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5 Surprising Reasons to Take Up Ice Fishing This Season

Updated on January 3, 2017
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1. There's still time to catch that big one you missed this summer or fall!

Didn’t have time to hook that Muskie or monster Pike that you were after during peak season? Many species of fish available during the Summer/Fall can still be hooked well after the lake has frozen over. Different fish will require different equipment though so make sure you've done your research before heading out.

2. You Can Combine Ice Fishing With a Variety of Winter Activities to Make It A Great Outing for the Entire Family

Tip-ups are handy rigs you can purchase if you want to be social while fishing or drop multiple lines at once. They’re easy to set up and a bright flag is raised any time a fish is on the line. These are wonderful for family outings and an effective way to catch fish while doing other things: cards and hot cocoa with your family, skating with the kids, beers with your friends, getting cozy with your partner *cough* anything really.

3. It Can Be Easier On Your Bank Account Than Peak Season Fishing (Keyword: can be)

First off – no boat is needed which means you don’t have to own a boat. That also means no gas, maintenance or storage for the boat and no gas or trailer to haul your boat to a launch site. You also don’t need to have any kind of live well set up because the fish will keep laying on the ice. You can purchase all the equipment you need to take up ice fishing for under $100.4

However, key word is that you can. Like peak season fishing, the quality of your gear is directly related by what you’re willing to invest into your experience. More avid fisherman are certainly going to want to invest in more tackle and lures and splurge on luxuries like pop up ice fishing huts, space heaters, and underwater cameras. These are not necessary for beginners but the following things should be considered when buying equipment:

RODS: Your rod price will vary depending on what you’re hoping to catch. They can range in length from 16” to 32”. Like summer rods they can be constructed from graphite, fiberglass, or a combination, have a variety of materials composing the handle, and come in heavy/medium/light power with slow/moderate/fast action.

As a general rule the folks at Ice-Fishing-Source recommend short light rods for pan fish, a rod with a length of 24-28" ranging from medium to medium-heavy for Walleye and Pike, and a rod as strong as you can get for Muskie and Lake Trout.1

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REELS: As with summer reels, ice fishing reels can be purchased as spinning, bait casting and spin casting reels. For the beginner, open faced spinning reels are the most common but will not work for some larger, deeper water fish. The size will vary based on what kind of rod you’ve chosen but it’s important that the reel remains light yet functional.2

LINE: Ice fishing line is specially designed to stay supple and prevent freezing in low temperatures. A variety of brands carry line manufactured exclusively for ice fishing and can be easily located at stores like Canadian Tire. For the beginner, ask a store associate for help choosing the appropriate line for your trip.

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TACKLE: Like everything else so far, your tackle will largely be influenced by what kind of fish you’re trying to catch. If you’ve ever seen an avid fisherman at work you know that tackle can be anything but cheap. The goal as a beginner with a budget is to know what you’re after and focus on trying a variety of lure styles and bait for that species.

You’re also not going to lose any of your more expensive lures snagging something on the bottom of the lake . . . or, you know, cast into a tree or something as a newbie.

The following website provides a variety of tips on tackle for different fish to get you started:http://www.ice-fishing-source.com/ice-fishing-tips-techniques.asp

AUGER: An auger is going to be necessary for you to drill through the ice and get to the fish. Hand augers are a more inexpensive choice for beginners who aren’t sure if ice fishing will be a long term commitment and who don’t plan to drill through extremely thick ice.Gas augers are more expensive but allow for faster drilling with less hassle in deeper ice.2

CLOTHING: In my opinion quality clothing is one of the most overlooked components when beginning any kind of outdoor activity. Be sure to invest in warm, waterproof rather than water resistant gear, and dress in moisture wicking layers that pull moisture away from your body. Contrary to what you may think it is very possible to break a sweat sitting on a frozen lake, especially if you are using a hut and/or space heater.

EMERGENCY KIT: As with any kind of outdoors trek it is important to be prepared. Make sure you have a basic emergency kits on hand that includes but is not limited to: first aid supplies, waterproof matches, kindling, a whistle or flare, food and water, etc..

