. You could say, I employed most types of fishing techniques but nothing felt better than fly fishing. That drew my whole attention for a good number of reasons. I mean, it’s an amazing feeling when you are in a light mood with buddies munching snacks and casting the fishing road. I look forward to making the most of my leisure time with this fantastic sport.

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