Though factors such as climate change, pollution, and invasive species have long threatened the sport of angling, it looks like ice fishing is here to stay. As northern climates continue to welcome an abundance of prize-worthy catches, anglers from all over the country flock to states like Michigan, North Dakota, and Minnesota.
If you are new to the art of fishing, its icy counterparts can prove a challenging learning curve. In this quick guide, you’ll learn how to make the most of your time on the ice.
What is Ice Fishing?
Ice fishing involves hooking or spearing catch through an opening in the ice on a frozen body of water. You can ice fish in any area whose lakes, piers, or ponds experience regular freezing. Most ice fishing activity in the U.S. takes place in one third of northern states.
The Best Equipment for Ice Fishing
To get started ice fishing, you’ll need to stock up on the following staples.
Most ice fishing rods are smaller than traditional products and measure between 18 and 26 inches long. Because of their compact stature, shorter rods allow anglers to jig more effectively.
Equip your rod with a sturdy reel to avoid having to pull up your line by hand.
Lures and Bait
During the winter, the sun sets earlier than usual. A reflective lure will attract any fish’s attention.
Pair your lure with live, pungent bait such as wax worms, maggots, spikes, wigglers, or minnows. Attaching a brightly colored jig can help lure in your catch.
Naturally, to gain access to the water, you’ll have to cut through the ice to begin with. You can choose between manual or electric-powered augers, the former of which is more affordable and easier to maintain. However, electric drills are more convenient and can save you a lot of time—you can even drill as deep as 130 feet!
Types of Catch You’ll Come Across When Ice Fishing
Hook-and-line ice anglers will most likely come across these fish species.
Crappie is among the most sought-after species when ice fishing. However, because they frequently migrate during the winter, keeping up with their movements can be challenging. When ice fishing for crappie, drill as many holes as possible to better your chances.
During the peak winter season, schooling perch provides days of non-stop action. However, these fussy fish won’t always fall for even the tastiest of bait. Prioritize high-quality jigs when traditional baits don’t get the job done.
Rainbow trout are prevalent and recognizable, even outside the ice fishing sphere. But don’t underestimate them—these ice fish can put up an impressive fight! When ice fishing for trout, the key is patience!
How to Stay Safe on the Ice
Naturally, to stay safe on the ice, you’ll want to go in the proper clothing. Wear something to keep you warm throughout the day, and consider setting up shelter.
Take along safety spikes in case you fall into the water. This bit of equipment can be life-saving.
Finally, familiarize yourself with the regulations in your designated ice fishing destinations. Some laws enforce specific limits and size requirements—all for the sake of your safety.
Where to Go Ice Fishing
Ice fishing is arguably the most exciting thing you can do all winter, especially if you frequent the following regions:
- Vermont: This destination is home to a healthy variety of fish species such as bluegill, pike, and walleye.
- New Hampshire: During the winter, you won’t find any shortage of makeshift shelters on the ice in New Hampshire. Don’t forget to pick up your fishing license—you can apply through NHFG’s many licensing agents!
- Maine: Ice anglers flock to this lucrative fishing destination rich with delicious salmon and lake trout. Hire one of Maine’s knowledgeable angling experts for a praiseworthy catch!
The Bottom Line
If you’re keen on visiting a lucrative ice fishing destination like New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and Eastern New York, becoming well-versed in the different kinds of gear and safety regulations in your area can make for an enjoyable afternoon out on the ice.
Remember, ice fishing takes a lot of practice. Brutal weather and fish scarcity are just a few issues you might have to overcome—but they will be worth the battle!
Reaves is an avid ice fisher and angling expert. As the owner of Perfect Captain, he is passionate about providing helpful resources to rookies and veterans alike.