Ice fishing: An In-depth Beginners Guide.

Ice fishing is an age-old tradition in the Arctic region.

For the indigenous communities of Alaska and northern Canada, fishing is not just a means of sustenance, but also a vital part of their cultural identity.

The harsh environment of the Arctic makes fishing a challenging but rewarding endeavour, requiring knowledge, skill, and patience.

In this blog post, we will dive deep into ice fishing, including the techniques used, the equipment required, and more important things to know as a beginner in ice fishing.

Whether you are a seasoned angler or simply curious, this post will give you more knowledge of Ice fishing.

Preparations, Clothing and Gear for Ice Fishing

Ice fishing is a challenging and exciting activity that requires specialized clothing to keep anglers warm and safe in the harsh Arctic environment.

The right clothing will make a difference between an enjoyable day on the ice and a miserable experience that can even be life-threatening.

The Arctic weather is very extreme, with temperatures that drop well below freezing, and winds that can gust up to 60 mph.

Anglers need to dress in layers, starting with a base layer made of moisture-wicking material that will keep sweat away from the skin.

A mid-layer of insulating material, such as wool or fleece, will provide additional warmth. Finally, a waterproof and windproof outer layer is essential to protect against the elements.

Essential clothing needed for Ice fishing includes;

  • Parka
  • Insulated snow pants
  • Hand and toe warmers
  • Boots
  • Hat and toe warmers
  • Boots
  • Hat or balaclava
  • Insulated gloves
  • Neck guitar
  • Socks
  • Thermal Underwear
  • Face Mask
  • Safety goggles
  • Ice cleats
Fishing Cananda

1.      Parka

 A high-quality parka is essential for ice fishing. It should be windproof, waterproof, and insulated against extreme Arctic weather.

A hood that fits snugly around the face helps to trap warm air, while elastic or drawstring closures at the waist and cuffs keep cold air out.

2.      Insulated Snow pants

 Insulated pants made from Gore-Tex or other similar materials provide both insulation and breathability.

They should fit loosely enough to allow for movement while trapping warm air.

Made to be waterproof and wind-resistant. Also, they should provide an additional layer of protection from the elements.

3.      Thermal underwear

 Thermal underwear gives an additional layer of insulation beneath your base layer. Made to trap body heat and keep you warm.

Thermal underwear is made of moisture-wicking material. That way sweat does not accumulate and cool down the body.

4.      Hand and toe warmers

 Hand and toe warmers are not technically clothing. But they are important accessories to ice fishing.

They are small packets of chemicals that generate heat when exposed to air.

Hand warmers are placed inside gloves, while toe warmers are inserted into boot. They both providing additional warmth for the extremities.

They are beneficial for anglers who may have poor circulation or are especially sensitive to cold temperatures.

5.      Insulated gloves

Insulated gloves are important to protect the hands from the cold.

They are made from waterproof material and have an insulating layer to keep hands warm.

6.      Socks

In addition to insulated boots, warm socks are also essential for ice fishing.

Socks should provide moisture-wicking properties to keep feet warm and dry.

Anglers should avoid wearing cotton socks, as they retain moisture and can lead to blisters and frostbite.

7.      Boots

Insulated boots are a must for ice fishing.

They should be waterproof and have a non-slip sole for traction on the ice.

The boots should be roomy enough to accommodate thick socks, but not so loose that they rub or cause blisters.

8.      Hat or balaclava

 The head and ears are especially vulnerable to the cold, so a warm hat or balaclava is essential. It is an insulating material that covers the ears completely.

9.      Neck gaiter

 A neck gaiter is a versatile piece of clothing worn around the neck or pulled up to cover the face and nose.

It provides additional insulation to keep the face and neck warm, and can also help to prevent frostbite.

10.  Face mask

A face mask is a crucial piece of clothing for ice fishing. It helps to protect the face from frostbite and exposure to the harsh Arctic wind.

Face masks are made of various materials comfortable for the nose and face skin. Materials fleece or neoprene. They cover the mouth, nose, and cheeks.

They are designed with ventilation to prevent eyeglasses or goggles from fogging.

11.  Safety goggles

Safety goggles are an important piece of protective equipment for ice fishing.

They protect the eyes from the bright, reflective surface of the ice, as well as from any flying debris or ice particles kicked up during drilling.

They also prevent snow blindness, a temporary condition caused by overexposure to UV radiation in sunlight.

