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What you need to know about ice fishing

  • Feb 5, 2016

Ice fishing is a physically demanding and challenging winter sport that pits man against the elements. It can be an opportunity to relax and enjoy nature, but without the right equipment or adequate preparation, it can also be very dangerous.

New tools like power drills have made ice fishing easier than ever before, but safety is still a major concern. Some states designate specific lakes or ponds where the sport is allowed, because otherwise there's a risk of breaking ice or over-fishing. Check with local officials before planning a trip.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind:

Safety first
According to Fishing Tips Depot, there are a number of reasons why an ice fishing trip can quickly become a hazardous situation. Though some folks may push the envelope, the recommended ice depth for safe ice fishing is four feet. Even on larger lakes, offshore wind can break off pieces of ice.

Never go ice fishing if temperatures have been warm in the days leading up to a trip. Warm temperatures may cause the ice to rot, though it may still appear to be thick and solid. Be sure a friend or family member knows about the specific location of your fishing hole in case of an emergency. 

Exposure is another issue related to ice fishing. Wind and freezing temperatures can become dangerous very quickly because ice fishing requires long hours of sitting still. Without the right protection, hypothermia or frost bite can become very real considerations.

Bring the right gear
Before worrying about fishing equipment, making sure you have the right clothing and other gear is essential for a successful trip. Ice Fishing Source stated that clothes that keep you warm and dry are most important. Accesories like hats and gloves are also critical. Bring along your Pro Trek watch thermometer to monitor any dangerous temperature drops.

A portable heater is also key for ice fishing. Temperatures on the ice can be unbearably cold, and windy conditions will freeze you to your core, even with the right clothing. An electric heater is a way to reliably stave off the cold and stay out on the ice longer, according to the source. Electric power drills are also much better for ice fishing compared to manual models or simply trying to open up a hole with an ax. Otherwise, a good auger should do the trick.

As for fishing equipment, it may be more difficult to detect fish because they're often less vigorous in the winter. As a result, a sensitive rod is needed for ice fishing. Likewise, you'll need a rod that's shorter, lighter and stronger. Ice fishing also requires a special line.

Fishing Tips Depot reported that above all else, patience is key to success for ice fishing. Because the fish are more lethargic in the winter months, jigging your line too quickly may discourage them from holding on tightly. Fish may also be less inclined to chase enticing bait or lures, so slow, methodical movements are your best bet.

Drilling too big of a hole may not only compromise the ice, but may scare fish by letting too much light into the murky bottom. Having said that, some fish - like the crappie for example - may actually be attracted to the light. Use whichever technique you feel is best for your environment and goals.

According to Ice Fishing Source, a dropping barometer signals the arrival of a storm, and may encourage fish to feed more actively. Use your Pro Trek watch barometer to check in on weather conditions. Otherwise, different species of fish may be more or less active depending on the time of day and other environmental factors. When picking up your fishing license, ask the attendant for any important information regarding best practices.

Making sure you have the right gear on any fishing trip is key. Along with a tackle box, the ProTrek PRG-270-7 is perfect for any fishing trip with built-in features that include digital compass, altimeter, and barometer, all built-in to a water resistant watch.