I hadn't been ice fishing in a few years, so I was excited to get invited to fish with my buddy Chris, his friends Brian and Bill, and their sons on Saturday. Using shiners and a over a dozen ice fishing "tilts" we caught about ten fish, including some big bass and pickerel. I tend to be pretty spartan with my ice fishing gear, using the same tilts that I had when I was a teenager, and choosing to drill my own holes with a hand auger, rather than a gas powered one (unlike most people these days).
Seeing the little red flag go up on your tilts when a fish bites is about as exciting as it gets when it comes to outdoor winter activities. Drilling your own holes by hand helps keep you warm and also kills the time when you're waiting for fish to bite.
If you've never been ice fishing, it's a GREAT time. If you dress for the weather, fish with friends and bring the right supplies (i.e sandwiches and beer), it is a great experience. Back in the day I bought my gear at Benny's, but you can find the same stuff at Dick's, Bass Pro Shops or a local tackle shop. Take your kids and a few friends, and I promise it will be a day they'll remember forever.
Check out the pictures of my friend Chris, his son Kevin and me, and a few of our fish (all released after being caught). If you're considering starting to ice fish, here's a short list of some gear you'll need:
- Fishing licenses. Required for adults under age 65. ($18 per person)
- Ice fishing tilts - These are the devices that hold the line. They are rigged so that a little spring loaded red flag goes up when a fish bites. Under $10 each. You can use 5 per person.
- Braided ice fishing line (also sometimes labeled as "squidding line"). About 50 yards per tilt.
- Fishing Hooks - I like to use "Circle Octopus hooks," size 2. The shape of the hook guarantees that the fish won't swallow it and hooks the side of the mouth, which makes it easy to take them off the hook and release them.
- Sinkers - Use a few of the pinch-on kind on each line to be sure your bait gets towards the bottom. In most cases, I suspend my bait about 1 foot above the bottom, or above the weeds.
- Ice auger - to drill holes in the ice. (under $60 for a hand auger. About $250 for gas powered)
- A large strainer to clean ice chips out of the holes. Sold wherever you buy the rest of your gear.
- Shiners for bait - medium size for most fish around here. A dozen will last you a few hours.
- VERY Warm clothes, including insulated books. I also strap ice cleats on my boots for better grip.
- Coffee, Muchkins and Beer!
There are lots of variations on everything I mentioned above, but that covers the basics. If you have a great ice fishing experience to tell me about, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org