Ice fishing beginners

Ice Fishing Beginners, Tips and Tricks to Start Out

-By David Thomas

As summer has rolled into fall, I have had more people than usual asking me about how to get started ice fishing and more specifically what gear they’re going to need. I have put together a list of some of the most important gear considerations for ice fishing beginners.

ice fishing beginners

First Things First

The first thing I tell anyone who is coming ice fishing with me for the first time is to dress warm. This sounds obvious, but it is something even I seem to forget at least once per ice season. While ice fishing, your enjoyment of the day is going to depend directly on your clothing.

Most ice fishing beginners won’t have a shanty to fish in, which means spending a lot of their day sitting out in the wind. Even the number of fish you are catching doesn’t have the same influence on your day as being dressed appropriately. When fishing is slow, being cold isn’t going to make it any easier to stick it out until a school comes through.

Warm clothing is essential even inside a shelter

If you end up having one of those days where there always seems to be a feeding frenzy going on below you, then you don’t want to risk having to walk away from a hot bite because you’re cold. Speaking of bites, what are fish going to be biting on when water temperatures are the lowest of the year?

Before You Shop

Don’t worry about buying ice specific tackle right away. There are more ice specific brands and baits available than ever before, and they certainly have their place. Ice fishing beginners who already have a tackle box full of open water gear will likely have what they need to start catching fish on the hard water.

Ice fishing depends on a vertical presentation, so that does limit what baits will be effective. The basics like weighted jigs with natural or artificial baits, flutter spoons, and lipless cranks are all go-to baits for any ice angler. As your experience on the ice grows and you start targeting a specific bite, then those specialty lures will start finding their way into your arsenal. If you are looking to get your hands on a few quality ice fishing baits, then the RLM Elite Ice Fishing specific box from Simple Fishing is a good way to start your collection. While basic summer tackle will get you icing your first fish, an ice specific rod is something a first-time angler will need.

ice fishing beginners

Thoughts on Ice Rods

Cheap combos are fine, but the cheapest combos aren’t. It seems that every fall the variety of ice rods, reels, and combos is bigger than the previous year. If it’s your first time heading to the ice, I don’t believe that spending $100 on your first combo is the right move. There are a number of $30-$40 rod and reel combos on the market this year that will be sufficient for ice fishing beginners to pull in their first hard water PB.

The one caveat to this is to make sure whatever reel you will be using has instant anti-reverse. As I mentioned earlier, ice fishing is all about vertical presentations. The clacking of a ratcheted anti-reverse in a reel when vertical jigging all day long is enough to make even the most stable person lose their cool. When you’re first testing the waters of ice fishing, you’ll be better off spending the money you’ll be saving on an entry level rod on a nice pair (or two) of gloves.

A Note on Clothing

A spare pair of gloves and a towel are almost as necessary as ice is for ice fishing. Yes, this is the second tip related to clothing, and there is a good reason for that. Like I said, the appropriateness of your clothing directly relates to your happiness on the ice.

Getting fish slime, minnow juice, or worm guts on your hands is pretty much inevitable when fishing. Having a towel to wipe or dry your hands before putting your gloves back on will keep your gloves clean, dry, and warm for longer. If you do forget to pull your gloves off before reaching down your ice hole to grab the fish you’ve just reeled in, then having a spare pair of gloves will keep you fishing comfortably longer.

More time comfortable means more time catching fish

Lastly, Safety First

There are a few essential safety items that should not be overlooked, no matter how many times a person has been ice fishing. Ice spikes, a spud bar, and a throw rope should be the first things you pack anytime you head out on the ice. There are a number of great articles and YouTube videos out on this topic already, so spend some time on your favorite search engine and do some reading on the topic of ice safety, your family and friends will be glad you did.

Ice Fishing Beginners, Get Out There!

Ice fishing beginner or veteran alike, it’s always a good time to get out on the hard water and drop a line in. Stay safe, stay legal, and keep those monsters coming!


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