Ice Fishing Equipment needed for Ice Fishing

The most important pieces of equipment for ice fishing include;

  • Ice Shelter, tent, hub or house.
  • Fishing Line
  • Lure
  • Bait
  • Auger
  • Ice Scoop
  • Ice shelter Heater
  • Ice Chisel
  • Fishing Rod and Reel
  • Tip-Ups
  • Fish Finder
  • Ice Cleats
  • Ice Skimmer
  • Headlamp
  • Ice Fishing Sled
  • Portable Power Source
  • Ice Fishing Chair

1.      Ice Shelter

eskimo ice shelter

An ice shelter, also known as an ice shanty, is a portable shelter that provides protection from the wind and cold temperatures.

Ice fishers use shelters made from canvas or other durable materials to keep themselves and their equipment warm and dry.

2.      Fishing Line

A fishing line is used to cast the bait and lure it into the water. Ice fishers often use braided or monofilament cable that is strong enough to withstand the cold temperatures and the weight of larger fish.

3.      Lure

A lure is an artificial bait mimics live bait’s appearance and movement. Ice fishers may use a variety of lures, such as spoons or jigs, to entice fish to bite.

4.      Bait

 Bait attracts fish to the fishing line. Icefish anglers often use live or artificial bait, such as worms, minnows, or jigs, to lure fish to their line.

5.      Auger

An auger is a hand-operated or gas-powered tool used to drill a hole in the ice. Ice fishermen typically use an auger to make a hole in the ice that is wide enough to allow their fishing line and lure to move freely.

6.      Ice Scoop

An ice scoop is used to remove ice shavings and slush from the hole. This allows the fisherman to maintain the opening of the hole throughout the fishing process.

7.      Heater

To keep the ice shelter warm, you need a heater. There are various types of heaters, including propane or electric heaters, that can be used to provide warmth and comfort during cold weather.

8.      Ice Chisel

 An ice chisel is a sharp, hand-held tool that is used to cut through thicker ice. This tool is used by this kind of angler to carve out a hole in the ice if they do not have an auger available.

9.      Fishing Rod and Reel

 A fishing rod and reel are the essential components of an ice fishing setup. Ice fishers use shorter, more durable rods and reels designed for just for ice fishing.

10.  Tip-Ups

 Tip-ups are a type of fishing device that alerts the fisher when a fish has taken the bait. When a fish takes the bait, the tip-up will tip up, indicating that it’s time to reel in the fish.

11.  Fish Finder

A fish finder is an electronic device that uses sonar technology to detect fish in the water. This is a very helpful tool for ice fishers as they use the fish finder to locate fish swimming beneath the ice.

12.  Ice Cleats

Ice cleats are attachments for shoes or boots that provide better traction on slippery ice. These are important accessories in ice fishing especially for beginners as it helps to prevent slips and falls on the ice.

They are made of metal or rubber and come in a variety of styles and sizes to fit different types of footwear.

Ice cleats are very important for anglers who need to move around on the ice frequently, such as when changing fishing holes or moving to and from shore. Top of Form

13.  Ice Skimmer

An ice skimmer is a small tool used to remove ice from the surface of the water inside the fishing hole. This helps to keep the hole clear of debris and slush, which can interfere with fishing.

14.  Headlamp

A headlamp is a small, portable light source that is worn on the head, leaving the hands free to handle the equipment. This tool is used to illuminate the fishing hole and bait during the early morning or late evening hours.

15.  Ice Fishing Sled

An ice fishing sledge is used to transport all the necessary equipment to and from the fishing site. It can also be used as a makeshift table to organize equipment while fishing.

16.  Portable Power Source

A portable power source, such as a battery or generator, may be necessary for powering electronic devices, such as a fish finder or heater.

A portable power source is very important as access to electricity may not be available on the ice, that way they effectively charge cell phones or other electronic devices.

17.  Ice Fishing Chair

An ice fishing chair provides a comfortable seating option during the long hours of ice fishing. It is designed to be compact and easy to carry on a sledge or in a vehicle.

Techniques for Ice Fishing

big fish

Traditional Ice Fishing Techniques

Ice Fishing with a Spear

One of the oldest ice fishing techniques is using a spear to catch fish. This method involves cutting a hole in the ice, and then patiently waiting for the fish to approach before striking with the spear. This technique requires a lot of skill and practice, as the fish can be easily spooked and the water can be murky.

