By David Janeson
Ice fishing is a big business. According to a report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. anglers spent nearly $180 million on ice fishing equipment in 2016, supporting an industry that’s growing rapidly despite the steadily warming climate.
It’s nice that folks south of the border are finally discovering the joys of ice fishing. Up on Lake Winnipeg, we’ve been keen on winter angling for decades.
“Each and every year, we’re proud to welcome first-time ice anglers to our neck of the woods and help outfit them for successful outings (fingers crossed).” — David Janeson
Are you one of those first-timers? You’ve come to the right place. Here’s what you’ll need to have a good time and stay safe out on the ice.
Ice Rod and Reel
You wouldn’t go warm-water fishing without a rod and reel, would you? Then don’t leave home without your ice fishing rod and reel (or a sturdy rental).
A word of caution for first-timers: ice rods and reels aren’t quite the same as warm-water rods and reels, though you can use the latter in a pinch. For best results, look for sensitive rods capable of feeling lighter bites — you want something that, ideally, can handle delicate perch and aggressive pikes alike.
All-Purpose Utility Buckets
True to its name, your utility bucket will pull at least double duty on your ice fishing outing: first, as a seat or table while you wait, and later (hopefully) a place to store your live or iced catch. When in doubt, bring an extra bucket.
You’ve got your rod, reel, and buckets. Now, you need to get through the ice. For that, you’ll need an ice auger.
Automatic ice augers are easier and safer to use than manual ice augers, but they do cost a pretty penny. Plus, manual augering is a nice workout for your core and upper body. Just be sure to watch an instruction video first or get someone who’s done this a few times to help you out.
Ice fishing is a waiting game. Tip-ups (or “tip ups”) ensure you don’t have to keep your eyes glued to the line at all times. If you’ve set out multiple lines, as is likely, this is all but impossible anyway.
Baits and Lures
Just as in the warm-water game, you’ll need a selection of baits and lures based on what you’re hoping to catch. Talk to a local expert for guidance on what types of baits and lures work best for what types of fish.
Ice Cleats and Picks
Depending on ice conditions and your own personal preference, you may want to lace up ice cleats before you head out on the ice. They’re all but essential for moving around on clear, smooth ice.
An ice pick or safety claw, meanwhile, is something you’ll hope never to need — a means for self-rescue if you fall through unstable ice. You can make ice claws in a pinch if need be.
See You Out on the Ice
This isn’t an exhaustive list of everything you could possibly need for a successful ice fishing outing. But, for first-timers, it’s a good start. If you’re up our way next season, we’d love to show you our favorite ice fishing spots.
Hope to see you out on the ice!
David Janeson owns Gull Harbour Marina, a seasonal lakeside resort on beautiful Hecla Island, Manitoba.