If you live in the upper northern states or Canada, there are two seasons each year, winter and almost winter. Although that's a joke, it can feel like that, if you don't embrace winter and winter activities. That's why ice fishing is ideal.
You can enjoy the beauty of winter, right on the ice, yet still stay warm enough with your shelter, portable heater, and warm, waterproof clothes. And you're doing something productive whether it's fishing for dinner or just enjoying the excitement of the tug of the line, the fight, the beauty of your catch, and the release.
Best of all is the ability to be anywhere on the lake without using a boat. You can find that perfect fishing spot as long as you don't crowd the other ice fishermen. And then there's the absolute peace and quiet to enjoy. No boats cruising on the lake or river. Just the wind in the trees, the twittering of birds, and the rhythmic sounds of nature within the vast silence.
It's a soul-warming experience as long as you're prepared with an auger, ice rod, bucket and rod holder. And be sure to pick a safe spot. Early in the year, shallow water is a smarter bet than deep water. And if you see other anglers, the thickness of the ice is probably at a safe depth. Winter can be a wonderland. Recall the joy of being first on the ice with this quiz.
To start, you're going to need to find a way to get warm. Ice shelters and portable heaters are a must.
Some ice fishers release their catch, and others don't. There's nothing like cooking up your crappie or perch at the end of the day.
A great place to find fish is in small bodies of water. That means finding your local bays, harbors, backwaters and channels off of larger bodies of water.
Early in the season, it's smart to seek out shallow waters. These are the areas that freeze first, and many fish congregate here.
Don't crowd other anglers. This is one of the cardinal rules of ice fishing.
Although you don't want to crown other anglers, keep in mind that ice fishers are friendly. Never be afraid to ask for advice or tips.
If you see a lot of ice fishers, it's a good thing. The most popular fishing spots are the safest. There's safety in numbers!
Slush and soft ice are bad signs for an ice angler. You want to sit on top of the ice, and you don't want to swim with the fish.
Ice rods kind of look like munchkin rods. They tend to be really small, at 24-28 inches in size.
Longer rods are beginning to gain popularity. These rods allow you to situate yourself farther away from the hole, so as to not scare away the fish.
Ice rods are very lightweight. They're also less expensive than open water reels.
These are all popular fish for ice anglers to catch. Perch is another primary prey of the ice fisher.
There's a growing trend towards straight line reels, which resemble fly fishing reels. These straight line reels make catching the most popular ice fish even easier.
Ice augers are the tools used to cut holes in the ice. Those with "lazer" blades cut through more ice than conventional blades.
Ice augers are available in different sizes. These will help you to cut holes ranging from four inches to eight inches and larger.
There are both gasoline and battery-powered augers. These make cutting into the ice easier and more efficient than ever.
Think of your bucket as a versatile tool. You can use it to carry supplies to the ice, and then it also makes a comfortable seat.
It's smart to get a sturdy rod holder for your rod. Because you're sitting for a great deal of time, it becomes tiresome to have to hold onto the thing.
Two handy tools for ice fishers are needle-nose pliers and small forceps. These help to remove the hooks from the fish, and they also help you to secure split shot to your line.
The nature of cold water fishing requires light lines and small baits. Ice anglers tend to use 4-, 3- or 2-pound lines.
Ice fish tend to be a bit sluggish, and they won't put up a hard fight. Warm water fish are going to give you a run for your money.
Split shot weights are the smartest choice for ice fishers. These come in various sizes, and they help to get your baited hooks down quickly.
As a rule of thumb, when using small baits, use small hooks, as well. #8 to #14 work really well with small baits.
Both portable depth sounders and underwater cameras can enhance the ice angling experience. They've also become much more affordable in recent years.
A tip-up is a portable device that straddles the hole and tells you with a signal when a fish has been caught. These are great for larger fish like northern pike, bass and walleye.
Your fishing method or style is known as presentation. A jig presentation involves lifting and dropping the line in a series of enticing movements to lure a fish.
The marvelous thing about ice fishing is that on any given day, you don't know what the fish are biting. That means that you have to get a feel for what's working each day.
When it comes to spoons and jigs, you're going to want to have a variety of colors. That includes chrome and gold, as well as black, white, orange, yellow and chartreuse.
The famous Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza takes place on Gull Lake in the area of Brainerd, Minnesota. It draws thousands of people each year.
You do require a fishing license in order to ice fish. Costs and regulations will vary from state to state.
There's no need to cast an ice fishing rod. That's why they're so small. You simply drop them in the hole.
Most ice fishermen will have sleds. These help to haul heavier gear, coolers, and most importantly, beer. Oh, and the catch of the day.
It's not recommended that you drive on the ice. That being said, if you're going to do it, check the recommended ice thickness for your vehicle.
That scary, crackling sound of the ice is actually okay. In fact, you get used to it after a while. Ice is expanding and new ice is forming. Watch out for visible cracks in thin ice, though.
You need to dress your whole body for the cold, but your feet are the most important. They're going to get cold the fastest because you're standing on the ice.