Welcome to my easy beginner’s guide to ice fishing! This is ice fishing 101. If you want to get started ice fishing but don’t know where to begin, this is the guide for you!

First off, you need a fishing license. You must check the requirements in your local area to see how to apply. You shouldn’t need a special license for ice fishing. However you should check local rules to be sure.

Once you have acquired your license, it is time to get fishing! You will need some gear first. You don’t have to worry, though, I will help you.


Ice Fishing Gear

I have great news about the gear! You don’t need much to get started ice fishing. Most of the gear you need to start ice fishing is easy to find, too.


Augers come in many shapes and sizes. Augers make a hole in the ice for you to fish through. Some augers are manual and some are power augers.

I recommend that you begin with a manual hand auger in the 6 inch to 8 inch size range. This number describes how large the hole in the ice will be.

There are many augers sold online. When you shop for your gear online, you can often find great deals. Otherwise, If you have a local fish and game store you prefer, you can shop there instead.

A Fishing Rod and Reel Combo

The first thing to look for when shopping for your first ice fishing rod-and-reel is a simple setup. You should pick a rod that is stiff. Also, you should buy 8-pound fishing line.

Fishing line that is this gauge lets you catch all kinds of fish, including:

Ice Fishing Tip-ups

Are you familiar with this term? You will be soon. A tip-up is a trap you will set that consists of a sinker and your bait. When you have a fish on the line, a flag will raise. Thus, you know you have a fish to catch!

Ice Scooper for Ice Fishing

I bet you can see why an ice scooper is handy when ice fishing. I won’t go into too much detail about this tool.


Generally, the best bait is minnows. You can purchase minnows at a bait shop. Also, you can trap your own minnows by using a minnow trap like this one.

Rod Holders for Ice Fishing

Do you want to hold your own poles all day? I bet you do not! Put rod holders on your list of things to buy. Most rod holders are pretty similar. You don’t have to do much research about this type of gear; just pick one.

A Bucket for Ice Fishing

You need a bucket, trust me. You can use the bucket to put your fish in. You can also use it for lots of other things when you are out on the ice.

I won’t bother giving you links to buckets that you can buy because I am sure you can find those all on your own. You should consider buying a bucket and topper combo, however. You can also buy a bucket top separately. These toppers have a lid to keep your catch extra secure.

Ice Fishing Techniques

Before I begin explaining how to ice fish, click on the video below for a visual lesson in ice fishing techniques.

Dress for Success

Don your winter gear before you head out to ice fish. It can get cold out there on the ice for extended periods of time. Here is a suggested list of what you need:

  • insulated snow pants
  • heavy coat or parka
  • good, waterproof gloves
  • insulated, waterproof boots
  • a scarf

Consider a Proper Ice Fishing Shelter

If you can afford it, invest in a portable ice shelter. You will be much more comfortable in a shelter.

Alternatively, you can choose a fishing spot that has permanent fishing huts set up. These often include a heat source and they are usually found in places where the fishing is good!

How To Ice Fish

Ice Fishing Techniques

Below you will find some easy how-to tips to get you ice fishing right now.

Safety First: Test That Ice!

Unless the ice is at least 4 inches thick, you cannot ice fish. This is the number one safety tip that you should always adhere to. How can you tell how thick the ice is?

Before you even set out onto the ice, be sure there are other people already on it. If there are people there already, you are probably safe. This is not a surefire barometer of ice safety, however!

You can call your local bait shop to ask about ice conditions. You can also find this information out online or through your local news in some locations.

Try to set up near a cluster of other huts. Always remain a respectful distance away from other people ice fishing, however. This is good ice fishing etiquette.

Drill That Hole

First, pick your favorite spot on the lake. Next, carefully remove the covers from your auger blades. Now that you’ve picked a spot, it’s time to drill your holes and get set up.

Place the blades on the ice and add some pressure as you start to crank the auger. You may hear a grinding noise. That’s a good sign!

At this point, you are essentially turning a screw into the ice. You can continue to turn the crank and press down to make a hole. If you bought an electric auger, just hold it steady and let it do the work.

You’re probably going to want to scoop the hole out before you begin fishing in it.

