Written Jan 12 2006

Ice Fishing

As you may or may not know, ice fishing is an entirely different ballgame when compared to any other type of fishing. The air temperature is very cold and the wind has no trees to mitigate it's strength. The water is under a layer of ice, reducing your access considerably. And on top of all that, there is the danger factor. All of these factors can be remedied to some degree by proper gear and preparation. This focus is not on how to ice fish or where to ice fish, but rather tips on preparing yourself so that you can get the most out of what you have read or where you go.

Current License Anyone?
Some of the best ice fishing on the south shore occurs in January. However, it is also the start of a new year. Which means that your old license is no longer valid. You must get a new one if you intend to ice fish.

Dress Like It's Colder Than It Is.
I'll never forget the first time I went ice fishing. I brought along the same clothes that I wear for normal winter activity - coat, boots, gloves, and a scarf. Then I realized that ice fishing is not a normal winter activity. First, you're out in the elements, barely moving, far longer than in any normal activity. Digging through the ice and handling fish can make certain articles of clothing rather damp. I don't know if I've been that cold again. My advice? Dress like you are going skiing or to a New England Patriots game in the winter.

Don't Underestimate The Gear Needed.
During my season (Apr-Nov), I pack a rod, reel, and a couple of lures in my pickup truck so that I can fish anywhere at any time. The lures fit into my shirt pocket and the rod and reel fit perfectly in the back of my truck. Easy. Not so with ice fishing. With ice fishing you'll need an auger or ice chisel (to make holes in the ice), a long handled skimmer (to prevent ice from forming over your hole), ice picks (to help you crawl out of your hole if you fall in), nylon rope (to toss to someone who fell through their hole), ice cleats (so you don't fall down checking your holes), sunglasses (you won't believe the glare on a bright sunny day), towel (for when those hands get wet and slimy), hand warmer (once you've dried off those wet and slimy hands), ice traps or fishing rod (to catch fish with), tackle box (packed with terminal tackle), lures and bait (cold fish are finicky fish), and finally, a sled to carry all that gear out to your favorite spot.

Know Thy Lingo.
Ask an ice fisherman what he uses when ice fishing and you may hear words like spuds, jig sticks, tip-ups, and creepers. What do they mean? Well, since you have to be rather close to your hole when fishing, you need a special ice fishing rod that is about 3 feet short and a little stiffer than most. This is often called a "jig stick" because it's not exactly meant for casting or trolling, although it can be used for still bait fishing. Creepers are a brand name of ice cleat that fit under your boots. Tip-ups are a special type of ice fishing trap that "tips-up" a flag when struck by a fish. And a spud or spud bar is simply another name for an ice chisel, used to either create a hole or check for ice thickness.