Ice Fishing Requires Preparation
Inside the Outdoors, January
21, 2011

Count on it. With the freezing temperatures, not only will you see more anglers out on the ice on various lakes throughout the area, but six water basins will be stocked come February, and that is a positive note for those who may have been away from the sport.

I’ve been asked if I’m going to head out on the ice again this year, but from all inclinations, it seems it’s a no-goer. But to those who may be attempting the sport for the first time, I have a number of suggestions to make that just may make your outing something worth sharing if you want to successfully make a go of it.

First of all, make sure the ice is thick enough to walk and stand on. If in doubt, don’t stray out on surfaces that may crack and break, submerging you in the water.

Second, dress for the occasion. Dress in layers, making sure your head, hands and feet are warm. No use going home with frostbitten digits and your whole body shivering from head to foot.

Now, there are different tools one can use to drill through the ice. Some are reasonably priced augers and others will be a little pricier. The latter will provide a greater ease and faster access to the waters below the thick ice. Second, a chipper skimmer is of utmost necessity. Once the hole is drilled, keep it free of ice sliding into it is very important.

Tip-ups are tools many ice anglers like to use. Made to rest on the surface, it has a flag attached to it in addition to the line. When the fish strikes the bait, the flag is triggered and stands upright signaling there is activity below.

I have always been a staunch believer of the spring bobber. A matter of fact, for me it was a year ‘round tool. Attached to my rod tip, it alerted me as to any nibbles my bait may be getting at the slightest nudge. Many times, particularly in winter, fish won’t swim over and gobble up the bait. It will move, smell or bump it. Then if it decides to make a meal out of it, the thing metal attachment will be pulled down via the tension on the line signifying there is a fish ready to be hauled up.

Any number of companies makes ice fishing rods and reels. There is an advantage to using this type over the regular season ones. These are 24 to 28 long whereby the standard rods are five foot plus in length. I strongly recommend the shorter ones.

Rod holders that sit right on the ice are easy to use, convenient and inexpensive. With that combination you can’t go wrong. There are also rod holders on the market that can be attached to five gallon buckets that allows anglers the ease of fishing anywhere.

Small foam brightly-colored bobbers are great for ice fishing. Use the ones that slip on and off with ease. If you care to use the Bobber with the Brain, it also is excellent for ice fishing. It is a local invention by Latrobe’s Frank Moff.

Any number of companies has perfected lines made exclusively for this favorite outdoor sport. Ask the retailer which he considers the best choice to this matter.

You may want to load everything including the auger, tools and buckets needed onto a sled of some sort to transport to your destination. Makes it easier, believe me.

With all the above stated, I could never end this column without mentioning the ice fishing shelter or chanty. I learned quickly that if I am to do any fishing, I have to have one of these, or you aren’t going to find me somewhere out on the ice.

Here we have an enclosure suitable for one or more fishermen. After the holes are drilled, the shelter is positioned right over the openings. When locked up inside with the door zipped closed, a lantern is lit which provides the heat and sometimes, if there aren't windows, illumination. Within a short amount of time, coats, hats, gloves and clothing used to keep warm can be removed. There is no threat of being blasted by the strong, mid-winter winds, no chill shaking your timbers, or the possibility of the elements making your outing miserable. You control your environment.

By the way, I got the word from Keystone State Park that anglers are not only fishing now on the lake, but ice skating as well. Winter fun is to be had nearby!

- Paul J. Volkmann
You can contact me by email