No need to stay inside during the long winter months waiting for the sun to come out and dreaming about open water and summer fun. Be adventurous, bundle up, get outside and try fishing in a whole new way–through the ice! Ice fishing action can be fast and furious when winter seals the lakes under ice. Best of all, there are no mosquitoes or flies to “bug” you.
Imagine this. You bundle up and walk out onto a frozen lake on a clear and crisp winter day with your sled full of fishing gear and the fishing license in your pocket. Once you find the perfect fishing spot, you drill a large hole completely through the ice until you can see open water. Then, you get out the ice chisel to widen your hole. Now, you unpack your sled and find your special lures, jigging rods or tip-ups to catch the fish. You will probably want to get out your portable seat to sit on so that you can look down the hole to see what’s happening. Then, you grab the skimmer to keep the hole clear of the ice and slush that forms during the day. Once your line is set, you’ll need to keep a close eye on it or watch for the flag on the tip-up to see if you’ve caught a fish. When your hands get cold, you grab for the thermos of hot chocolate you brought along, mmmm, just what you need to warm up. You end up eating fish for lunch out on the ice, cooked on the small stove you brought along. What a great day of fishing!
Believe it or not, winter fishing makes up nearly 1/4 the annual catch in Wisconsin. People enjoy it for the solitude of being out on a frozen lake and the challenge of the sport. Others like the friendship and good times found in an ice shanty town atmosphere with friends and family. Why not try ice fishing and open your senses to an exciting winter event. See what you need to get started and watch some young ice fisherman in action in this ice fishing video.
The object of choosing clothes for ice fishing is to dress to stay warm in any type of weather. The old saying goes “You can always peel off layers if you’re too hot, but you can’t add them if you don’t have them.” This means dress in layers, and lots of them! This is the same type of clothing you’d wear to a late season Packer game at Lambeau Field.
Here are some of the basics for any winter sport. Start with the layer closest to the skin. This is where you want to be sure to stay dry. Believe it or not, just a slight bit of perspiration (sweat) can make you cold down to the bone and could lead to frostbite or hypothermia. Wear an under-layer of moisture-wicking material such as polypropylene, including a shirt, pants, socks, and mitten liners. This is better than cotton if you have a choice, but cotton can also be worn. Be aware that cotton may get wet and stay wet, so try to stay as dry as possible and wear layers. A good tip for staying dry is also to wear your boots or overshoes loosely tied until arriving at your site. If you get hot along the way, be sure to unzip your jacket to let out some of the heat or even take off a layer. You could also carry a few extra pairs of dry felt boot liners, moisture wicking socks, and mitten liners. Moisture or sweat can make you very cold when the wind begins to blow.
The next layer is the warmth layer and wool is a great fabric for this. It keeps you warm when dry and damp! Fleece is also a popular warmth layer as well as down jackets. Wool is great for hats and mittens as long as they have a protective windbreaker fabric on the inside or outside. A face mask or neck warmer may be the ticket in windy weather. Also, be sure your hat has generous ear flaps to cover your entire ears if the wind gets a howlin’. A one-piece insulated coverall is ideal for this sport, especially if it has a hood that can be left open or pulled tight around the face and neck.
The final layer is the windbreaker. Leather can protect against the wind, but it can stiffen and crack in extreme cold temperatures. Down jackets are nice since they often provide a windbreaking shell on the outside. If you choose to wear wool or fleece as a warmth layer, be sure and top it off with a rip-stop nylon windbreaker shell. The wind can cut through even the warmest wool sweater or jacket when you’re out on the lake. Goggles tucked in a pocket can also help protect you against the blustery wind.
Your feet take the most beating since they are on the ice and snow for hours at a time. Pack boots usually do the trick and offer several layers of insulation as well as a protective rubber layer to keep you dry. Avoid soft-sided hiking boots or street shoes that can get wet and let the wind through. Waterproof and well insulated winter boots are the best footwear for ice fishing.