Beginner Ice Fishing 101
As Musky Season comes to an end in the North Woods, locals are switching gear to start a winter of expert ice fishing. If you are new to ice fishing and are planning to get your start this season, here are some tips for first timers to ensure that you find success!
Location: Finding a great location is key to finding solid fishing. Many ice fishermen congregate in safe shanty communities or in group areas, which can be great fun for a beginner. Finding a community of seasoned ice fisherman can be great for getting a great location. If a community is not what you want, look for spots 50-100 yards from the bank with water depths of 10-15 feet. These depths will give you the best advantage when targeting pan-fish.
Safe Conditions: Checking for safe ice conditions is the number one priority when seeking a good location to set up shop. When in the area, check your local bait shops or guides for current "safe" lakes that have a good ice thickness. The rule is usually ice over 5" thick. When canvasing ice, drill holes every 10 yards, to make sure you haven't wandered past the safety of thick ice.
Safety Gear Up: There are a few special pieces of gear you want handy when ice fishing outside of your tackle box. It is highly recommended that you carry an emergency set of safety spikes, to help you pull yourself from the water or cracked ice. Ice Cleats are great for clear ice when their is no snow to prevent slippage. Most ice fisherman swear by floating bibs for breakthroughs and to stay extra warm, but if you don't have floating bibs, and auto-inflate life vest or throw-able floating device is necessary.
Fishing Gear: A basic fishing set up includes: a sled to carry your fishing gear, a manual or gas powered 6" auger to create your hole, a bucket for supplies and to pull double duty as your stool, a scoop to keep your hole free of debris and floating ice, an ice combo rod/reel approx 28", and lastly a good set of reflective and reactive jigs and possibly micro bait.
This is the basic starter pack for getting ready for ice fishing season. As you go, people obviously add on a great deal of comfort items for long term fishing, but this is the basics to get you started and keep you safe. It's always best to ask questions is you are unsure of your safety level or location and make sure you have the proper licensing for the season! Tight Lines!