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Ice fishing can be a thrilling and unique experience. Among the sport of fishing, ice fishing can be a rigorous and challenging experience. Ice fishing demands skill, patience and a willingness to battle the elements. To truly enjoy all the sport has to offer one need proper ice fishing gear to succeed.
Ice fishing is literally fishing on ice. A popular winter time begins by finding a frozen body of water such as a lake or river that is solid enough to support your (and your fishing party’s) weight without breaking. If the weather is nice (by winter standards) you can ice fish in the open without any need for shelter. If it is too cold or winds are strong, shanties (small portable sheds usually made from wood, plastic or canvass) can be set up quickly to provide protection from the elements when ice fishing.
To ice fish you must cut a hole through the ice to access the water and the fish. The hole is typically cut with a tool called an ice auger. The auger allows you to drill a hole through the ice with relative ease. Once a hole is created ice chisels or “spuds” are used to widen the hole and smooth its edges so fishing can begin. Ice fishing is usually done a good distance from shore where the water is deep enough for many fish to inhabit. There are three main ways to ice fishing, each requiring specific tools and gear.
The first is the traditional fishing method of using a line, hook and reel. This method is used for smaller fish as the extreme cold and winter weather can play havoc on equipment which would make it difficult if used for larger catches. Lures, Jigs (imitation bait) and live bait are typically best to use when reel fishing. To ice fish by reel you will also need monofilament line and “leader” a short metal wire which is attached to the hook on one end while the line is tied to the other. The leader prevents fish from biting through the line. Leader is especially necessary when ice fishing as many of the fish sought after such as Northern Pike have large sharp teeth which can easily cut line.
The second method of ice fishing is often referred to as “tip up”. A tip up is a small device that attaches to your line and flips up a flag when a fish strikes. Tip up’s are with a hook, leader and line, but the line is pulled up by hand instead of using a reel.
The third and final method of ice fishing is spearing. Often called “dark house fishing” spearing involves being inside a darkened shanty. A decoy fish is placed in the water through the hole and the fisherman waits with spear in hand for a fish to swim by and investigate the decoy. When it does the spear is thrown and the fish is caught.
No matter which method you choose the right ice fishing gear is important. Along with gear specialized for your type of ice fishing it is good to take along several other items such as a bait bucket and bait net, seats, a gaff hook (a large hook at the end of a handle which helps pull the fish out of the water) and an ice skimmer so you can keep your hole from freezing over as slush collects from the cold. As with any outdoor winter activity proper clothes should also be used as it is a good idea to dress in layers. If you do and you take the right gear ice fishing can be a fun and exciting way to enjoy the winter.