The joys of fishing don't have to end once winter comes and the lakes freeze over. In fact, for some hardy fishers, this is when the season really begins. With rods, lines, and spears, ice fishers bring in nearly as many fish during the winter as are caught in the warmer months in some regions. If you're near a frozen fishing lake, it's time to see what this amazing sport is all about!
Ice Fishing Shelters
All across the northern U.S., Alaska, and Canada, you'll find frozen lakes that are dotted with huts, cabins, tents, and folding chairs‚Äîthe shelters of the ice fishers. Snug inside their shelters, fishers enjoy the thrill of fishing, good company, and the joys of being outdoors. It's key to dress warmly with thick socks and boots, since the chill of the ice can creep up into your body as you wait for a bite. Smart fishers also bring a seat that will keep them up off the ice, and they always wear a warm hat and parka.
Structures vary from the smaller ice shanty or ice shack to a larger fish house or bobhouse. Some ice huts are so large, they even have bunk beds for overnight fishing trips. If you're fishing in an established cabin or hut, you may even have the luxury of a heater or stove. These shelters are usually dragged onto the lake by a snowmobile or ATV after the ice is well frozen.
Tools of the Trade
To begin ice fishing, you'll need a tool for cutting through the ice. Use an ice saw or auger and chisel to cut a circular hole ‚Äì this is an ideal fishing spot for one person. If you'll have several people fishing, opt for a larger rectangular hole. A skimmer or slotted spoon will help you scoop slush out of the hole as the water freezes.
Many ice fishers use small, light rods with bright lures. For bait, try fat heads, crappie minnows, or waxworms. Most ice fishers don't use a reel; instead they haul the line in by hand.
Spear fishing is another popular method, and it's one that requires quite a bit of skill. The ice fisher needs to be in a dark shanty, so the fish don't notice the hole that's cut in the ice. Holding a spear that's attached to a line, the fisher peers into the water and waits to spot a fish. It takes practice and good aim to strike a fish this way, but it is exciting. Lake sturgeon and northern pike are popular spear-fishing targets.
Before you go ice fishing, check to be sure the ice is thick enough to stand the weight of humans and the ice shanty. It's best to wait for 3 to 4 inches for walking, and 5 to 6 inches for sleds, snow machines, and snowmobiles. Be sure to dress warmly and drink plenty of water while you're out. Fishing licenses are also required.
If you're interested in going ice fishing for the first time, check with your local RV park, campground, or hotel manager for more information. They may be able to direct you to an ice shanty for rent, and possibly all the equipment for rent as well. Sometimes you'll even find shuttle services to and from the ice huts. Ice fishing is a fun, social activity that's very popular in the northern states. So bring the whole gang and head out on the ice this winter!