Fishing & Hunting Tips

How to ice fishing

Ice fishing is one of many winter’s true joy. The fascination with being away from spending dull wintertime at home needs a few preparations. Especially when it involves ice fishing.

If you want to continue the thrill of angling even in site blizzard winter, you need to know about how to ice fishing. In this article, we covered all the necessary details about ice fishing preparation to compilation. So, read thoroughly, and guide your loved ones to an unforgettable winter experience. We’ve gathered some awesome ice fishing rods which might be of your interest. Let’s get started.

How to ice fishing ( A complete guide )

There isn’t a lot happening in ice fishing. If you can get your facts right and take things to step by step, it’s gonna be a walk in the park. Just follow these steps below and see your fish-holding bucket full in no time.

Step 1

Get a license. New ice fishing anglers often forget the legal fact about a proper fishing license. Especially if your moving to fish in a different state. Each state requires specific permission which is pretty easy to obtain.

Although some states offer free fishing. But, there are a few regulations on certain fish species. They can be caught in recommend sizes. You might have to catch and release with some of them as well.

Step 2

Where to go? It’s better to go ice fishing in renounced spots rather than drill a hole in someone’s backyard. You won’t face any obligation in most state for ice fishing. But check before you go just to be sure. Better safe than sorry.

  • Check online angler community forums to identify suitable ice fishing location.
  • Most lakes are great for ice fishing. You’ll be able to hook some perch, crappie, and trout easily.
  • For pond ice fishing, make sure it’s deeper than 10 feet. And check if others ice fish here as well.
  • A good way to identify ice fishing spots by checking online where locals hold derby. It’s an ice fishing tournament for the veteran angler.

Beware: Try to avoid rivers and streams. There ice layer thickness differs from place to place. Even in lakes and ponds, these spring-fed water bodies can cause ice thinning in different places which could be life-threatening.

Step 3

Digging holes. The gateway to the ice fishing world within. Proper holes are the key to success my friend.

  • Try to make holes near structures such as underwater obstacles or vegetations. The temperature there is much less cold than elsewhere. A good fish-holding spot to present your live bait. Use the best fish finder to determine these spots.
  • If you set up an ice shelter, it’s better to dig some holes close by. Dig as fewer as 5 holes. You can dig a lot because there are not any restrictions. But the number will depend on the number of tip-ups you have.
  • Dig a couple of holes in your ice shelter. Place your fish finder and jigging rod. Don’t dig those outside holes away from your sight.
  • Test the ice thickness before you set up your ice shelter. Stand there for a moment to determine its structural strength.
  • The minimum thickness to place your ice shelter is 4 inches. Although I recommend you choose a spot with at least 5 to 6 inches thickness. Just measure your ice after making the hole. For predetermination, you could use local ice fishing stats from the wildlife district office.
  • Use your ice auger to dig holes. Place it is such an angle so the tip comes in contact with the surface. Now slowly press the auger clockwise until the blade starts to cut through the surface. Continue this process until the chunk of ice is suspended and water is now visible.
  • Use your ice scoops to trim the hole off excess ice. Use a bucket or catch cover to protect the hole when the snow or you decide to take a break. Cover up isn’t always a necessity but it does no harm than good.

Step 4

Since you’re learning about how to ice fishing, it’s better to learn how to measure water depth as well. Place your sinker at the end of a hook and drop it into the water. Keep unreeling the line until the sinker hits the water bottom. Now pull the line up a few feet and place bobber at the water surface.

Step 5

Place the bait ( live baits would be better ) on the lure. Different baits are for different species of fish. You could use a line with multiple lures and use different baits at once for maximizing bite chance. If you don’t get any bites for some time, drill another hole. Using live baits are always better. Ice fishing can be made super easy using the best fish finder.

Gear up

Whether you go on camping, hiking or fishing, proper gears are a must. I know you probably have an idea of what to take. But for those who are on their very first ice fishing trip, need to make a checklist. It’s very common to forget a couple of things along the way.


Essential gear list

Here, we will classify the gear list for your convenience.

1. Rod & Reel

  • Spinning reels: You’ll need 500 or 1000 series reels.
  • You’ll have to use a lighter line.

In-line reels:

  • These reels are well-designed to resist line entanglement.


  • This awesome line consists of multiple baits.
  • Spring-loaded flag on the plank gets released once a fish has taken the bait.
  • A fun way to fill up your fish-holding bucket.


  • Instead of buying separately, a combo set up ( rod & reel ) is cheaper and better.
  • A great choice for beginners or casual ice fishing adventures.

Ice fishing line:

  • Depends on the type of fish you’re gonna catch.
  • Monoline offers stretch and braid line does not.
  • For Tip-Ups set up, it’s better to use a heavier braid line. Since you’re gonna target large predator fish like lake trout, walleye, and Pike.

2. Cloths

A proper wearable is essential to sustain cold. Otherwise, you won’t be able to function. And even worse, might get frostbite and hypothermia. So for better ice fishing experience as well as possibly saving your life, wear these following stuff.

Jackets & pants:

  • Pick a set of outwear with insulation, waterproof and windproof feature.
  • Don’t pick Canvas pants and Carhatt type jacket. They are affordable but missing the waterproofing feature. Wearable without waterproof is a big NO-NO.


  • Pick an ice fishing glove with a waterproof and flip open fingertip.
  • Choose a glove that covers your wrist as well as squeeze into your jacket pocket.


