How To Ice Fish


Ice fishing is a popular winter activity that involves catching fish through holes drilled into frozen bodies of water. This traditional pastime has a rich history and offers a unique angling experience. In this article, we will explore the essentials of ice fishing, from the required equipment to safety precautions, techniques, and tips for a successful ice fishing expedition.

Ice Fishing Basics

Ice fishing is a thrilling winter activity that involves angling for fish through holes drilled into frozen bodies of water. It offers a unique and rewarding experience for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced angler, mastering the basics of ice fishing is essential for a successful outing.

Ice Thickness Chart

Before heading out onto the ice, it’s crucial to ensure the safety of yourself and others. Ice thickness can vary, and it’s important to know the minimum thickness required to support your weight. Here is a general ice thickness chart for guidance:

Ice ThicknessPermissible Activities
2 inchesStay off
4 inchesWalking and ice fishing
5 inchesSnowmobile or ATV
8-12 inchesCar or small truck
12-15 inchesMedium truck

Remember, these are general guidelines, and local conditions can influence ice stability. Always exercise caution and check ice thickness using an ice auger or consult local authorities for updated information.

Where to Ice Fish

Choosing the right location is crucial for a successful ice fishing expedition. Research local lakes, ponds, or reservoirs known for their fish populations. Seek out areas that offer suitable habitats for the fish species you are targeting. Look for structures such as drop-offs, weed beds, or submerged rocks, as they attract fish. Local bait and tackle shops, online fishing forums, and fishing apps can provide valuable insights into productive ice fishing spots in your area.

How to Make an Ice Fishing Hole

Fishing under ice

Once you have identified a suitable location, the next step is to create fishing holes in the ice. Follow these steps to make an ice fishing hole:

Gather the necessary tools

An ice auger, either manual or powered, is essential for drilling holes. Ensure it is in good working condition.

Determine the location

Use a GPS device or reference points on the ice to mark the desired spot for drilling. Remember to maintain a safe distance from other anglers.

Clear the area

Remove snow or slush from the surface of the ice using a shovel or an ice scoop. This ensures a clean drilling surface and prevents slush from freezing over the hole.

Drill the hole

Position the ice auger perpendicular to the ice surface, and apply steady downward pressure while rotating the auger. Continue drilling until you reach the desired depth, typically between 8 and 12 inches.

Clear the hole

Remove any remaining ice shavings or slush from the hole using an ice skimmer or ladle. This helps prevent line tangling and interference while fishing.

Repeat the process: If you plan to fish multiple holes, repeat the above steps for each location, spacing them out to cover a larger area.

Ice Fishing Techniques


Tip-ups are popular ice fishing tools that allow you to fish multiple holes simultaneously. They are simple devices designed to detect fish bites and alert you when it’s time to reel in your catch. Here’s how tip-ups work:


Start by assembling your tip-up. Most tip-ups consist of a spool, a flag, and a supporting frame. Attach the fishing line to the spool and position it on the ice, ensuring the flag is raised and visible.


Choose an appropriate bait for the fish you’re targeting. Popular options include minnows, waxworms, or artificial fishing lures for panfish. Hook the bait and place it at the desired depth.


Carefully position the tip-up over the fishing hole. Ensure that the line is suspended in the water at the desired depth. Adjust the depth by adding or removing line from the spool.

Flag Indicator

When a fish takes the bait and starts swimming away, the tension on the line triggers the flag to spring up, indicating a bite. The raised flag alerts you to the potential catch, allowing you to approach the tip-up and prepare to reel in the fish.

Reeling in

Once the flag is up, carefully approach the tip-up. Remove any snow or ice from the hole and get ready to reel in the fish. Slowly and steadily turn the spool handle to retrieve the line and bring the fish closer to the hole.

Landing the fish

As the fish nears the hole, be patient and avoid sudden movements that could scare it away. Use a landing net or your hands to carefully lift the fish out of the water and onto the ice.

Tip-ups offer a passive fishing experience, allowing you to monitor multiple lines simultaneously. They are especially useful when targeting larger species such as pike, walleye, or lake trout.

Ice Fishing Jig

The ice fishing jig is a versatile and popular lure used to attract fish beneath the ice. It consists of a weighted head and a hook, often adorned with feathers, hair, or plastic appendages to mimic the movement of prey. Here’s how to effectively use an ice fishing jig:


Choose a jig that matches the size and color preferences of the fish you’re targeting. Experiment with different jig weights, colors, and shapes to determine what attracts fish in your fishing location.


