If you’re a beginner to ice fishing, you might have questions about the gear you need. There are all types of gear available in the catalogs and sporting goods stores. The variety can be overwhelming. There are some basics you need and you can go budget or high end. You may want to start out on the lower cost and move up, or stick with the simple things.
A toboggan is a handy way to haul all your gear from your vehicle to the place you want to fish on the ice.
You’ll need a way to create a hole in the ice. This is done with an ice auger. There are 2 types, manual or power. A skimmer will be helpful to keep your hole in the ice free of ice chips. It looks like a cooking ladle with holes in it. You’ll need something to hold your bait. Some people catch minnows in minnow traps and freeze them in plastic bags, and then let them thaw out on their way to the lake. Whatever will hold the bait and not let it get away will work. Some fishermen also like to include a gaff hook and a dip net. A bucket to sit on or folding chair is nice to have. You’ll also need a hook disgorger for removing the hook from the fish you catch.
Depending on the size of the lake, some fishermen prefer to walk out onto the ice. Some prefer to use a snow machine, particularly if the lake is large. A basic snow machine will work, just tow your toboggan along behind. A simple toboggan can be purchased for under $50. A large backpack can work to hold gear as well. A manual ice auger, one that you power yourself, can be had for under $100. Ice shanties can be in the budget range. Cabela’s sells them in value packs for around $300. That includes the sled, the shanty, auger, and chair.
Fish finders can be helpful in finding where the fish are, but unless you can find a used one, they’re generally not in the budget category. You’ll have to auger more holes and try more places, unless you’re familiar with the lake you are fishing. You can use more than one rod, so you may want to use tip-ups, which are basically a device with a flag on it that lets you know when one of your rods has caught a fish. There are low end versions of these that can run about $10. There are also special ice fishing rods, reels, and fishing line, most of which can be had for under $50.
There are a bunch of accessories that are sold for ice fishing that can up the cost, and often can be replaced with something cheaper. These vary from special chairs to bait holders, to chains for your boots, to rod holders, to shanty lights, to whatever else someone thinks up. There are a number of sites online with instructions on how to build or make many of the items in the high end category for very little cost.
There are all sorts of trailing sleds you can buy or even make yourself to be pulled by your snow machine. Some people prefer high-powered machines and the sleds can be handy, as they often have clearance between the ice and the sled itself. If you want an ice fishing shanty, those can often be pulled behind a snow machine on their own runners, and your gear can be added to the top of the pile. Ice shanties start at $150 and go over $1,000. Accessories for the ice shanties include heaters, shelves, lights, and chairs which can add another $400 to $600. A power auger costs between $300 to $500 or more. There are electric augers that run off 12-volt wet cell batteries as well.
It can be hard to figure out where the fish are since you can’t see through the ice. Fish finders are helpful in locating the fish and run around $400. For those who really want to see what is going on under the ice, underwater cameras are the perfect thing. They cost between $300 and $500. Tip-ups also come in high end versions that cost around $25. High end rods, reels and fishing line can be over $50 or even $100. The accessories are additional items that can make a day on the ice more comfortable. A special heated ice fishing chair for $70, ice chaps for $15, rod holders start at $20, rod cases and auger haulers start at $50.
Whichever way you choose to go, budget or high end, the gear you need for ice fishing is available. You can buy, build, or make it. The point of ice fishing isn’t so much the cost of the gear, but in being outdoors with your friends and fishing.