Set Up Your Tip-Up

Here is another handy video to show you how to set up most tip-ups.

If you need to set up your tip-up from start to finish, read this handy guide. The tip-ups I recommended to you should arrive ready to fish.

Time to Drop Your Line

You may drill as few or as many holes as you like. After you are done drilling, bait your lines with minnows. Alternately, you can use lures when ice fishing. This is up to you.

You must now drop your line into the hole you have drilled. You will feel the line dropping to the bottom of the lake. At this point, reel them up approximately 2 feet. This distance is a prime fishing spot.

Ready, Set, Fish!

You are now ready to start catching fish! You need to watch your line, bobber, or tip-up to see if a fish has taken your bait. If you see the line wiggling or jumping, or the tip of the pole dipping slightly, you’ve got one!

At this time, take the pole in your hands and jerk upward with some force to set the hook. You don’t have to yank very hard, just hard enough to feel secure.

Hopefully, you only need to reel your fish in now. Some fish are harder to catch than others, which is part of the fun of fishing. As you continue to fish, you will get better at landing the catch. This is mostly about intuition and practice.

5 Great Ice Fishing Tips For Beginners

Ice Fishing

Are you ready for some tips and tricks for ice fishing success? Let’s go!

1. Try A Depth Finder or Fish Finder

Ice fishermen are always on the hunt for the perfect fishing hole. To that end, a best fish finder or depth finder will help you. You can use a device like this before or after you drill your hole.

2. Look For Sticky Bottoms

The bottom of the lake is sometimes called the sticky bottom. This is because debris naturally settles there and fish like to hide in this debris. The lake also gets more shallow along the edges. The shoreline is also a great place to find a sticky bottom.

When you drop your line, if it sinks quickly and you can raise it with no trouble, you haven’t found your spot. You want to feel some resistance when you pull up sharply on the line. this is also known as jigging.

You can use sonar to find sticky bottoms, too. Set your device to auto gain. Soft bottoms display thin or weak sonar signals. Hard bottoms display brighter, more defined signals. Sticky bottoms will be somewhere in the middle.

This article has even more advanced tips for finding sticky bottoms.

3. Drill Your Ice Fishing Hole in a Depression in the Ice

A depression in the ice is just what it sounds like: a dip in the ice face on a lake. You can take advantage of the fish friendly conditions here, so drill your holes in depressions whenever you can. Ice depressions usually have a sticky bottom.

Because of this, they provide more food for fish. They also usually contain warmer water than the rest of the lake does. Furthermore, a small depression has favored light levels for fish.

4. Get Jiggy With It

I know that was a bad joke. Although, can you see how I couldn’t resist it? Anyway, as I’ve already told you, when you jerk slightly in small, rapid bursts, you are jigging.

Fish hit more on jigging bait and lures because the erratic motion simulates real bait activity. You can think about how a fish wiggles in a lively way. This is what you want your bait to look like to any fish nearby.

This is just an overview of jigging. If you want to learn all about the many advanced ice fishing jigging techniques, bookmark this article for later.

5. Be Patient

The best tool you can bring along with you when ice fishing is true patience. It can take time to find and land your first big catch. If you would like to bring something along to distract you, I suggest a good audiobook. At the very least, you should bring some music along that you enjoy.

Some people who ice fish like to bring a small grill on the ice with them. You can cook fresh fish or bring some of your favorite things to grill from home. You’ll appreciate the warm food and the distraction.

The Wrap Up

I think that was a pretty comprehensive guide. I even learned a few things myself while I wrote it for you. Thanks for letting me become an even better ice fisher-person!

Now you know you need to buy a few items before you can get started fishing. I’ve given you my recommendations to make life easier for you.

You also learned how to find a great ice fishing spot and how to set up your tip-ups. Finally, I tossed in a few specific techniques to get you your first catch.

Do you know a friend who wants to start ice fishing? Please share this guide with them. I really like to help people learn about outdoor activities. Because of this, I would feel great knowing you passed this on to your friend.

Leave me comments or questions in the section below and start a discussion with each other. Let’s make this a great spot for hot ice fishing tips!

Thanks so much for reading. I wish you good luck fishing!


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