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4. Extremely Warm and Safe When Done Right - not to mention skipping out on black flies and sunburns!

Like with any outdoors activity it is important to be prepared to make your fishing trip safe and enjoyable. One of the biggest risks in winter – hypothermia – can easily be overcome by purchasing high quality clothing. As noted in the previous section, you can also splurge on equipment like pop up ice fishing huts to keep out of the wind and space heaters for a truly cozy experience.

Making sure that the ice is safe to walk on is also a huge factor when taking up ice fishing. As a general rule you should always carry an ice pick with you and measure the ice frequently since ice thickness can change every few feet. Six inches of ice or more is a safe amount for fishing according to Meagan Stansfield, an online outdoors writer and avid fisherman from Northern Ontario. Other sources recommend that as little as 4" is acceptable. (See chart below).

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5. Peace, Quiet, and Beating the Winter Blah's Through Water Exposure

Did you know that it’s been scientifically proven that being near water can help relieve stress and contributes positively to our overall well being? While many people fish for the sake of catching fish, for many it’s about social and physiological well being. An Australian study has shown the following benefits3:

  • Improved cardiovascular health via stress reduction
  • Contributes to overall mental well being by eliminating outside stress and cultivating patience and mindfulness
  • Aids breast cancer recovery in women by stimulating chest and arm muscles
  • Helps post traumatic stress disorder through mindfulness practices
  • Can reduce symptoms of chronic disease and mental illness

And luckily for us, these benefits are not exclusive to water that isn't frozen. So during the winter with fewer hours of sunlight keeping us down in the dumps, what better way to keep your spirits lifted than by getting out on the water – er, ice?

You also have the added benefit of some quiet reflection time in popular fishing spots that would otherwise be crowded during the busy season.

In conclusion, ice fishing is not an activity reserved to die-hard fisher folk. It can have amazing mental and physical benefits and be a wonderful and inexpensive social outing with family and friends. By doing your research and consulting experienced ice fishers (e.g. via specialty shops) you can have a warm and enjoyable experience that gets you hooked on off-season fishing regardless of age, gender, skill level, or physical ability.

References and Source Material

1Ice-fishing-source.com. (2007-2008). Ice Fishing Rods. Retrieved December 30, 2016 from http://www.ice-fishing-source.com/ice-fishing-rods.asp

2Ice-fishing-source.com. (2007-2008). Ice Fishing Equipment and Gear. Retrieved December 30, 2016 from http://www.ice-fishing-source.com/ice-fishing-equipment-gear.asp

3Nichols, Wallace J. () By the Water: Fishers (Excerpt from Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do). Retrieved December 30, 2016 from https://books.google.ca/books?id=ISc_AQAAQBAJ&pg=PT103&lpg=PT103&dq=surprising+reasons+to+take+up+ice+fishing&source=bl&ots=xdPKqt3DBg&sig=AAulk6AIty1SL8X5UllwP4E6vCE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwilgtC6lfzQAhXh5IMKHasVBAwQ6AEIMTAH#v=onepage&q=surprising%20reasons%20to%20take%20up%20ice%20fishing&f=false

4Scannapiego, Christina. (2014). 9 Reasons To Start Ice Fishing. Retrieved December 30, 2016 from https://www.recreation.gov/marketing.do?goto=acm/Explore_And_More/exploreArticles/9ReasonstoStartIceFishing.htm

5Smith, Edward. (2012, February 8). Ice Fishing Safety Tips. Retrieved December 31, 2016 from http://totallyoutdoorsnl.com/group/fishing/forum/topics/ice-fishing-safety-tips

6Stansfield, Meagan. (2015, December 28). A Beginner’s Guide to Ice Fishing in Canada. Retrieved December 30, 2016 from http://www.northernontario.travel/sunset-country/a-beginners-guide-to-ice-fishing-in-canada-with-a-few-tips-for-the-seasoned-fishermen-too

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