While ice fishing is a winter activity in many parts of the United States it can be a very daunting task for someone not familiar with it to become adept at this type of angling. By remembering a few basic safety tips, what type of equipment is imperative for a novice, and how to use this gear those venturing out on the ice for their first season may find enough success to keep them coming back.
It is never advisable to ice fish alone for the simple fact that if a lone individual happens to fall through the ice then there is the potential for tragedy. There should be no less than 4 inches of ice before anyone attempts to get onto a body of water and this ice should be checked by drilling holes with an auger or chipping one with a sharp spud close to shore. It is a good idea to stay clear of any thing in the water which has the capability of absorbing heat such as boat docks, boulders, trees and such. This can weaken the surrounding ice. Wearing a life jacket is a prudent choice in case the ice does break and it is smart to carry some rope that has a loop already tied into it in case of emergency. Ice picks, which are attached to a cord that can be looped inside the sleeves of a jacket so that they are easily available in case a person falls through, are a good investment. Ice cleats that can be stretched and fitted over boots will provide traction and prevent bad falls.
A manual ice auger is lighter, more affordable, and can drill holes in the ice just as well as a heavier, more expensive power auger. Checking a state's regulations to see how many tip-ups can be deployed at one time by each fisherman can help a fisherman avoid a steep fine. For example, in New Jersey a total of five devices can be in use at any one time. Tip-ups should always be clearly labeled with the fisherman's name and address. The novice should purchase a strong and deep rubber sled to transport all her equipment back and forth over the ice with and buy the kind of bait bucket that can also double as a seat. Different kinds of tip-ups, such as the standard wooden ones and the more modern polar thermal disc types that fit over the hole and keep it from freezing, should be bought. Boots that are insulated with some sort of liner are absolutely necessary to keep the feet warm.
By becoming familiar with how a tip-up works long before the angler hits the ice lots of wasted time and frustration can be avoided. Holes should be drilled far enough apart to keep lines from becoming tangled if a fish grabs a bait and takes off. Shiners are an excellent choice for first-timers and can be obtained at bait shops along with advice on where to go for hot action. It is smart to realize that a successful fisherman is a great customer for these establishments. Hooking a shiner behind its back fin will allow it to swim in a normal manner for a long time. Once the holes are drilled, the best position for the bait bucket is in the middle of the area where the tip-ups are set. When a flag goes up it is important to keep emotions under control and walk, not run, to the tip-up to avoid a spill. After arriving at the tip-up, the individual should look to see if the line is running off the reel or if it is off in a direction away from the hole under the ice. By grabbing it and feeling for the fish and then pulling it hard, the hook can be set and the fish brought in by hand.