How To Ice Fish

How To Ice Fish The Right Way

Some anglers pack up their tackle boxes and gear for the winter. But others, like myself, can’t give up their favorite pastime, even in the winter months. We pack on the layers, grab an ice jig, and hit the frozen lakes. For those brave few, ice fishing is a great skill to learn.

You may be asking yourself, is ice fishing really worth the hassle? Isn’t it risky to go out on a frozen lake? Will hypothermia do me in?

While it is true that ice fishing can be dangerous, it is a relatively safe and rewarding method of fishing if you do it correctly. Additionally, ice fishing can yield lots of fish, and there’s nothing quite like pulling a catch through a hole you cut in the ice.

Ice fishing is not for everyone, but it is a great way to keep on fishing during the winter months. If bundling up and hitting the ice in the winter months sounds appealing to you, check out this guide on how to ice fish.

Equipment You Will Need in Ice Fishing

Due to potential safety hazards, it is extremely important that you have all the proper gear to make ice fishing a viable option. Unlike a lazy spring day on the lake, there are a great number of risks that come with using improper gear or fishing methods while ice fishing.

Winter Clothing

The first concern gear wise is winter clothing. While this may seem obvious, it is important that you choose the right kinds of winter clothing for the harsh conditions.

When ice fishing, remember one thing: layers. You should be sure to wear at least three layers while ice fishing: a thin, moisture-resistant layer, a thick second layer, and a weatherproof top layer.

Also, you will need warm, but usable gloves, a winter hat, and goggles. Goggles are especially important to maintain vision while avoiding windburn and frostbite. Personally, I use Hot Optix Anti-fog Ski Goggles, but this is a matter of preference.

Boots and Ice Cleats

Proper boots are essential to ice fishing. I’m sure you have your preference, so I won’t suggest a pair of boots. However, you absolutely need to purchase a pair of Ice Cleats if you plan on ice fishing. I suggest getting a pair of ICEtrekkers Chain Ice Cleats. They are affordable and give you great traction on the ice.

Hand Warmers

It never hurts to have hand warmers out on the ice. Sometimes, you may have to go gloveless to handle the fish you hook. Trust me, when this happens, you will be glad that you brought a few hand warmers with you.

Sonar LCD Fish Finder

If you are new to ice fishing, chances are you will not have a go-to spot. For that reason, it is essential that you have a sonar system to find fish. No one wants to spend a day sitting on a bucket and not get a bite. I recommend the Sonar LCD Fish Finder from Bass Smashers. I have had great success with it and it is affordable for the technology you are getting.

Bass Smasher Sonar LCD Fish Finder

Bass Smasher Sonar LCD Fish Finder


While there are other options for creating your hole, none of them really compare to an ice auger. It creates a sizeable hole much easier than other options. You should start with a manual auger, as they are the most affordable option. However, if you fall in love with ice fishing, I suggest getting a mechanized option. Personally, I use the Jiffy 44 Pro, as it cuts my preparation time down drastically.

Ice Scoop

After you clear out most of the ice with an auger, it helps to have an ice scoop to finish the job up. You can pick up cheap ice scoops pretty much anywhere, and they will all do the trick.

Ice Scoop

Ice Scoop

Five-Gallon Bucket

A simple five-gallon bucket will be one of your most used and essential tools for ice fishing. Not only will you use it to store fish, but it will be your seat out on the ice, so choose wisely! I use a Cabela’s five-gallon myself.


Fish are less aggressive during the winter months, so you will want to choose your bait accordingly. Some people prefer live bait, but I’m an artificial guy. If you plan on using artificial bait, I suggest using lighter options. I’ve been using a deep diving minnow bait, like this one from Bass Smashers. I’ve had success with deep divers, but be sure to plan accordingly to the depths you are fishing.

Rod Holder

Ice fishing is a waiting man’s game. For that reason, I suggest picking up a rod holder to make the waiting easier. I would pick up this rod holder with an automatic tip-hook setter from Bass Smashers.

Steps On How To Ice Fish

Step One: Measure The Ice

This step will prevent you from risking a dangerous ice-break. Ice fishing should be conducted on ice no thinner than four inches, but five to six inches is ideal. I measure the ice by cutting it. For a video demonstration to this step, check out this video:

Step Two: Make Your Hole

Next, you will place your auger tip down on the ice. If you are using a manual auger, push on your auger as you turn the auger clockwise. Here is a video demonstration on using a mechanized auger:

Step Three: Remove Excess Ice

After you have made your hole, there will be some excess ice remaining. Use your ice scoop to remove the excess until you have a clear fishing hole.

Step Four: Determine Your Depth

To determine your depth, you must drop you line until it hits the bottom. A sinker helps this process. I sometimes use a bobber to make an exact judgement by placing it where the line meets the water, but it is not necessary.