Ice Fishing prep isn’t hard, but it requires attention to detail.
You must prepare everything from your tackle, to your ice shack (if you have one) to your truck and supplies.
We’ve narrowed this post down to preparing your tackle, yourself and your ice shack for the upcoming ice fishing season
Ice Fishing Trip Prep 101: Before You Hit the Ice
Someone once said “Fail to plan, plan to fail” and this is 100% true with ice fishing.
The devil is in the details here as the key to a successful season lies in the amount of time you take to prep yourself, your gear PLUS your Ice Auger. Are you ready for ice time?
Ice Fishing Preparation: Getting Ready for Ice Fishing
Ice fishing is a labor of love. You have to LOVE the process because it’s a ton of work. From getting your tackle ready to prepping your ice auger for fishing, you’ve got your work cut out for you.
Top Ice Fishing Prep Tips
- Fishing Line
- Ice Shanty/House
Ice Fishing Prep: Key Tips for Success
Prep Work: Tackle and Fishing Gear
Before heading out, you have to consider what your goals are for this trip. Where are you fishing and what type of water is it? What are you fishing for? Will you be chasing fish?
Basic Tackle: Be light. Bring your best game.
Organize and simplify your tackle set up. Sharpen those hooks. Buy some of those plastic organizers and minimize how much gear your taking with you onto the ice.
Take your best bait for your situation, narrow it down to what your fishing goals are.
Carrying all of your stuff all the time is just too much especially if you’re going out by sled or snowmobile. Space is at a premium.
Make sure your bucket, or whatever your carrying your fish in is in good shape, no leaks, cracks or damage. Make sure the handle is going to carry your heavy load of caught fish.
First, make sure your rods are in good working order. Any damage or wear and tear should be repaired. Make sure all the parts are secure.
What rods you bring depends on the fish you’re chasing. Will they be biting today? Are they neutral and not biting? They call it fishing not catching after all so you need to bring enough to cover your bases.
2 to 3 rods is about the right amount to cover both aggressive biting fishing, hot-cold fish, and neutral fish. Biting fish love to chase fast baits, so include your favorites. And grab some more subtle baits for those shy fish. With all your bases covered, you’ll be sure to not come home empty handed.
Make sure your line is in good shape and that you have enough line. Make sure to grease moving parts so they work well on the ice. There is special fishing line for ice fishing, check with your local store.
Keeping Warm and Dry on the Ice
Make sure all your cold weather gear is ready. This is an area that might get shoved aside until the last minute, when it should be front and center.
Get all your cold weather gear from jackets, to boots, to pants, socks, beanies/toques etc. prepped by making sure all the snaps, zippers etc. are in working order. Grease up those zippers and snaps for ease of use.
Condition your leather gear, like boots to keep them water proof.
Make sure your weather and water-resistant gear is still going to keep you from getting wet by washing with Nikwash for Gore-Tex and using protective sprays.
Ice Fishing Prep for Your Shack/Shanty
Portable vs permanent ice houses/shacks need to be inspected for different issues to ensure they will house you all season long.
Portable Ice Houses/Shacks
Portable Ice Houses/shacks should be set up in your yard prior to the season. Just like you would with a tent prior to camping season, check it for ease of set up, wear and tear.
Our favorite is this Eskimo FatFish 3-4 person Portable. It’s fully insulated with removable windows.
I mean it SAYS 3-4, but I like my elbow room, so I’ve only had maximum 2 people in it at anytime.
Permanent Ice Shanty Structures
A permanent ice shanty should be given the once over for things like rotting wood, especially the roof. Make sure it can support another winter of heavy snowfall. Take notes about what you need to stock up on so you can have a hassle free season.
Make sure your portable heater works before heading out. We love this propane heater and use it all the time.
How Thick does the Ice need to be to Ice Fish
Minimum thickness for ice fishing is 4 inches, 5-7 inches for small vehicles and ATV’s. However, the thickness of ice can vary depending on the location, weather conditions, and the type of water body.
It’s always important to check the ice thickness before venturing out onto it. This can be done by drilling test holes or using an ice chisel to check the thickness of the ice. Additionally, it’s a good idea to check with local authorities, such as the Department of Natural Resources, or the fish and game department for ice thickness recommendations for the specific body of water you plan on fishing on.
Ice thickness can vary greatly even on the same body of water, so it’s important to avoid areas with currents or where water flows into or out of the lake, as well as areas near inlets and outlets, bridges, and dams, as these areas can have thinner ice.
Be prepared for an emergency by carrying proper equipment like ice picks, a life jacket, and a rope or flotation device. Also, it’s always a good idea to let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
Ice fishing prep might be time consuming when you have to prep everything from your tackle to your ice auger, but catching a ton of fish makes it all worth it.
- Ice Fishing Trip Prep 101: Before You Hit the Ice
- Ice Fishing Preparation: Getting Ready for Ice Fishing
- Ice Fishing Prep: Key Tips for Success
- Ice Fishing Prep for Your Shack/Shanty
- How Thick does the Ice need to be to Ice Fish
There are many excellent ice augers on the market, and we discuss them in detail in our Best Ice augers post.