When ice fishing season approaches and it's time to replenish your angling supplies from the previous year, you'll need to gear-up with new products. While ice fishing has it's share of big-ticket items with large price tags, such as portable shelters and power augers, there are many essential items and handy accessories that retail for under $25. The following is a rundown of these affordable equipment options.
Terminal Fishing Tackle
|Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon Ice Fishing Line|
Frequently overshadowed by the glitz and glamour of shiny lures and other ice gizmos, the terminal tackle category deserves attention when assembling your hard-water arsenal. Your kit should include the following:
- Super-sticky single and treble hooks for set-line and tip-up rigs as well as replacing inadequate factory-installed or dull hooks on lures;
- A range of split-shot sinkers for various stationary and float rig set-ups;
- Quality ball bearing swivels to prevent line twist; just don't let them freeze during travel or they'll loose their effectiveness and will require hand warmth to get them spinning again;
- A good selection of clips and snaps for attaching baits when you're not tying direct; and
- Ice-fishing line designed to handle the rigours of winter. Consider fluorocarbon for its rigidity, low memory and near-invisible underwater properties. If you prefer superline it's best to add a section of fluorocarbon or monofilament leader.
Best Fishing Baits
No ice fishing gear guide would be complete without a discussion on lures. The nuts and bolts of any hard-water collection will include representation from the following categories:
- Jigging minnows, such as the deadly Rapala Jigging Shad Rap;
- Jigging spoons in various sizes sporting a range of actions, including rattling models like the Northland Fishing Tackle Buck-Shot;
- Darters, which are becoming increasingly popular — the Lindy Darter is one great choice;
- Various soft baits and plastics, with sizes ranging between 1- to 4-inches to cover the panfish to lake trout spectrum — tube jigs are must-have items, as they're deadly on ice; and
- A selection of ice jigs to match your quarry size — an easy way to ramp-up your inventory is purchasing a kit.
Using tip-ups or a dead-stick rod is a surefire way to boost the odds of catching more fish in winter, so consider the following components to round-out your inventory:
- A tip-up light will increase the signal intensity of its flag in low-light or heavy snow and overcast condition, and
- Rod holders to keep reels up off the ice and rod tips visible so you can easily see a strike.
Essential Ice Fishing Gadgetry
I regularly rely on many types of outdoor gear that are outside of the realm of ice-fishing-specific equipment. These go-to items include:
- A headlamp for hands-free angling and other duties during low light condition;
- A small multi-tool for hook removal as well as other duties, such as tightening screws or bolts that came loose during transport;
- Hemostats or forceps are popular among trout anglers, but these devices are excellent for quickly removing tiny ice jigs from small-jawed panfish, trout and whitefish — opt for a pair with a rubber coated handle for better handling in cold temperatures; and
- Quality scissors to help make quick work of lure changes.
Ice Fishing Safety Stuff
While this isn't a comprehensive list of all safety-required items, these low-cost products are worth carrying:
- Ice picks for increased traction and grip in the event you need to perform a self-rescue should you fall through the ice;
- Ice cleats to wear over your boots for additional traction on glare or wet ice; and
- A first-aid kit to address minor issues.
|Frabill Arctic Fire Tip-Up Light|
Warm Fishing Apparel
Dressing for winter activities is a broad topic, but investing in a few quality items will dramatically improve your ability to stay warm on the ice and have fun.
- A high-end base layer provides a thermal and moisture-wicking foundation that will help you stay toasty;
- Linked to the above you'll want a range of socks in different thicknesses to combat the varying temperatures throughout the winter season;
- Supplementing boots with insulated liners or heat pads can also increase comfort on bitter cold days;
- While heavily insulated gloves or mitts are a must, I'm a fan of fingerless gloves and flip-mitts when fishing in a warm shelter or in mild conditions as they allow you to keep your dexterity while offering insulation;
- Also worth your hard-earned cash are a pair of fully waterproof, insulated gloves;
- A hat that blocks wind and offers adequate thermal protection is also a must; and
- It's also good practice to keep a spare set of clothes kept in a duffle bag in your vehicle in the event of an accidental wet boot or when additional layer or a change of clothes are needed.
Ice Fishing Accessories
The following are some other inexpensive items that will quickly find use on your ice fishing outings:
- An insulated minnow pail or bucket and net for your bait-rigging needs on ice;
- A variety of shelter accessories are available to organize your ice hut; one good option is a cargo net for collecting loose items;
- An ice hole skimmer is another essential product you'll need to clear holes of ice and slush;
- A small shovel has countless uses, such as building up a snow barrier around a portable shelter's skirt to block the wind or removing snow and ice mounds from freshly drilled holes;
- Carry spare auger parts, such as extra blades, cover and gas cap to be prepared;
- Small, clear and durable jig boxes and tackle trays that fit the dimensions of your outerwear's pockets are useful to let you carry your best baits when hole hopping;
- Lip balm and sunscreen are recommended to protect your face from the elements; and
- A water bottle is also essential as staying hydrated is a critical factor in keeping warm.
Fishing Lures Mentioned in this Article:
|Lindy Darter||Northland Fishing Tackle Buck Shot||Rapala Jigging Shad Rap|