If you live in a cold climate, you know the heart-breaking feeling of the last boat ride of the summer. Once the boat’s been tied up and covered, there’s usually a pretty heavy feeling that weighs on you while you drive home. After all, there’s no better feeling than a day out, under the sunshine, reel in hand. We get it. But, what if we told you that fun on the water doesn’t have to end when the snow flies? Enter: ice fishing. Wondering how to get started ice fishing? At BOATsmart! we’re sharing out beginners guide to ice fishing.

How to start ice fishing

Wondering how to start ice fishing? It’s not as difficult as you may think. First up, grab some friends. You never want to ice fish by yourself — ever. Why, you ask? Because ice fishing carries a decent amount of risk, as you’re on ice. You don’t want to find yourself in a precarious position alone. But, ice fishing is also a lot more fun with company.

Next, you’ll want to do some research around your local fishing area to find out where and when you should ice fish. Your local fishing store may be a great reference for this, as will other local ice fishers.  Choosing the right location can be critical for not only your success, but your safety as well. You’ll also want to make sure to choose the right gear. The gear you’ll need for ice fishing looks different than your typical summer set up. Let’s take a closer look at what’s required to get started.

Ice fishing gear you need

When it comes to ice fishing, you’ll need to gather some specific gear to keep yourself warm, safe and successful. Here’s our short list of gear you need to ice fish the right way:

  • Ice fishing clothing: When you’re ice fishing, you’re fishing in the cold… right? Make sure you have clothing that will keep you dry and warm. We recommend investing in warm, waterproof boots, wearing a heavy parka and snow pants. You will also need a warm hat and a pair of waterproof gloves…or two, just in case. Dressing in layers = key.
  • Auger: One of the most thrilling parts of ice fishing is digging into the ice itself, which is where an auger comes into play! Look for an auger around 8 inches or so and consider a power auger to make your life easier (but keep the sound it makes in mind – you don’t want to scare away all your fish). Cabela’s offers a great selection of augers at different price points.
  • Rod and reel: You’ll want a pretty stiff rod for ice fishing, and you can choose your reel weight based on where and what you’re fishing.
  • Traps: Ice fishing traps, or tip-ups, will make your ice fishing life a lot easier. Grab a few tip-ups, and we can promise you you’ll be happy you did.
  • Ice scooper: You may need to scoop ice out of the way when fishing, so grab an inexpensive ice scooper and keep it in your kit.
  • A long rope and ice pick: Staying safe absolutely must be top of mind when ice fishing. Bring a rope with you on your ice fishing expedition to make sure that, if necessary, you can pull someone out of the water. An ice pick can come in handy as well.
  • Bait: Minnows are likely your best bet when ice fishing, as they’re light and super effective.
  • Ice fishing shelter: Not absolutely necessary, but it certainly helps make those cold, blistery days a little more bearable. You can pick up a small pop up shelter for only a couple hundred dollars.

Safety considerations when ice fishing

When you’re ice fishing, the most important thing to consider is the thickness of the ice you’ll be fishing on. First up, wear a life jacket every single time. You also never want to ice fish on ice that’s less than 4-5 inches thick, and you’ll want to bring a ruler and auger along on every ice fishing journey to continually test the ice. Falling into water on ice that’s too thin and getting trapped can lead to death — and it doesn’t have to happen. We recommend creating relationships with local ice fishing experts and keeping a strict eye on weather and measurements during the season.

Trust us, here: once you’ve started ice fishing, you’ve unlocked a new, fun, lifelong hobby! Ice fishing is the perfect blend of adrenaline and marksmanship, and it’s one of the most incredible ways to go fishing. So, as your summer fishing fun comes to an end, turn that frown upside down, and consider heading out for some wintery fishing fun!