Maybe you have been going through channels on TV, or some news online, and you see it, people ice fishing and you think, they are crazy!
So, what makes so many people go ice fishing in areas where the ice is thick enough to bring joy to these people?
Here is what they may say, or you may hear
No need to stay inside during the long winter months waiting for the sun to come out and dreaming about open water and summer fun. Be adventurous, bundle up, get outside and try fishing in a whole new way–through the ice! Ice fishing action can be fast and furious when winter seals the lakes under ice. Best of all, there are no mosquitoes or flies to “bug” you.
Try to image or visualize this. You bundle up and walk out onto a frozen lake on a clear and crisp winter day with your sled full of fishing gear and the fishing license in your pocket. Once you find the perfect fishing spot, you drill a large hole completely through the ice until you can see open water. Then, you get out the ice chisel to widen your hole. Now, you unpack your sled and find your special lures, jigging rods or tip-ups to catch the fish. You will probably want to get out your portable seat to sit on so that you can look down the hole to see what’s happening. Then, you grab the skimmer to keep the hole clear of the ice and slush that forms during the day. Once your line is set, you’ll need to keep a close eye on it or watch for the flag on the tip-up to see if you’ve caught a fish. When your hands get cold, you grab for the thermos of hot chocolate you brought along, and it is just what you need to warm up. You end up eating fish for lunch out on the ice, cooked on the small stove you brought along. What a great day of fishing!
What is ice fishing?
Ice fishing is the practice of catching fish with lines and fish hooks or spears through an opening in the ice on a frozen body of water. Ice fishermen may fish in the open or in heated enclosures, some with bunks and amenities.
Let’s get up to modern times
Ice fishing methods have changed drastically over the past 20 years. The name of the game is mobility for today’s modern ice anglers. The days of drilling hole, waiting and hoping that a fish will swim by, are starting to fade. With light gear, battery-operated sonar units, and fast and powered augers, an angler can conceivably drill and check hundreds of holes in a single day. When the fish stop biting where they are, anglers can move to the next hole, checking it with their sonar first to look for activity, and if there are no fish they will keep moving until fish are found. In addition, schools of fish tend to move around; so, a hole may be productive for 10 minutes and then slow down to nothing for an hour before a school returns to that location. This “fish where the fish are” technique and ease of mobility increases the catch rate of any angler, because it minimizes the wait between bites, like “trolling” in summer.
Anglers can now use many available maps and surveys to help pinpoint lakes and areas within those lakes that make sense to try for specific fish, noting those locations in latitude and longitude coordinates. They are then able to use a handheld GPS receiver to aim them to those spots, usually with accuracy of less than 20 feet. Ice anglers then drill holes with whichever auger they have, checking the ice thickness for safety as they go. Using sonar, the angler can determine the depth of the water, bottom content, weed and structure cover, and even see if there are fish there. Also, by using sonar, they can place the bait according to where they think the fish are. If they are using “tip-ups” they can carpet the area at different depths and with different presentations (the number allowed being determined by local laws) and see what is the most productive. Modern ice anglers can also use modern reels mounted on shorter (18″-36″/45–90 cm long) fishing rods to actively fish by watching, by using their sonar, where their lure is relative to the fish, and jig accordingly to entice a bite.
Ice fishing can be done at any time of day, and is typically most active around dusk and dawn. Different fish are active at different times of day, so anglers need to fish for them accordingly. There are fish houses large enough and comfortable enough to spend many days in a row out on the lake, fishing the entire time. One can even fish in one’s sleep, by using audible alarms on one’s lines to tell when a fish is biting. There are also many lightweight and highly mobile portable shelters that mount on plastic sleds and collapse for transportation. These can vary from small, one-person shelters (commonly called “Fish Traps”) to large and complex shelters able to fit up to 6 people at once.
Reasons to start Ice Fishing
You do not have to wait until Summer get fish
For true fishing enthusiasts, an entire season away from the open water and the hum of an engine can sound like the worst idea ever—that’s why having a winter fishing option is so priceless.
Your hot beverage
It’s just one of those little things. Out on the ice on a brisk winter day, your thermos of hot cocoa, tea, coffee or soup can become one of your favorite companions and rituals.
Peace and Quiet
Even though ice fishing can lend itself very nicely to socializing in a group, one of the most attractive things about being out on the ice during complete winter stillness is the opportunity to enjoy nature, the quiet and space to self-reflect.
Contrary to popular belief, fish do bite in the winter. Depending on where you are, several active types of fish school up so the opportunities are there. And once you pull that first fish through the hole you drilled, you’ll be back every weekend.
Most people bring small propane stoves out on the ice with them, whether they’re with a group or fishing solo. Nothing beats cooking up some grub at some point during the day—especially if it involves a fresh catch.
Ever hear the saying: “A boat is a hole in the water into which you throw money?” Well, no boat=no fuel, no repairs and no maintenance. You can also purchase all the top-notch gear to get you started for under $100—so don’t skimp. Better gear will lead to more fish.
Bring the Family
Even though ice fishing does provide a good opportunity for you to be alone in a winter wonderland with your thoughts, it’s a great activity for the whole family or a crew of friends. Kids will love playing in the snow and your group will surely bond over the memory of the adventure and grilling up fresh fillets to warm yourselves up.
Dangers of Ice Fishing
Ice fishing isn’t all fun and satellite TVs. It can be dangerous if you don’t do it right.
When considering the risks involved with ice fishing, people would be excused for thinking that falling through the ice poses the greatest threat. Though a danger, it’s only the tip of the iceberg, and far from the most common ice-fishing mishap.
According to a Mayo Clinic Study Of the injuries identified by researchers, half involved broken bones, sprains, and strains. More than 33 percent were related to injuries like abrasions, cuts, fish-hook injuries, and punctures. A small amount of cases involved concussions, appendage loss, or organ injuries. An even smaller amount of cases involved falling into cold water, and concerned anglers being burned. The burns seem to occur in ice-fishing huts. Ice-fishing huts often contain archaic heating systems, and injuries from fires and carbon-monoxide inhalation.
Ice-fishing injuries tend to be more severe than injuries associated with traditional fishing, and there has been an increase due to an increase in people ice fishing.
If you love fishing, if you love the great outdoors, the snow, the crisp, fresh air—ice fishing may very well surprise you with one of the best days you’ve had all winter.