Outdoor Clothing for the Ice Fishing Enthusiast
Imagine a calm day on the ice where the sun is shining and the wind is barely a whisper. You don’t even need your shelter with you, and can just sit on a camp chair in front of your ice fishing holes. Suddenly a flag from a tip-up shoots high into the air, and you scramble to get over to it. The line is spooling out steadily, but you set the hook as soon as it pauses. After a good fight, you pull a very nice northern pike through the ice and re-set the bait for the chance at another. Life is good.
Though it’s been an unusual winter so far in terms of warmer temperatures, there are still opportunities for hard core ice fishermen and women to get out on the water. If you haven’t tried ice fishing before, you really owe it to yourself to go try it at least once. If you have fished on hard water before, then you know how addicting it can be. Perhaps the best part about it is that you can make it as extravagant or as rugged as you wish. A day on the ice could mean a several-mile hike, chiseling through feet of ice, and fishing with just a tip-up line. It could also include sitting in a deluxe ice castle watching television in your shorts, while cooking your favorite dinner on the stove.
First, you’ll need some warm clothing to stay on the ice for very long. Think cold weather camouflage clothing is just for hunting seasons? Guess again. Moon Shine Camo’s Undertow series fits in perfectly with any fishing activities, summer or winter. It features different shades of blue against a camouflage background. You’ll want a good polyester camo sweatshirt to keep your torso warm, which is where the Undertow camo pullover hoody really comes in handy.
Pair your pullover hoody with the Undertow camo black vest and your core is sure to stay toasty on the ice. It has PROTEK softshell armor and a stand-up collar to keep icy winds from sending a chill down your spine. You definitely need to keep your head warm while on the ice, as you won’t stay fishing long without a good hat. The Moon Shine fleece beanie is reversible, made of polyester, and will keep your head protected for long days.
As far as other gear, you’ll need a few more essentials. Find a decent shelter if you’ll be fishing a lot throughout the season. You’ll be very glad to have it when the mercury really drops. There are lots of DIY options, but a lightweight shelter on a sled is often the best option for portability. You’ll also need a chisel or gas/electric auger to drill your holes. Obviously you’re going to require ice rods, reels, and tackle appropriate for the species you’re targeting. Here’s a tip for new ice anglers: attend an ice fishing seminar at a sporting goods store. They’ll have lots of specific gear recommendations, will provide some tips and tactics, and can answer any specific questions you have.
When it comes to species to pursue, it will greatly depend on the lake you’re fishing. It’s a safe bet that you’ll find panfish (e.g., crappies, bluegill, pumpkinseeds, etc.) in almost any water body in America. Panfish are best targeted by a light rod and line, and using small ant-type jigs or 1/32 oz. spoons, either of which should be tipped with a minnow or grub. If you’re going for perch, sauger, or walleye, try using 1/16 to 1/4 oz. spoons tipped with a minnow head, jigging Rapalas, or rattle baits. It’s always fun to target northern pike through the ice using a tip-up system. Simply bait a quick-set rig with a large and lively sucker minnow, set the flag, and relax until the flag pops up! If you’re lucky enough to pursue trout (e.g., rainbows, brown, lake, cutthroat, etc.) through the ice, the best options seem to be 1/16 to 1/4 oz. tube jigs with white or olive tube worms, or similar-sized spoons tipped with a piece of cisco.
Just keep safety at the forefront of your mind. Ice fishing is by definition never 100% safe. But if you use common sense and follow these safety tips, you shouldn’t have any problems. Never go onto a waterbody your first time without first checking the ice quality. For early ice, take a chisel with you and aggressively poke the ice ahead of you as you walk. You may also want to wear a life jacket and some ice picks around your neck. Occasionally stop and drill a hole to check the ice thickness. Three to five inches should be sufficient for walking and even light ATV traffic. You should plan on at least 12 inches before considering driving a vehicle onto the ice though. The biggest safety tip is to always let someone know where you’ll be fishing. Hopefully these tips will find you on the ice soon!