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Ontario Fishing Network
Volume 4,  Issue 2 -  Feb. 2004

Ice Fishing Equipment Overview
By Tim Allard

Cold hands and feet, dead minnows, and no fish landed - these are just a few things that can go wrong if you're not prepared for your next ice fishing outing. Ice fishing is a lot like home repairs, if you don't have the right equipment to do the job, things can quickly get ugly and, in some cases, dangerous. This article is an overview to ice fishing equipment and gear, along with some tips to stay comfortable this winter season.

In bitter cold temperatures, shelters allow you to escape winter's elements, blocking wind, snow, and light. The latter can increase your visibility, making the bottom, and sometimes fish, noticeable when fishing shallow, clear water. A wooden hut is a classic, Canadian winter image and these can be productive if you're on prime structure. On the other hand, portable shelters allow anglers to fish various spots. The latest portable shelter designs feature durable, easy-folding models available from basic to advanced models.

The author seeks shelter from heavy winds in a portable shelter. A survival suit and a small heater help keeping him comfortable

Like shelters, portable depth finders are also popular among serious ice anglers. Finders are available in packages with cases and transducers specifically designed for ice fishing. Use finders to locate key structure, such as points or shoals, before drilling your holes. Once set-up, keep and eye on your finder to monitor activity and, on sensitive models, the depth of your lure. A GPS unit is a good tool to keep track of your fishing spots, allowing you to store waypoints and routes so you can return to the honey hole. Batteries will drain faster when used in cold temperatures, so bring fresh ones for each outing.

Augers, Chisels and Skimmers
"Should I buy a gas or manual auger," is a question many ice anglers will eventually ask themselves. Gas powered augers quickly drill clean holes, yet they are more costly and heavier than manual ones. Inexpensive, light manual ones are great for starting out, but drilling several holes, especially through thick ice, can tire you out. Regardless of your choice, auger maintenance includes: keeping your blades sharp, drying blades to avoid rust, and avoiding dropping the auger on its blades. Another tip is to have a brush or a rag for cleaning blades. I've seen anglers brush ice away from sharp blades only to cut, and ruin, their gloves. An ice chisel can be used to break through a few inches of ice when returning to the same holes after a few days. While fishing, use an ice skimmer to keep your holes from freezing over.

Quality rods and tip-ups will allow you to detect subtle hits. High-end reels will have better drag systems. Look for line specifically designed for cold temperatures. Warm weather lines will tangle and kink in the cold. Your tackle selection should contain lures in varying sizes and colours that allow you to fish presentations at various speeds, actions and depths.


Tip ups allow you to fish a large area, spreading out your holes to properly fish structure

Keep your bait fresh and switch it often, as lively bait can dictate success when ice fishing. A minnow bucket with an aerator will keep minnows alive during the drive to your destination and while fishing. Although often overlooked and only a few dollars, a minnow net with a floating handle is a luxury when fishing in the winter.

Motorized, recreational vehicles, such as snowmobiles or ATVs, are excellent for covering large distances, but exercise caution when traveling on ice. If you walk when ice fishing, a sled is an excellent way to move your gear. There are sleds specifically designed for ice fishing but a large child's sled will perform just as well. Use bungee cords to keep your gear tied down. A walking stick can help you maintain balance your on uneven and slippery terrain.

Sleds allow you to pull your ice fishing gear instead of carrying it, making trips less strenuous.

When choosing clothing, look for synthetic, moisture wicking material as a base and dress in layers to control your temperature. Avoid wearing cotton. Cotton absorbs moisture and damp clothing against your skin will chill you. The body's extremities often get cold first. Hand warmers tucked in mittens will keep hands toasty. To keep your feet warm, apply baby powder to them before putting your socks on. The powder absorbs moisture, keeping your feet dry and warm. During ice-out, when slush and water cover thick ice, make sure you're wearing waterproof boots.

Safety beckons the use of lifejackets or floatation suits. Suits may seem costly, but it's a small price if they save your life. Survival suits also have a great outer shell, blocking the wind to help keep you warm. Throw ropes, ice picks and a first aid kit are three other pieces of gear to carry when ice fishing. Finally, sunglasses, water and sunscreen are critical during ice-out. Spring sun reflected off the ice can quickly cause sunburns so reapply often.

A bucket seat or chair will give your feet and back a rest. A small, propane heater is handy to keep winter's chill from setting in; however, exercise caution if using one in a shelter. The small space can quickly fill up with carbon monoxide, a byproduct of these heaters, and a serious health threat.
Ice fishing can be a great experience. There's nothing better than catching lots of fish with friends on a crisp, sunny, winter's day. Take some time to prepare for winter conditions by ensuring you have the proper equipment and gear to stay comfortable, and safe, this season.

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Dymara also has some DYNAMITE ice fishing jigs!!

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