December 11, 2017

Ice fishing Need-to-Haves and the Nice-to-Haves

Thousands of lakes in B.C. begin to freeze over in November. While some anglers pack away their boats and sit tight for the winter, others begin to prepare for the hard water season. Ice fishing can be an inexpensive and unique, family-friendly experience. If you have never been ice fishing before, or are new to the sport, here are some things you will need to get started for a great day on the ice.


1. An ice auger. This is what you’ll use to drill through the ice to the water below. While an electric auger is easier on your body, a hand auger will do the trick just as well. Ensure your auger can drill a hole at least 15 centimetres (six inches) in diameter.

2. Spinning rod. A short spinning rod with matching reel is all you need to have for fishing gear; however, having a dedicated ice fishing outfit will allow you to stand directly over your fishing hole.

3. Tackle. Fish tend to be fairly finicky under the ice. Having a variety of baits, lures, and jigs at your disposal will ensure that you can adjust to whatever the fish are biting on that day.

4. A ladle or scoop. Keep the hole ice- and slush-free throughout the day.

5. Warm clothing layers. The weather can change quickly, so be prepared for all conditions with warm clothing in layers under a hooded, windproof and waterproof jacket. Waterproof boots, warm socks, a scarf, a toque, and gloves are musts.


1. A shelter. This is nice to have because shelters keep you protected from the elements, and provide comfort for a longer time fishing. Because a shelter is dark inside, it can also allow you to see fish under the ice. Since fish take baits and lures very softly during winter, actually seeing a fish bite can be helpful when setting the hook.

2. Something to sit on. A lawn chair would be a little more comfortable than sitting on an upside-down bucket. However, buckets work, and can double as a way to carry your gear out on the lake.

3. A toboggan or sled makes sliding the auger and gear out to your fishing spots easier, especially if you bring a shelter and chairs too. One trip across the ice is always a good thing.

4. A portable fishfinder. You can still find fish by moving around the lake, and playing with the fishing line depths of your set-up. But having a portable fishfinder will help you pinpoint where the fish are more efficiently.

5. A vacuum bottle filled with a warm drink. If you’re bringing the kids, hot chocolate or warm apple cider could be considered a must-have. Otherwise, it’s nice to have coffee, tea, or hot soup to sip on when the fishing gets slow or the wind starts to blow.

Check the freshwater fishing regulations, have your licence on hand, and handle your catch with care. And most importantly, stay safe: always make sure someone knows where you’re going; fish with a buddy; and check for ice thickness before ever venturing out.

Author: Jessica Yarwood; Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC Staff
Photo Credit: Tanya Laird; Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC & iStock