Ice Fishing with a Hook and Line

Another traditional ice fishing technique is using a hook and line to catch fish. This method involves cutting a hole in the ice and dropping a baited line into the water. This technique requires patience and skill to detect when a fish takes the bait.

Ice Fishing with a Net

Using a net to catch fish is another traditional ice fishing technique. This method involves cutting a hole in the ice and suspending a large net under the ice. The net is then lifted periodically to check for fish. This technique requires a lot of preparation and skill to set up the net properly and avoid tangling the net with ice.

Ice Fishing with a Trap

Using a trap to catch fish is a technique that involves cutting a hole in the ice and placing a trap in the water. The trap is designed to lure fish in with bait and then capture them inside. This technique is particularly effective for catching larger fish.

Ice Fishing with a Seal Hole

Eskimo communities have also traditionally used seal holes to catch fish. This method involves finding a hole that has been made by a seal in the ice and then fishing through the hole. This technique is often used to catch larger fish such as halibut.

Modern Ice Fishing Techniques

Modern ice fishing techniques have evolved, incorporating advances in technology and new approaches to fishing. These techniques are designed to make fishing more efficient and to increase the chances of catching fish. In this article, we will explore some of the modern ice fishing techniques.

Using a Fish Finder

Fish finders are electronic devices that use sonar to detect fish in the water. They are an essential tool for modern ice fishing, as they allow anglers to locate fish more quickly and efficiently. Fish finders can also provide information about water depth, temperature, and underwater structures, which can be helpful in identifying the best fishing spots.

Using an Ice Shack

An ice shack, also known as an ice house or ice shelter, is a portable structure that can be set up on the ice. It provides shelter from the wind and cold and can make fishing more comfortable and enjoyable. Some ice shacks are equipped with heaters and other amenities, making them ideal for longer fishing trips.

Using an Underwater Camera

Underwater cameras are another modern ice fishing tool. They allow anglers to see underwater activity and observe fish behaviour in real time. This can be useful for identifying the best fishing spots and determining which bait and lures are most effective.

Using a Power Auger

A power auger is a tool that is used to drill holes in the ice. It is a faster and more efficient alternative to hand-powered augers, allowing anglers to drill multiple holes more quickly.

Some power augers are also equipped with special features such as blade guards, which can help prevent injuries.

Using Electronic Bait

Electronic bait is a relative innovation in ice fishing. These devices use LED lights and other features to mimic the movement of live bait, attracting fish to the hook. They can be particularly effective for catching larger fish, such as pike and walleye.

Baiting and Luring for Ice Fishing


is the process of using food as an attraction for the fish. The most commonly used baits for ice fishing are small fish such as herring, smelt, and whitefish.

These fish are often cut into small pieces or used whole and attached to a hook. In addition to fish, some fishermen also use shrimp, krill, or other small sea creatures as bait.

The bait is then dropped through the hole in the ice and left to attract fish.


on the other hand, is the process of using an artificial lure or decoy to attract fish. The most commonly used lures for ice fishing are jigs, which are small hooks with a piece of metal or plastic attached that imitates the movement of a fish. The jig is typically dropped through the hole in the ice and then jigged up and down to attract fish.


This is another popular lure used in ice fishing. It is a small, brightly coloured cone-shaped object that is suspended in the water by a line.

The tuugaaq is moved up and down to imitate the movement of a fish and attract fish to the hole in the ice.

Use of sound to attract fish.

Ice fishermen use sound to attract fish in addition to bait and lures.

This technique involves tapping the ice with a stick or chisel to create vibrations that attract fish to the fishing hole. Arctic char, lake trout, and whitefish are often attracted mostly.

The sound created is often amplified by a bone or ivory sounding board, and is used in moderation to ensure the sustainability of fish populations in the area.

It is a simple and sustainable technique that does not require any additional resources.

It should be used responsibly by ice fishermen to ensure the long-term health of fish populations in the Arctic region.

Fish Species commonly caught During Ice Fishing

eskimo ice fishing

The fish species that are caught during ice fishing depend on the region and the type of water body. The most common species of fish caught in Ice Fishing include;

  • Arctic Char
  • Dolly Varden Trout
  • Northern Pike
  • Walleye
  • Salmon
  • Whitefish
  • Lake trout

Arctic char

 These are cold-water fish that are native to the Arctic region and are a popular target for ice fishermen. They are known for their pink flesh and delicate flavour and can be caught using a variety of bait and lures.

