Ice Fishing – Answers to Viewer Mail

February 9, 2009 by  

Our Outdoors
Nick Simonson

Ice fishing isnt much different then open water fishing. Success will always come down to location.

Ice fishing isn't much different then open water fishing. Success will always come down to location.

With the popularity of ice fishing growing each winter, it is no surprise that I’ve fielded many “where do I start” questions on both the sites I moderate and in general conversation. For many beginners, it can be a difficult and confusing sport but there are many resources to increase the slope of the learning curve and turn ice fishing into ice-catching. Though the early bite has passed, the mid-season and late-ice experiences can be very rewarding.

Read, read, read

Before getting into any hobby, the best thing a person can do is read about the activity to determine whether or not it is something they would enjoy and can afford in terms of time and money. Thanks to respected publications and the Internet, there is a vast library of print and digital media that will help the layperson get an understanding for ice fishing.

The first book I always recommend to novice anglers is Ice Fishing Secrets, written by Al Lindner, Doug Stange and Dave Genz and published by In-Fisherman. Though the most recent edition is several years old and does not reflect the vast changes in technology from lures to electronics, the basics are there. I’ve read the book cover to cover several times, and find something new to try on the ice with every review.

Another more recent compendium of ice fishing tactics is The Freshwater Angler series Modern Methods of Ice Fishing, published by Creative Publishing International. Rich in pictures and diagrams, this book teaches anglers the tricks of the trade before setting foot on the ice.

An excellent update to have in an angling library is In-Fisherman Magazine’s Ice Fishing Guide, which is released just before ice-up each year. Trends, tips and what’s new for ice angling are detailed in a seasonal periodical that is available on most newsstands. Species-specific tactics are always a highlight of this annual magazine.

The Internet is filled with many quality sites, from local hunting and fishing forums to those geared specifically toward ice fishing. One such site,, is a year-round message board with open discussions for this sport, which for many who log on, is their top pursuit in the outdoors. Other sites such as Dave Genz’s Ice Team website ( help anglers get a feel for the modern world of ice angling. All of these resources will aid in getting a grip on ice fishing.

Make sure you always have a camera for those great moments

Make sure you always have a camera for those great moments

Tools of the trade


There are so many products on the market today that a beginner might spend hours in the sporting goods store trying to sort it all out. In reality, there are only three “big ticket” items an angler needs to get started ice fishing, and then a few basic items to complete the outfit.

The three necessities that all anglers should have are an ice auger, a portable house and a sonar device. Brand, make and model are a bone of contention on internet forums, but when it comes down to it, having all three in one form or another is important for successful outings on the ice.

Pick an auger that can be used based on physical ability and desired mobility level. Selection of a sled house or portable shanty should be based on size of the angler, and the number of people who will use the house.

In comparison to seasons past, there are a good number of sonar devices on the market. Many affordable flashers put the third big-ticket item within reach of most anglers. As with all fishing equipment, buying the best that can be afforded is most beneficial. Many lower priced units, such as the Marcum VX-1, provide high-end performance for a smaller impact on the wallet.

All one really needs after those items is two ice fishing rods; one a little heavier, one a little lighter. The bigger one can be used for walleyes, pike and other game fish, the smaller one for panfish. Right the larger of the two with four- or six-pound test line, and the smaller with two-pound test line. Buy the highest-quality rod you can afford for both categories, and if the hobby becomes an obsession, you can adjust your arsenal.

A selection of spoons, jigs and other lures will immerse the new angler in the world of ice fishing tackle. Bobbers, weights and other standard tackle will be familiar, and can be employed in most situations.

With the basics taken care of, an angler is free to experiment and specialize on the ice. Maybe pursuing pike will prove to be fun, and a set of tip-ups would liven the experience even more. Panfish will be an exciting challenge, and catching them will become a priority. Downsized rods, spider-web thin lines and tiny ice flies change the face of fishing. Once the basics are learned, the rest of the game is wide open.

These are just some tips to help answer the question “How do I get started in ice fishing?” It’s a question worth asking, and though the answers are never simple, uncovering them is one of the most rewarding experiences…in our outdoors.


4 Comments on "Ice Fishing – Answers to Viewer Mail"

  1. Dave on Fri, 24th Dec 2010 10:16 am 

    Have a question – maybe you can answer. What would cause the meat of a fish to be orange colored. Speared a Northern Pike in a Northern Minnesota lake – usually the meat is white in color but have had a couple now that have had an orange color and have no idea what would cause this. This particular lake is off the beaten path for the most part and does not have much for traffic. There is only one house located on the lake and I have heard there are some natural springs located on the lake. There are also a few creeks that flow in/out of the lake. The water clarity is usually clear but at times has been clouded by some white colored stuff – not sure what to make of that either. Never experienced these weird traits before but the spearing action is awesome on this particular lake. Any insight would be awesome. Thanks.

  2. Doug Leier on Sat, 25th Dec 2010 7:46 am 

    I can’t say specifically on this lake what it is or may be, but generally the influence on meat color is from an extended influence on either diet or the water. I’d guess there’s some different water chemistry in this particular lake which may be contributing to it. You could contact MN DNR in that area as I’d guess 1) they’ve heard about it before or 2) they want to know about it.
    Merry Christmas,

  3. matt on Thu, 13th Jan 2011 10:09 pm 

    So here’s a shot in the dark. I am a very experienced angler, but am stumped with this one. i recently recieved permission to fish a small private lake. maybe 50 acres. the lake is make up of a north and south basin, both seem to get around 12 feet deep(from what i found today) caught probably 30 crappies, but nothing over 6 inches. word from several sources is that fish between 15-17 inches have been pulled out of this lake before. i found a few drop offs, and sunken weed bars coming up to 4 feet deep, but as far as i know next to no structure is available. water clarity is between 6-8 feet. any clues on where to find these pigs? im assuming they are few and far between, but i hole hopped all morning, and caught nothing over 6 inches. any ideas? any input would help, thank you much 🙂

  4. admin on Thu, 13th Jan 2011 11:29 pm 

    What depths are you fishing? Do you know what the forage base is?

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