Reel in some big ones with our ice fishing setup guide.
When it comes to Midwest winters, one of the most popular outdoor activities is ice fishing. It can be a cure for cabin fever, a great way to get outdoors with family and friends, and fun way to catch dinner. Whether you’re a beginner ice fisher or you’ve been out on the frozen lake a few times, you need to know how to set up your ice fishing equipment. With our ice fishing setup guide, you’ll learn about ice fishing shelters, tip-ups and more.
Getting out on the ice
One of the easiest ways to get your equipment out on the ice is with an ice fishing sled. You can easily drag everything across the ice and snow. Your equipment must-haves include a bucket (which can double as a seat), an ice auger, an ice scoop (to remove extra ice from your fishing hole), ice rescue picks, and ice treads or cleats. You should also be outfitted in warm snow boots and ice fishing clothing. Safety should be your first priority, and that includes dressing properly.
Another safety precaution you must take is knowing the thickness of the ice. If the ice is four inches or thicker, you should be safe. Anything thinner and you risk falling through.
Drilling your ice fishing hole
Once you’re out on the ice, it’s time to drill your hole. To drill your ice fishing hole, the easiest tool to use is an auger. There are gas-powered augers and hand-crank augers. Whichever kind you choose, your hole should not be more than 12 inches across. Varying hole sizes can actually help you catch different fish. Smaller holes, about 4-5 inches, work well for bluegills, crappie and perch. Eight inch holes work great for trout, northern pike and walleye. It’s also the size commonly used for tip-ups. Be sure to check with your state for ice fishing hole regulations.
You have a few options when it comes to the actual fishing part of an ice fishing setup. A tip-up is a device that sends up a spring-loaded flag when a fish hits your line. Many ice fishers use jigging rods with shorts lengths of 18 to 24 inches. The short length makes them easy to use in an ice fishing shelter.
Using an ice fishing shelter
While not a necessity, a shelter can keep you out of the wind, cold and snow while you’re fishing. There are a few things to consider when you’re choosing an ice fishing shelter. You have to think about how many people need to fit inside, portability and ease of setup. If you truly plan on going alone, a one-person ice shanty will suffice. However, it’s worth the investment (and comfort) to buy a 2- or 3-person shanty if you’re bringing some fishing buddies or family members.
You also have to consider portability. If you’re going to be in one spot for the day, you can go with a hub-style or cabin-style shelter. If you’re looking for more mobility, go with a flip-style shelter. Hub- and cabin-style shelters are more difficult to set up when you’re alone, but they provide a lot of room. Flip-style shelters stand up to wind and are easy to move, but they’re also the most expensive.
Putting together your ice fishing setup is only the beginning. For more tips and how-to’s, visit our fishing & ice fishing blog.