As With Any Outdoor Activity, Safety Comes First
For safe walking on ice, make sure the ice thickness is at least 3 to 4 inches. Go with a friend or pick a spot where other ice anglers are nearby. Try to get information on local ice conditions before wandering out onto the ice. The last thing anyone wants is to fall through the ice. A must-have for safety on the ice is a set of ice picks worn around the neck. In the event that someone does fall through the ice, ice picks are the easiest way to pull yourself out of the hole.
Wear the Proper Cold Weather Clothing
Frostbite and hypothermia pose a real threat to ice anglers so it is important to be prepared. Layer up! Layering is one of the best ways to regulate body temperature. You don’t want to be too cold, but you don’t want to be so warm you start to sweat. Sweating in cold conditions can present it’s own problems, and actually make you feel colder. The base layer, mid layer, top layer system works well and allows you to pair back or add layers as the weather conditions change. The base layer should consist of a good wicking material, such as merino wool, that will pull sweat away from skin while also providing comfort and a small thermal barrier. The second layer serves as the insulation to capture the heat from your body in small pockets of air, with slightly looser fits serving to provide extra thermal capacity, and tighter fits providing extra moisture wicking capacity. Finally a top layer serves as a shield from external conditions and should be water and wind resistant. Couple this with a good pair of gloves, socks and boots, and comfort should be the last thing on your mind as you track across the ice!
For a Better Experience, Bring the Right Gear
First and foremost, to pull off a successful day of ice fishing, you will undoubtedly want to remove a bit of ice. The types of tools to do so are plentiful, and you can choose from manual or powered ice augers, ice saws, chisels, and in a pinch even chop a hole in the ice with your axe. Like most cases, however, a tool designed for the job is going to return the best results, safety and enjoyment. If you’re going in colder conditions, you may also find yourself needing a way to remove slush and ice as it attempts to re-freeze. A skimmer or heater can help in these conditions.
Of course a very important part of ice fishing is the fishing! There is a huge amount of fishing gear available, starting out with the basics will allow you to learn without much overhead, and grow as you go along. You may already have all you need, but it never hurts to have a decent variety of jigs and baits in your tackle. Talk to local experts if you can, or join in online forum discussions to learn new tricks, see what works, what doesn’t, and improve your knowledge of the sport!