If you love the outdoors and don’t appreciate being cooped up inside all winter long, ice fishing may be right for you. Ice fishing is an outdoor activity that some consider a serious sport. For others, it’s a chance to gather family and friends together for camaraderie and fellowship. Then there are those who just want to afford themselves the opportunity to get out into the great outdoors.
No matter your reason for trying it, ice fishing is simple, fun, and relatively inexpensive to do. You can begin your journey into ice fishing with simple day trips to your local lakes and ponds. If you find you enjoy it, there a number of sportsmen’s groups that hold friendly tournaments for the entire family, with prizes, hot lunches, and games for the kids.
There are a number of safety tips you should consider before venturing out on the ice. The first is to check how thick the ice is. A good rule of thumb is to avoid going out on the hard water until it reaches a thickness of at least four inches. And never go out if the water isn’t frozen at the shoreline.
Another important safety tip to remember is to never ice fish alone, especially if you are just getting started. If you get into a dangerous situation, like falling through the ice, it’s good to have someone there to help. If you have companions with you, they can pull you out, help you get to your vehicle for heat and dry clothing, or even get you to medical assistance if needed.
Participating in a winter activity can be fun, but if you aren’t dressed appropriately, you will most likely not enjoy yourself. Always keep plenty of extra clothes with you, and always dress in layers. Weather can change out there in an instant, and often does, going from bright and calm, with the sun beaming down on your neck, to cloudy and windy in a matter of seconds.
The gear you will need to get started is relatively inexpensive and can be found at any sporting goods store, or online. Keep it simple to start. You can add the bells and whistles later, if you see yourself really getting into the sport.
The first thing you will need is an ice auger. This is the tool you use to drill through the ice. It is a four foot version of an old fashioned hand drill. You place the end on the ice and crank the handle until you break through the ice. It only takes a matter of seconds per hole.
Next, you will need either a jigging rod, or a set of tip-ups. Most people use both. A jigging rod is essentially a fishing rod and reel, only a lot shorter than a regular one. Just bait your hook, lower it into the water and … jig.
Tip ups are comprised of three pieces of wood, a reel, and a flat metal strip with a flag on the end. They are all connected by a set of wing nuts. You loosen the wing nuts, adjust the wood so two pieces are horizontal. The piece with the reel on it is vertical. Tighten the wing nuts, raise the flag and rest it on the reel. Now you bait your hook and place it over the hole with the reel in the water. If your flag rises high, set your hook and pull up your fish. If there is no “catch” on the end of the line, reset it and try again. Sometimes the flags will rise due to wind or your live bait fluttering around.
There is an endless supply of other gear and gadgets for ice fishing, but you should concentrate on the basics to make sure this is an activity you want to pursue. If you find yourself on the ice with other fisherman, ask plenty of questions. Many old timers would love to answer your questions and help you get started. It gives them a chance to show off their knowledge and brag about their trophies.
There aren’t many things better to an outdoorsman than catching and cooking up fish that you have caught yourself. It’s an inexpensive, delicious, and wholesome meal that you can provide for those you care about. And who doesn’t need another reason to get outside and have fun with family and friends, especially in the winter months?