Drop the jig into the fishing hole and let it sink to the desired depth. Once it reaches the target depth, use a combination of subtle movements and slight jerks to create an enticing jigging action. The goal is to imitate the movement of injured baitfish or other prey.

Varying Techniques

Experiment with different jigging techniques to trigger fish bites. Try vertical jigging by rapidly lifting and dropping the jig to create a darting motion. Alternatively, employ a more subtle approach with slow and gentle movements. Pay attention to how fish respond and adjust your technique accordingly.

Depth Adjustment

If you’re not getting any bites, try varying the depth at which you’re jigging. Fish often occupy different depths depending on factors such as water temperature and available food sources. Gradually raise or lower the jig until you find the depth at which the fish are active.

Be Observant

Keep a close eye on your line for any signs of movement or resistance. Subtle twitches or line tension can indicate a fish showing interest in your jig. Stay focused and be prepared to set the hook quickly.

The ice fishing jig is a versatile and effective tool for enticing a wide range of fish species, including panfish, trout, perch, and bass.

How a Tip-Up Works

A tip-up is a handy device used in ice fishing to detect fish bites and alert anglers to potential catches. It consists of a spool, a flag, and a supporting frame. Here’s how a tip-up works:


Begin by assembling the tip-up. Attach the fishing line to the spool, ensuring it is securely tied or attached. Position the spool on the frame so that it can rotate freely. The flag should be in a raised position and visible.


Choose the appropriate bait for the fish you’re targeting. Common options include minnows, worms, or artificial lures. Hook the bait onto your fishing line and adjust the depth according to the target fish’s preferences.


Find a suitable location on the ice and carefully position the tip-up over the fishing hole. Ensure that the line is suspended in the water at the desired depth. You may need to adjust the length of the line to accommodate different fish species or water conditions.

Alert System

When a fish takes the bait and starts swimming away, it creates tension on the fishing line. This tension triggers the flag to spring up, indicating a bite. The flag serves as an alert system, notifying you that there’s potential fish activity.

Responding to the Flag

Once the flag is raised, it’s time to approach the tip-up. Clear any snow or ice from the hole to ensure a smooth fishing experience. Keep in mind that fish may feel the vibration caused by your movements, so be cautious and avoid excessive noise.

Reeling in the Fish

Slowly and steadily turn the spool handle to retrieve the line. As you reel in, maintain tension on the line and be prepared for any resistance caused by the fish. Use a smooth and controlled motion to avoid snapping the line or losing the catch.

Landing the Fish

As the fish nears the hole, guide it gently toward the opening. Depending on the size of the fish and the fishing regulations in your area, you may use a net or your hands to carefully lift the fish out of the water. Exercise caution and handle the fish properly to ensure its well-being.

Tip-ups are great tools for ice fishing, allowing you to monitor multiple lines simultaneously while providing an effective way to detect fish bites. They enhance your chances of success and add excitement to your ice fishing experience.

Ice Fishing Bait

Choosing the right bait is crucial for enticing fish to bite during your ice fishing adventures. The type of bait you use can vary depending on the fish species you’re targeting. Here are some common types of ice fishing bait:

Live Bait

Live bait is a popular choice for ice fishing. It includes minnows, shiners, or other small fish species that are native to the waters you’re fishing in. Live bait mimics the natural movement and scent of prey, attracting predatory fish.

Waxworms and Mealworms

Waxworms and mealworms are popular live bait options for ice fishing, especially when targeting panfish such as bluegill, perch, or crappie. These small larvae are easily handled, long-lasting, and can be hooked to imitate small insects.

Power Bait and Gulp

Power Bait and Gulp! Alive are synthetic baits that come in various shapes and colors, resembling worms, maggots, or other small creatures. These baits are scented to attract fish and can be used in combination with other bait or on their own.

Jigs and Lures: Jigs and lures are artificial baits designed to imitate small fish, insects, or other prey.


Ice fishing is an exciting and rewarding winter activity that requires knowledge, skill, and the right equipment. By understanding the basics of ice fishing, including ice thickness, fishing locations, hole preparation, and techniques like tip-ups and ice fishing jigs, you can increase your chances of success on the ice.

Remember to prioritize safety by checking ice thickness and following local guidelines. Choose appropriate bait for the fish species you’re targeting, whether it’s live bait like minnows or synthetic options like power bait. Stay observant, be patient, and adjust your techniques as needed.

Leave a Comment