Finally, some of my “hard water” fishing buddies and I were able to get out on a lake this past week and put some crappies and bluegills on ice.
There is no doubt that more and more people are getting into ice fishing, and its popularity has obviously grown over the years, as evidenced by the number of people I have seen perched in and around portable ice fishing shanties in places I once had almost to myself.
Nor is ice fishing just for men these days; my wife is an avid hardwater angler and will hold her own with anybody else out on the lake. I’m seeing more and more women starting to pursue the activity.
I suspect that one of the reasons for the increased popularity of ice fishing these days is the greatly improved clothing and equipment that is now available. The very convenient, portable, and comfortable shelters now available have certainly made sitting out on the ice all day a lot more durable. The small propane heaters can also keep the shelter plenty warm and even have to be shut down occasionally.
Of course, one of the most important aspects of ice fishing is staying warm and comfortable, and the clothing available these days for winter activities has certainly added to staying comfortable.
The old concept of dressing in layers, such as polypropylene long underwear first and maybe covered by a layer of wool, then a good weather-resistant and warm outer layer, is still a good way to go.
If you are going to get serious about ice fishing, however, I highly recommend that you go a step further with that outer layer and purchase the jacket and bib overalls that are not only very warm and weather-resistant but are also capable of keeping you afloat if you would happen to go through the ice. If you don’t have the floatable outer outfit, then I suggest wearing a life jacket, at least during the early season when ice thickness may be less.
Speaking of ice thickness, it is recommended that you stay off ice that is less than three inches thick. At least five to seven inches is much more comfortable, and I’ll take more if we can get it.
Something that concerns me about new ice fishermen and those who are just curious, are those who head out onto the ice because they see people out there is that it must be OK to go out anywhere — not so! Ice thicknesses vary on lakes for several reasons; do not assume that all the ice is safe — it isn’t.
If you are new to the activity, I suggest you go with somebody who has been around the ice fishing business for a while and has a good regard for safety. An added measure that most of us include is a pair of ice fishing spikes that hang around our necks in a closed position; if needed, you pull them apart, exposing the metal spikes that can be driven into the ice to help pull yourself out.
Speaking of spikes, I also recommend wearing a pair of spikes on your boots to keep from slipping on the ice. It’s also a good idea to check the ice thickness frequently with a spud bar or your auger.
Speaking of keeping warm and comfortable, we certainly don’t want to forget our extremities — feet, hands, and heads. Cold feet can ruin a day on the ice in a hurry. I have been wearing a pair of insulated Irish Setter boots for many years, both for hunting and for my ice fishing. I get the boot a larger size and add a pair of wool socks; I’ve never had cold feet even in single-digit weather. These boots are extremely durable, well-insulated, lightweight, and water-resistant. You also want a good warm pair of gloves, and maybe an extra pair, as well as a warm hat. I like the hat with the big fury ear flops that can be pulled down in really cold weather.
There you have it. Be safe and comfortable out on the ice, and I’ll see you there. Something tells me I’m still not going to see a lot of friends out on the ice.