Ice Fishing Beginner’s Guide for 2022 [Safety, Gear, and Tips]

Inline Reel Ice Fishing

Ice fishing is becoming more popular every year and for good reason.

Ice fishing is becoming more popular every year. And it is even more important to learn the basics to ensure your safety and help you have a great time catching your favorite fish on the ice.

Inline Reel Ice Fishing

What Part of a Lake is Best to Ice Fish?

A great place to start fishing is 100’ to 150’ off the shore. Targeting 10’ – 15’ in depth will allow you to catch panfish and even larger fish such as pike from time to time. What Depth Should I Ice Fish for Walleye? details the different walleye movements throughout the year which is useful in understanding the basics of fish migrations while ice fishing.

If you haven’t ice-fished before, locating a few other shelters on the ice of existing fishermen and fish near them is a great idea.

They may or may not be on the fish, but ice fishing is notorious for having a great community, so people are generally friendly and willing to lend a hand if needed.

Ice fisherman holding a pike

Is the Ice Safe to Walk?

Stop in your local bait and tackle store and ask them what they think about the lake you are thinking about fishing has safe ice conditions.

How Thick Should Ice Be For Ice Fishing? Anything under 5” is not safe for you to walk on. Keep checking the depth of the ice as you continue toward where you plan to fish.

Another way to ensure your safety is to visually plot out the existing footpaths on the ice. This is easier when there’s a fresh, white powder on the ice, as the footprints will be visible.

Drill holes every 30’ to double-check if the ice has remained a consistent depth. This will ensure you haven’t become overly confident.

Remember, if you are unsure about the safety of a lake, just leave. Have someone more knowledgeable give you help because falling through the ice is a risk that isn’t worth any amount chance.

Danger Thin Ice Signage

Layer Warm Clothing

When ice fishing, it’s important to wear multiple layers of upper and lower body clothing with waterproof exteriors often called “shells.” What To Wear Ice Fishing [Stay Warm This Season] outlines the proper clothes to wear and is a perfect beginner article.

Safety Equipment

Ice fishing is fun, but it’s important to say safe under all conditions. The following equipment will help you be safe this year while you brave the cold and go after the catch!

Safety Spikes

These can be worn around your neck and allow you to pull yourself out of the water if you fall through the ice.

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Cleats are put onto your boots, so you do not slip and fall. This is especially important when it is clear, glassy ice. Top 5 Best Spikes For Ice Fishing is a whole article dedicated to cleats, or “spikes,” as some ice fishermen call them.

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Floating Bibs

These should be worn as the last exterior part of your clothing and can keep you above water if you fall through the ice.

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Inflatable Lifejackets

Inflatable lifejackets are another option if you do not have a pair of floating bibs. They can even be worn in unison with a quality pair of floating bibs. The best options are automatic life vest because they are slimmer fits which provide the flexibility needed while ice fishing.

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Ice Fishing Gear

Ice Sled

An ice sled is an important tool while ice fishing because it enables you to easily transport all your hand gear and more by sliding it across the snow and ice.

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A proper auger is paramount when ice fishing as it is the device that drills through the ice so that you can begin fishing. A six-inch hand auger is a great option for those looking to get started ice fishing.

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5-gallon plastic bucket

A bucket with a cushioned seat topper is important too. You can easily store all of your tackle and bait inside of the bucket while using it to sit on once you get to the fishing sight. The cushion of the bucket will keep your butt further insulated, which helps during prolonged periods of sitting outside in the cold.

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A scooper allows you to clean your ice hole so you can fish consistently without the hole closing over with more ice. It also can gauge the depth of the ice when you drill your test holes.

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Coolers aren’t just for summertime. It’s extremely important equipment when you are ice fishing. You can store things such as cameras, hand tools (screw gun for the auger), and bottles of water in the cooler, which keeps them from freezing. It is also waterproof and padded for extra protection.

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Gym Mat

Bring a simple gym mat or two if you are concerned about your feet getting cold while ice fishing. They are cheap, lightweight, and keep your feet off the ice. If you bring two, you’ll be able to have one gym mat specifically for kneeling, which will frequently happen when retrieving fish from the ice hole.

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