Ice Fishing

Depending on the area in which you will be fishing, you may have the opportunity to fish all year long. This is not only true in the warmer weather; it is also true in the frozen North.

As a matter of fact, ice fishing is one of the most popular types of fishing in some states, and most people would not think about going an entire year without spending some time on the ice. Of course, if you are going to go ice fishing, one of the most important things for you to consider is your safety.

Not only is it essential to make sure that you are warm when you are out on the ice, but it’s also important to make sure that you stay on the top side of the ice as well.

Always check the ice conditions before heading out onto the lake and make sure that you stick to areas that are well known and familiar to you. You should also be cautious and carry a compass, because you can easily get turned around when you are out on a large lake, particularly in whiteout conditions.

Common Fish Species

ice fishing fish species

There are quite a few different species of fish which you may be after when you’re out on the ice.

For most people, it is going to be panfish but there also other types of fish, depending upon the area where you are fishing and your own personal fishing goals. Here are the common types of fish that you will catch.


The vast majority of the fish that are caught through the ice are panfish, such as crappie, bluegill, and perch. These fish are relatively easy to pick, and it makes for a great day out on the ice with plenty of action. They are also quite tasty if you decide to take them home with you and test them out in a pan of your own.



Although this fish tends to be rather elusive, it is also a prevalent choice for sports fishing through the ice.

Walleye can range in size from very small to quite large, but on average, they are slightly over a foot long and weigh more than a pound. This is a fish that tends to be found in areas where they can hide well, particularly if there is an underwater structure in the area.

Northern Pike

Northern Pike

This fish is rather medieval looking, and it is one that is well suited as a predator. Any fish is going to have predator qualities, but when you catch your first Northern Pike, you will be able to tell that it is one that fits the bill.

Be aware of the fact that Northern Pike has needle-sharp teeth which are not only hard on the fishing line, it is also hard on your skin. It is going to be necessary for you to fish with a heavy or steel leader, as they will be able to bite through any regular monofilament line easily.



Muskellunge or Muskie for short is a thrill to catch. It is often confused with the Northern Pike as they are from the same Esox genus but they are very much different species with different behaviors, markings, and distributions.

The difference being that the Muskie will have a pointed tail fork, dark bars on the body and 6-9 pores on the lower jaw. While the Norther Pike will have a more round tail fork, more light spots and only 4-5 pores on the lower jaw.

A Muskie has an elongated body and a flat head, with light colored with dark bars running down the sides of their body. Their underside is plain white in color.

The biggest difference between male and female Muskie is size. Both genders continually grow with age. The male fish tend to measure between 22-39 inches long and weight 3-20 pounds. The females are slightly larger, measuring 22-50 inches long and normally weigh 3-40 pounds.


ice fishing tackle

There are a few pieces of tackle that are going to be needed if you are going to spend any amount of time on the ice. Before we discuss tackle, it’s a good idea to address some of the other tools that will be needed for a safe and pleasant day.

First of all, it is essential to stay warm. Not only should you dress for the weather, but you may also want to consider getting an ice shelter. This will require somewhat of an investment, but it is going to be well worth it, especially if you are fishing with your family and any young children. In addition, you can use the shelter to haul your equipment both to and from the area where you will be fishing.

If you don’t have an ice shelter, it’s a good idea to take a toboggan with you to transport the equipment on and off of the ice.

Included in the equipment should be an ice auger, which will drill the hole through the ice, the skimmer, which will scoop out the chips and shavings from the fishing hole and an ice chisel, which will help to widen the gap or to make a hole if the ice is not very thick. You should also have a bait bucket, a dip net, a gaff hook and a tool which will help to dislodge the hooks. It is also a good idea for you to have a seat so that you can be comfortable. The ice fishing tackle that you will need is relatively basic.

ice fishing rod and reel

You can start with a lightweight jigging rod, especially if you are going to be fishing for panfish. Small hooks (#10 or #12) are preferred for panfish, but larger hooks (up to 6/0) are needed if you are going to be fishing for walleye or northern pike. If you’re fishing for panfish, some white monofilament will suffice, but you should have some stronger line and leader for larger fish.


If you are ice fishing for panfish, the best bait available is live bait.

You can also use a variety of jigs or artificial lures to catch panfish, although the fish may not be as aggressive as they are in the summertime.

If you are fishing for walleye, you can use imitation jigs that mimic the action of a minnow.


For the most part, you are simply going to man your rod and reel in the fish when they are on the line. As you continue to take part in the sport, you may want to expand on your fishing tackle and techniques by purchasing a tool that is known as a tip-up.

Ice fishing tip up

This is a device that allows you to know if a fish is biting because it will raise a flag, once the strike happens. It’s a great way for you to be able to spread yourself out and to man several different holes at the same time.

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