  • Don’t forget to pick the best ice fishing boots.
  • Your chosen model must have waterproofing, thick insulation lining, good rubber outsole, enclosed gaiter, and a strong contour.


  • Long undergarments with good insulation.
  • Modern thermal fabric innerwear is comfortable and lightweight.


  • A quality stocking hat is a must.
  • But fur or fleece-lined hat with ear flaps is more effective to combat cold.
  • Go for balaclavas. They offer absolute protection of face and neck.

Hand warmers:

  • Just drop the hot pack in your boot or gloves if the cold gets unbearable.
  • Might not be an ice heater replacement but an easier way to stay warm for a couple of hours.

Led headlamp:

  • Use it after dark to focus on our jigs. More useful than a lantern.

3. Fish bucket or cooler

You might be thinking bucket is a cheaper option than ice. But it’s good until you move away from the snow. If you don’t want to spoil your catch then there’s no alternative for a cooler. Grab a few chunks of ice and head home for a delicious dinner.

4. Electricals

You gotta bring some hardware to ease up your ice fishing efforts. We’ve listed these following gadgets for your consideration. If you could use all these devices, your ice fishing days will be relaxing and bountiful.

  • Ice flashers: These are actually portable fish finders. They are used to extract data like water and jig depth, a flock of fish movement, fish that moves up to take the bait. Ice anglers prefer flasher over fish finder. Because they can detect even the slightest bite and update fish status faster. Good news is, modern digital fishfinder became just as quick and effective as the flasher.
  • Handheld GPS: If you want to see depth contours beneath the ice and see your exact position on the lake, use the handheld GPS unit. You could use your phone instead. But let’s face the fact. Is it really worth it to delete your data and battery? Besides, who knows how the reception is going to be like!
  • Ice fish finders: Choose the best fish finder with ice flasher mode enabled. You can find them in a package deal from popular manufacturers. In the bundle, your fish finder will also include ice transducer, carry case and 12V battery.
  • Submersible camera: Yes, you might feel this as an exaggeration. But avid ice fishers use this sort of camera to locate a school of fish. You can also determine the type and size of the fish as well. AquaView is well-known for this kind underwater camera. Just prepare yourself to dig a lot of holes.

5. Augers

You will find three types of augers. Each has its ups and downs. Let’s find the best ice augers that suit your preference.

  • Manual augers: You have to hand it your way into the ice hole with this one. It might seem old-fashioned but can be the job done in silence. Besides, it’s lighter than the other two. You’ll also get the much needed warm up as dig holes.
  • Gas augers: Also called the power augers, they have a gasoline engine installed in the shaft. The engine drive shaft and drill holes within seconds. Choose 4 stroke engine. You won’t have the Hassle to mix oil and gas. Besides, the 4 stroke engine is smoother and quieter.
  • Electric augers: There are two types of the electric auger. One uses a cordless drill attachment to the shaft to drive the blades. This is called the hybrid auger. It’s popular for using a large-sized drill. One the other hand, we have a genuine electric auger. You’ll be surprised to see the amount of power it generates from a lithium battery. For me, this one is the best auger. Silent but effective.

Importance of using live baits

You’ll find a lot more success by using live bait. But there’s a problem of survival in sub-zero temperature. Fresh live bait such as minnows will result in more bites than artificial baits. Traditional container lacks the ability to keep the minnows alive. That’s why it’s best to use a live bait container.

Minnows are the best kind of bait than fake ones. In winter most fish stays hungry. Once they pick up on the scent of your live bait, you’ll be able to get bites more often.


Better safe than sorry. You can’t put a price on your life. That’s why to take at least these steps to stay safe.

  • Check the weather before you go on an ice fishing trip. Because winter weather can be very unpredictable.
  • Wrap up your ice fishing before dark. If you’re a beginner or alone, I suggest not to be out there stranded in cold. Some fun is better left alone.
  • Keep a hypothermia prevention kit. Who knows if a supposedly good day could turn into a shivering blizzard.
  • Wear a floatation device just in case you break down the ice and find yourself in freezing water. Even if you’re a good swimmer, the sheer cold could lead you to panic and send you in shock. That’s why a floatation device is a practical safety precaution.
  • Try to step on the ice with a blue tint in it. They are safer thick and not cracked.
  • Try to go on ice fishing as a gang. And spread out once you’re on the hardened water.
  • Take a general outdoor survival training. This will come in handy even if you never go on an ice fishing trip.
  • Ice fishing spikes will help you crawl out of the freezing water should you ever make a fall.

Use this thickness guidelines to have a safer ice fishing trip.

Less than 2″ – Stay away

4″- Safe to fish on foot

5″- Safe to fish and take the ATV

8″-12″ – Safe to bring your car

12″-15* – Safe to drive the family SUV


Finally, in this article, we try to cover all possible aspects of how to ice fishing. I urge all of my readers to stay alert and listen to your surroundings. No doubt ice fishing is fun but it comes at a gruesome cost. Never forget that.

And please use your heater properly to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Wishing you all a memorable ice fishing. Stay frosty my friends.

Nicholi Wyto

Hey I'm Nicholi Wyto is a professional sports fisherman and hunter, love to enjoy spending time in Michigan’s rugged northern forests. I love to explore my experience and help others who are interested in fishing and hunting.

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