Lake trout

are another popular species for ice fishing. It is a large fish that can reach over 30 pounds and is known for its firm white flesh and mild flavour. Lake trout is caught using bait, lures, or by jigging.


This is a type of freshwater fish commonly caught in the Arctic region. They are smaller fish that are known for their delicate flavour and are caught using bait, lures, or by jigging.

Other species that are caught in ice fishing include northern pike, burbot, and grayling.

The specific species of fish that are caught depend on the region and the time of year. Also, ice fishermen have a deep knowledge of the local fish populations and their habits.

Best Time for Ice Fishing

It is important to choose the best time to fish for a successful and enjoyable experience.

Several factors affect the best time for ice fishing, including the weather conditions, fish behaviour, and the fishing season.

Factors that affect the Best Time for Ice Fishing

The best time for ice fishing varies depending on the species of fish being targeted, as well as the region and the type of water body.

The time of day, weather conditions, and the phase of the moon can also affect fishing success.

Ice anglers often rely on their experience and local knowledge to determine the best time to fish.

Ideal weather conditions for Ice Fishing

The ideal weather conditions for ice fishing are typically cold and clear, with little to no wind. This is because the colder weather keeps the ice thick and stable, making it safe for ice fishing.

Clear weather is also important, as it allows more sunlight to penetrate the ice, which can attract fish to the area. Additionally, a lack of wind makes it easier to see the fish and to manoeuvre around the ice.

Fishing Season for Ice Fishing

The fishing season for ice fishing varies depending on the region and the type of water body.

Generally, the season starts in late fall or early winter and lasts until the ice starts to melt in the spring.

The best time to fish during the season depends on the specific species of fish being targeted, as well as the weather and ice conditions.

Common dangers associated with Ice Fishing

  • Thin ice: The most common danger associated with ice fishing is falling through thin ice.
  • Hypothermia: Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature drops due to prolonged exposure to cold temperatures.
  • Frostbite: Frostbite occurs when the skin and tissues freeze due to prolonged exposure to cold temperatures.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning: Carbon monoxide poisoning occur when gas-powered heaters are used in an enclosed space.
  • Snowmobile or ATV accidents: Many ice fishermen use snowmobiles or ATVs to travel on the ice, which is dangerous if proper safety precautions are not taken.
  • Equipment failure: Equipment failure is a major hazard when ice fishing. If the equipment is not well-maintained or if it is used improperly.

How to stay safe while Ice Fishing

To avoid equipment-related accidents, follow these safety tips:

  1. Check the ice conditions. Always check the ice conditions before going ice fishing. The ice should be at least four inches thick for safe ice fishing.
  2. Wear appropriate clothing. Dress in warm, waterproof layers and wear insulated boots to protect against hypothermia and frostbite.
  3. Bring safety equipment. Always bring safety equipment, such as ice picks, a rope, and a personal flotation device, to be prepared in case of an emergency.
  4. Ventilation. If using a gas-powered heater, make sure to use it in a well-ventilated area to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  5. Fish with a buddy. Always fish with a buddy and let someone else know your plans and expected return time.
  6. Stay alert. Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings. Look for signs of changing ice conditions or weather patterns that could affect your safety.
  7. Obey all traffic laws and travel at a safe speed when using a snowmobile.
  8. Never operate a snowmobile or ATV on thin or unstable ice.
  9. Regularly inspect your ice fishing gear and replace any damaged or worn-out components.
  10. Never use equipment in a way that it was not designed for.


In conclusion, ice fishing is an exciting and rewarding activity that has been a cherished tradition for generations. It is a great way to spend time with friends and family, enjoy the outdoors, and catch some delicious fish.

It is important to take safety precautions to ensure a safe experience, with the proper planning and equipment.

Ice fishing is an incredibly enjoyable activity that you’ll want to come back to time and time again.

So why not give ice fishing a try? Ice fishing is an activity that is sure to provide you with unforgettable memories and a newfound appreciation for the great outdoors.

Grab your fishing gear, bundle up, and hit the ice for an experience you’ll never forget!

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Edet Ubok-Obong
Edet Ubok-Obong

Edet Ubok-Obong is an experienced Writer with a deep passion for Gardening, Fishing and home improvement. He shares his knowledge of these fields through this website.