Ice Fishing Essentials

Ice fishing is a favourite winter pastime for many Canadians, but when you’re heading out onto the ice, what should you take? Ice fishing requires different gear than regular warm weather fishing. We can break down the required equipment into two categories: cold weather gear and ice fishing tools.

Cold-Weather Gear

Warm Clothes

Before heading out onto the ice, it’s important to make sure your clothing is suitable for the subzero conditions. Layers are key for staying warm and dry. If you start to overheat, you can remove a layer and then add it back on if you start to cool down. Staying dry is critical, and if you overheat and sweat, you’ll soon find yourself chilled.

Boots and CleatsCleats that fit over the bottom of boots to add traction while walking on slippery surfaces like ice

Good boots are also important. Look for Ice fishing boots that are warm and waterproof. We recommend boots that reach mid-calf and pairing them with good insulators like woolen socks. It is also worth investing in a set of cleats. Metal cleats help prevent slips and falls on slick ice. Don’t forget other winter essentials like water-resistant gloves, scarves and hats!

ShelterRed Ice fishing shanty designed to pop up and pack down easily.

If you plan on being on the ice for a long time, it’s important to invest in a shelter. Out on the ice, the wind can be intense. Ice fishing is an activity that includes long periods of waiting. A shelter will help break the wind and help you stay warm. Pop up ice fishing tents, like the Quickfish Eskimo Ice hut, are a great lightweight option.

We recommend bringing a folding chair as well. It will keep you off the ice while still letting you relax waiting for the fish to nibble.

Warm Drinks

If you’re going to be out on the ice all day, a thermos full of coffee would not be a miss. Yeti makes a fantastic line of insulated cups and thermoses. Warm drinks will help keep you hydrated and keep your spirits up as you wait for your line to get a hit.

Ice Fishing Gear

What gear do you need for ice fishing? Can you use your warm weather equipment on the ice? Ice fishing requires different tools than warm weather fishing. Getting ready for ice fishing takes planning, but a day on the ice is worth it.

AugerIce Auger designed to attach to a cordless drill for use out on the ice to drill an 8 inch hole.

To begin ice fishing, you must first cut a hole in the ice. The best tool for the job is an ice auger. We like the Eskimo Pistol bit 8” drill auger. It attaches to your drill and is designed to be lightweight and efficient. Some ice fishers like keeping their hole clean and slush free using a scoop. It’s easier to get your line in and out of the water that way, but other ice fishers swear by a slush filled hole.

Fishing RodBerkly Amp ice fishing rod. Ice rods are shorter than normal and designed for cold weather use.

Ice fishing rods are built for cold weather and tight spaces. These short rods are designed to drop bait straight into a small hole. Even the grease used in the reel is designed to handle the cold weather. Additionally, we recommend using a line created for ice fishing. Berkley Trilene Micro Ice handles the cold, prevents line freezing, and is durable enough for sharp ice. Ice fishing line is designed specifically for the winter cold.

Baitmummified wax worms for ice fishing, or all year use.

The smell of live bait in the water can be a powerful attractant for fish. However, keeping bait from freezing in subzero temperatures can be difficult. Investing in an insulated minnow bucket helps. This bucket from Flambeau has a lid with accessory rails for your rod and hanging hooks.

If live bait sounds like too much trouble, we also recommend Mummy Worms, a mummified wax worm, as an alternative to live bait. Tungsten jigs will also do the trick. Tungsten is a heavier material than lead. Its added weight allows it to sink faster, push past slush, and jig harder. Experienced fishers prefer heavier ice fishing lures to help counteract the effects of slushy holes.

SledBlack ice sled for hand pulling equipment across snow and ice.

Carrying everything you need to a suitable spot can be a challenge. Investing in a sled helps. Polyethylene sleds like this one from Shapell are lightweight and durable. They are designed to be pulled by hand across snow and ice. Throw in everything you need for a day of ice fishing and head out to your favourite spot!

Ice fishing is a fun Canadian past time, but it requires some special gear. Make sure you’re prepared before you head for the ice. Staying warm and dry is critical for a fun day of fishing and with all the proper tools, you have a great chance of bringing home fish for dinner. If you'd like more help picking out some ice fishing gear, contact us here or visit 340 Bishopsgate Road, Burford Ontario.