How To: A Beginners Guide to Ice Fishing
Winter is fast approaching and for those who live near the tundra areas – or just north of the Mason Dixon line, ice fishing is something that always comes into play. Anglers that fish freshwater rivers, lakes and reservoirs, and anglers that fish the saltwater confines are always searching for another option in the winter "down" months. Ice fishing is a great way to wet a line, and catch some really nice fish. There are certain fishing tips that will aid in your success, especially if you are new to the game of hard water action – hence – ice fishing.
As Always – Safety First!
Like any fishing, safety should always be taken into consideration. After all, you wouldn't be doing 70 MPH in a bass boat with no life jacket on would you? Ice fishing is no different so a good fishing tip is be prepared for the worse.
In my opinion, the number 1, most important item every ice angler needs is a good set of ice picks. Trust me, if the ice breaks, these could save your life, especially if you are alone. Ice picks are worn around your neck and down each arm sleeve to your wrist. This way they are always at the ready in case of emergency situations while ice fishing.
Before heading onto the ice, always make sure it is at least 3 inches thick, and always carry a pair of ice picks!
Another key fishing tip is a pair of ice cleats. Ice cleats can attach to your normal boot and aid in walking across the slippery stuff. Even if the ice is snow covered, I would recommend using ice cleats just in case. And, the last safety/comfort items would be a good insulated, or better yet, heated jacket like the new KastKing Patented Heated Jacket! Add in a pair of your favorite KastKing winter gloves and you are ready for ice fishing.
Tackle, Rod and Reel
As far as ice fishing goes, the "right" rod and reel outfit is going to be the key to your success, just like in any other fishing. For me, I like the new KastKing Konvert Im6 Graphite Ice Fishing Rod, 27-inch twin tip (Medium and Medium Light). What is great about this rod is the ability to use a spinning reel (Kestrel 1000 SFS Carbon Body Spinning Reel) or baitcasting reel (Kestrel Elite Magnesium Frame BFS Finesse Baitcasting Reel) if you prefer. Spool up the reels with either the KastKing Kovert Xtreme Fluorocarbon Fishing line or the new KastKing TriPolymer in 6 pound test.
As far as tackle is concerned, most ice fishing anglers use the simple fishing tip of take the basic three – bait, jigs and spoons! If you have these three, you can catch just about any fish in the water. A good starter kit would be the KastKing MadBite 181 piece freshwater kit. Although there are some items not really meant for ice fishing, the kit has split shot, small hair jigs and several size hooks that will work with live shiners or worms. Add in the MadBite WideEye 15/28 Pack Jig Head Kits, preferably the 1/8 ounce conical jig and 1/4 ounce hair jig. Round out your arsenal with a few small Acme Kastmaster spoons in gold or silver and some THKFISH Ice Fishing Jig Kit, and you are ready to hit the water.
Catch "Em Up
Ice fishing for the most part will be a slow grind unless you get on a good school of fish. Working your jigs in various levels of the water column until you locate them is a must. It is also wise to have three to five holes in various locations to be able to change it up. Some anglers will use tip-ups in several holes with live shiners or worms, while working the other holes with an array of jigs and spoons.
While you are using light line, larger fish may be caught and brought to the hole-opening. The key is to play the fish a bit and wear him down. A good fishing tip is to make sure your reel (baitcaster or spinning) has a quality drag system, as this will be your best friend. Smaller fish will not be that much of an issue landing, but if you luck, or are targeting large pike or the likes, a quality reel is a must in my opinion. Some anglers will use tip-ups, but for beginners, I feel the rod and reel with good drag are a better way to go.
Ice fishing can be a load of fun if you are prepared. Carrying the "right" tackle, lures, bait and foul weather gear will all make the day a good one. Make sure the ice is safe by seeking advice from local tackle shops and weather reports before heading out. As always, be safe out there!