Ice Fishing Gear For Beginners (Everything You Need To Get Started)

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If you’re brand new to ice fishing then you’re gonna need a few key things to get started. Some are optional but I’d highly recommend others and in this post, I’m going to be showing you the ice fishing gear you’ll need to get started.

Here is the gear you’ll absolutely need:

  1. Fishing rod and reel.
  2. Fishing line.
  3. Fishing lures.
  4. The right clothing.
  5. An auger.

If you have those then you’ll have no trouble having an awesome time out on the ice. You’ll need to have the right stuff though so that’s what I’ll be showing you in this article. You might also want some sort of ice fishing hut, a portable heater, or a fish finder and I’ll be getting into all of that in a second. Let’s get started.

Fishing Rod & Feel

It’s pretty obvious that the first thing you’ll need is a fishing rod and reel. It’s gonna be pretty tough to catch something without it and the good news is that you can use any old rod for ice fishing. There are a few different options you can pick from but the majority of the time I just use my normal rod (casting or trolling rod).

Some people don’t want to be out on the ice all day and they’ll use what are called tip-ups. These are things you can set up and when something bits your hook then it’ll flip a flag up and let you know somethings on. You can sit at your camp or wherever, wait for the flag to flip up, and then go out to check. I don’t do this too much but it’s the lazy-mans option.

If you’re going to be sitting in an ice fishing hut you probably won’t be able to bring a full-sized fishing rod in there (especially if there’s more than one of you). This is where a mini rod will come into place. You can get a special rod that’s only 24-30 inches long and it’s great for fishing in huts or for smaller fish because they’re more sensitive. I don’t do this too much either but you can see the best mini ice fishing rod here.

The majority of the time I use a standard fishing rod because I’m not inside an ice fishing hut. This works completely fine for larger fish (which is what I’m after) but if you are catching some smaller fish then you’ll probably want one of the mini rods. If I’m going to sit outside all day then I better be rewarded with something big. So pretty much any ordinary rod will work because all you’ll be doing is dropping a line straight down. The more important thing is the line, lure, and clothing.

Ice Fishing Line

Having the right fishing line is super important and is all going to depend on what type of fish you’re after. You need something that’ll be strong enough to stand up to the ice and also bring in the fish and you’ll need something they can’t see.

When you’re fishing, your line is always rubbing against the ice so you’ll need something that won’t break easily. Fish can also see your line so you’ll want to make sure you’re not using a 20 lb line to catch a 2 lb fish because it’ll most likely scare them off.

I like using a braided line designed for ice fishing. It’s much stronger than normal fishing line and it’s also thinner. I can toss on a 20 lb braided line and it’ll be the same diameter as a 6 lb fluorocarbon line. The regular line will work fine as well but the big downside, in my opinion, is that you’ll have to change it for the type of fish you’re after.

If you’re going after 2 lb rainbow trout then you’ll have to use a 2-4 lb fishing line. If you want to go after a larger lake trout then you’ll have to put a heavier line on. That’s why I use a braided line. I can use it to catch the smaller fish as well as the bigger guys. I’m lazy and want to spend more time fishing rather than changing my gear. You can see the pound test line I recommend for each type of fish and my favorite braided line.

Ice Fishing Lures

Picking the right lure is kind of an important thing and a lot of it is going to depend on what type of fish you’re after. Just like any other time of year, if you use the wrong stuff then they probably won’t bite. I like to use two different things.

The first is using live bait. If you want the easy method then this will be for you. Put something on that’ll swim around and attract the bigger predators. This is a really good option if you’re going after a predator fish like a pike or walleye. Any type of minnow fish will do and you can even use worms. All you have to do is hook the fish through the lips (bottom lip first) or just below the dorsal fin.

My favorite thing to use is an artificial jig lure. I seem to be able to catch bigger fish using it but the big downside is that you’ll have to work while using it. You can’t just leave your line in the water like you can with a tip-up or live bait. You actually have to sit there and jig the lure up and down. I think it makes things more fun because you can actually feel when they hit.

The best thing I think you can do is get a variety of different lures and try them out. It’ll all depend on what type of fish you’re after, what the conditions are like, what sort of food they’re eating, and a bunch of different factors. One day you’ll have better luck with a red spoon and the next it’ll be something completely different. They’re pretty cheap so just get yourself a good variety and see what works.

The Right Clothing

If you’re gonna be out in the elements like I am then you’ll want to make sure you have the right clothing. You need to be warm enough to stay out there all day and you’ll also need to stay dry. If you’re in a hut with a fire or heater then it’s not as important but you’ll still need waterproof gear.

Pretty much any ordinary pants and jacket will do but I’d recommend you get a quality pair of boots and gloves that’ll keep you warm and dry. I’ve been out there with a pair of boots and gloves that ended up leaking or not being warm enough and it’s one of the worst things.

I’ve already listed my favorite waterproof ice fishing boots here and my favorite waterproof gloves here.

An Auger

The final thing you’ll need is a quality auger. An auger is what you use to drill a hole in the ice and you can get a manual, gas, propane, or cordless drill version. I prefer the cordless drill version because it’s so much easier to carry around and they always work (I’m sure you know what I mean if you’ve ever had a gas-powered auger).

Powered augers are much more expensive but they are 10x faster at drilling holes. Having to drill through 2 feet of ice manually is a complete nightmare. The reason I don’t like gas-powered augers as much is that they’re big and not the easiest to carry around. They take up a bunch of room in the truck and there’s always something that goes wrong with them.

My favorite version is a cordless drill auger. It can be attached to any 1/2 inch drill that gas a good amount of torque and is so much easier to deal with. It’s battery-powered so there’s no gas and oil and the thing just always works. You can see my favorite cordless drill auger here.

Additional Gear

The previous items we covered are ice fishing essentials which you’ll need to have if you want to catch fish. There are a few other things you can get to make your day more comfortable but they’re not needed and I don’t normally use them myself.

The first is an ice fishing hut. You’ve probably seen these all over the place and are nice because they keep you warm. You can get a full-on sturdy walled version (pretty expensive) or you can get a pop-up tent like version (around $100). You can check out our favorite gear here.

The next thing you may want is a portable heater. You can bring one of these out to your hut or just have them on the ice with you. Either or, it’s probably a good idea to have some sort of heater out there. Nothing worse than being cold (or wet).

The final thing you could get is a fish finder. This can be super helpful to locate the fish because they tend to group together in the winter. A good chunk of the water will have no fish so this can save you a lot of time. I don’t really use one myself but it’s something I might utilize for in the future.

That’s pretty much everything. We talked about the ice fishing essentials and a few other things you might want to get. Start with the basics and then go for the optional gear once you become more serious about ice fishing. Want to know the best time of day or go ice fishing? Check out our article here.

Until next time, happy fishing. If you want to catch more fish, use more hooks.

Let me know your thoughts and any questions you have. Like this article? Feel free to give it a share!

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Jon Webber

I'm by no means an outdoors or fishing expert, but it's something I've been interested in for over 20 years. This site is where I test out different gear and techniques to see what actually works.

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