There is very little middle ground when it comes to ice fishing; people usually either love it or hate it. But in the northern states, there is a long tradition of ice fishing, and many outdoor enthusiasts can’t wait for the winter to come so they can get out there on the ice and enjoy this sport.
But if you are new it is important to get a feel for what the sport is all about before heading out on the ice. In this article we will cover the basics of getting started in ice fishing. Who knows, you may discover that you love the thrill of getting out on the ice and catching some big fish.
The first rule is quite obvious, but it cannot be overstated in its importance; be certain that the ice you are fishing on a safe. As a general rule, you should wait until there is a minimum of 6 inches of solid ice on a pond or lake before attempting to fish on it. There are also different types of ice, and it is wise to familiarize yourself with all of them before beginning.
“Black ice,” is the name given to patches with ice that are mostly clear, and containing only air bubbles. Black ice is considered safer than the deceptively-named, “white ice,” which is not clear, and contains melted snow that has re-frozen. In general, ice fishing beginners should a void white ice altogether.
The next rule is this: always test the ice before setting up and fishing. You can test the ice by the shore quite easily — just drill two holes in the ice close to the shore where the water is shallow. This will give you a good idea of the thickness and quality of the ice. Additionally, if there are other fishermen out on the lake; ask them about the quality of the ice and its thickness.
To make choosing a spot to fish more convenient, there are access maps available online for ponds and lakes in many of the northern states. These will give you a good idea of the depth of a lake or pond you intend to fish, and suggested locations to set up your base camp on the ice.
It’s also important to remember that you need not venture out into deep water to catch a lot of fish. Many experienced ice fishermen rarely venture out beyond five or 6 feet deep in a lake or pond. As a beginner, it is usually a good idea to stay close to the shore anyway, and you can be assured that it is just as easy to catch fish at a depth of 6 feet as it is at a depth of 40 feet, so why risk it?
The next rule of for beginners should be obvious, but it is often overlooked. Never go ice fishing on your own. You should always take a partner when you venture out on the ice. This is important for safety reasons, and it will also make the entire experience much more pleasurable. Another absolute “must” is to let your family know where you will be fishing and at what time you plan to return.
Ice fishing can be a wonderful pastime, and a great way to pass those long, dark winter evenings, but remember, when it comes to ice fishing, safety should always be your primary concern.