2014-01-09 / Sports

Ice fishing – for some anglers, it’s the best

Drilling a hole in the ice is made easy with the correct tools. Drilling a hole in the ice is made easy with the correct tools. In the winter months, the most popular angling activity is ice fishing. To those who have never tried it, ice fishing is sometimes looked upon as an oddity, but for others, ice fishing is the best kind of fishing.

Although it doesn't appeal to all, many anglers actually prefer fishing through the ice to open-water fishing. For one thing, anglers can get just about anywhere on the lake during ice fishing season, something they can't do without a boat during the open water season. Virtually every fish that's available to anglers in the summer can be caught through the ice - some are even caught more frequently in the winter.

Anglers should dress in their warmest winter clothes; fill a thermos with hot coffee, chocolate or tea; and bring an empty bucket or old lawn chair to sit on.

As with any outdoor activity, safety should be the top concern. When it comes to ice safety, steer clear of dark spots or places where the snow looks discolored.

Tip-ups are generally used for larger game fish, such as northern pike, walleye and various trout species. Tip-ups are generally used for larger game fish, such as northern pike, walleye and various trout species. Some good rules to follow

1. Never fish alone;

2. Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return;

3. Always test the ice with a spud (described later);

4. Take the appropriate emergency items, such as a lifejacket and ice picks;

5. Take a cell phone with you in case you need to call for help.

Supplies need to get started

• Tools to make a hole in the ice.

The two basic tools used to make holes in the ice are spuds and augers. A spud features a long-shank with a chisel like end that's used to chip a hole in the ice. A spud is a tool you use when the ice isn't too thick. An auger is a corkscrew-like device with a cutting blade that operates like a hand drill to make a hole in the ice. For extremely thick ice, power augers that run on batteries or small gasoline engines are available and make creating holes much easier.

The size of the hole is important. The hole must be big enough to get a fish out, but not too large of a hole that it may endanger someone's life. Anglers are recommended to keep holes a maximum of eight to 10 inches in diameter which accommodates the size of most fish. When abandoning fishing holes, anglers should mark them with a tree branch, sticks or chunks of ice to alert others of their presence.

• Tools to clear the hole and keep it open and ice free.

Once the hole is created it needs to be cleared of ice chips or slush. A skimmer or a slush scoop is a small cup with holes in it to let the water run out on a long handle. It’s inexpensive and suited for the job. A skimmer is used to clear the hole right after it's made, as well as throughout the day if it's particularly cold and additional ice forms.

• Something to fish with.

Ice fishing equipment can be divided into three basic categories: hook-andline, tip-ups and spears.

A basic tip

A basic tip for all three ice fishing methods, hook-and-line, tip-up and spearing, is that the most success is seen around dawn until mid-morning and again from late afternoon until sundown. This is especially true for panfish and walleye.


Most hook-and-line anglers use short, limber rods with reels or simple springtension spools to hold the line. Sometimes they may use something as simple as a couple of pegs on the rod handle used to wrap the line around. Limber rods allow the use of light line, which usually results in better fishing and absorbs more of the shock when fighting fish. Hook-and-line anglers use live bait, artificial lures or sometimes both. The most common species for hook-and-line ice fishermen are panfish: bluegill, sunfish, perch and crappie. For bigger fish, anglers use heavier gear with larger lures or bigger hooks which allows them to use larger baits - minnows, smelt, salmon eggs or spawn bags.


Some anglers prefer to fish with tipups, which are devices set on the ice above the hole that dangle the bait (most often minnows) beneath them. Tip-ups, which feature small reels submerged in the water, get their name from a flag that's bent over and attached to the reel. When a fish takes the bait, the reel turns and releases not only line, but the flag as well. The flags' "tip up" action alerts the angler to the fish taking out line.


Spearing is another form of ice fishing that is a more specialized but traditional sport. Anglers who spear cut large holes in the ice, usually with an ice saw or chain saw. They fish from tents or small shelters commonly called shanties that can be portable or more permanent. The shanty blocks the light, allowing anglers to see down more clearly in the water in order to spear the fish.

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