Ice Fishing Equipment Tips
A budget-friendly rod and reel or tip-up and some basic equipment is all the beginner gear you need. Here is a list of the best tackle to get you started ice fishing this winter.
Best Beginner Ice Fishing Equipment
The best thing about buying ice fishing gear for kids, teens, or adults is that it is quite inexpensive. Beginners can catch and reel in a limit of perch, pickerel (walleye), crappie, whitefish, pike, or trout when ice fishing with a very simple tackle kit.
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The first thing you need is an ice auger to cut a hole in the ice at the location you plan to fish. The ice auger hole diameters range from 5 to 8 inches. A six inch hole is fine for perch, crappie and most walleyes. If you think you might catch larger fish, it is best to go with an eight inch hole.
Ice Fishing Rod, Reel and Carrying Box
Ice fishing rods are specially designed for fishing straight down through a hole in the ice.
An ultralite ice fishing combo is good for catching perch and crappie.
A medium action combo is best for walleyes, whitefish and rainbow trout.
The ice fishing rod box is useful for carrying all the gear.
Ice Fishing Tip-Ups
Tip-ups are ice fishing devices that allow you to fish without actually holding the line the whole time. When a fish takes the bait, the arm of the device tips and a flag indicates that there is a fish on the line. A tip-up is often used when fishing for larger fish such as big walleyes, pike, whitefish, and lake trout.
Best Ice Fishing Lures
Larger jigs, spoons, and jig heads with rubber tails are also effective ice fishing lures, especially for large fish like northern pike, bigger walleyes and lake trout.
Fluorescent, chartreuse or glow-in-the-dark jigs are often very effective. The secret with all jigs and spoons is to keep them moving on a regular basis – hence the term “jigging”.
The best way to begin ice fishing with jigs is to buy starter packs with an assortment of different sized lures.
Most ice fishing jig kits will cover all fish from perch to walleye to trout.
Ice Fishing Baits
The most popular ice fishing live baits are minnows, worms, leeches, and maggots. These can be purchased at the local bait shop.
Live baits are often used when ice fishing with a tip-up but can also be added to lures that are jigged using an ice fishing rod and reel combo.
Intermediate and Advanced Ice Fishing Gear
If you decide to really get into the sport here are some equipment ideas that will make your ice fishing more comfortable.
Ice Fishing Jacket, Bibs, and Gloves
If you decide to get serious, it might be worth investing in a good ice fishing suit.
Neoprene gloves and a face mask are great ideas if you plan to spend a lot of time out on the ice.
Ice Fishing Seat and Sled
Ice fishing is a sit-and-wait activity, so you want to be comfortable. A sturdy bucket makes a simple seat and doubles as a means for carrying the fish back home at the end of the day. Specially designed ice fishing benches are also available.
A sled is handy for pulling all of your ice fishing gear out onto the lake.
Ice Fishing Huts, Tents, Shelters and Heaters
An ice hut or fishing tent is a comfortable addition to the ice fishing gear if you plan to spend long hours on the lake. The best beginner ice fishing hut or tent is a portable model that can be easily moved around.
Metal Ice Cleats, Shovel and GPS
Using metal cleats on your boots makes walking on the ice much easier and safer. The last thing you want to do is slip and crack your skull when scrambling to get to the line when a fish takes your bait.
You may need to dig down through the snow to reach the ice. A small shovel with a folding handle works well.
Make sure you have extra batteries for the GPS unit and check your land position before you go out on the lake. It is very easy to get disoriented on the lake in a snow storm, even if you are only 150 feet (50 metres) from shore.
Other Important Ice Fishing Gear
Ice Fishing Scoop or Sieve
It is important to keep the hole clear of ice. A simple kitchen sieve works well or you can buy one designed for ice fishing.
Kitchen Cloth or Towel
Sometimes you have to remove your gloves to bait the hook or handle a fish. You need something to clean your hands before putting your gloves back on.
The board serves two purposes. First, you can use it as a base for cutting bait and as a table when setting up the lines. Second, you can place it under your feet for better support and insulation from the ice.
Ice Fishing Spud Bar
A metal bar with one sharpened end serves as an important tool to test the ice thickness and to break up the fresh ice that has formed on previously drilled ice fishing holes.
As with fishing in the summer, you need to have some of the general equipment found in every tackle box.
Needle Nose Pliers
Fish Hook Removers
Hooks, weights, floats
Go to the Beginner Fishing Equipment page to get tips on the basic fishing gear you need to get the whole family started fishing this summer.
Special Note: You still need a Fishing License to fish in the winter.
Need More Ice Fishing Information?
Go to the Ice Fishing Techniques page to find out how to catch perch, crappie, walleye, whitefish, pike and trout.
The Great Ice Fishing Gadgets page highlights the hi-tech gear that advanced ice anglers use to find and catch fish all winter.
Go to the Ice Fishing Clothes and Safety Gear page to get information on how to be safe on the ice.
Go to the How to Read the Ice page to learn about safe and dangerous ice conditions.