Along with your tackle, a good snowsuit, warm pac boots and a snow machine, your ice-fishing kit just wouldn’t be complete—or ready for anything winter can throw at you—without the following hardwater gear.
A sonar unit, such as the Humminbird ICE 55 flasher or the Lowrance IceMachine, is essential for spotting fish and critical for monitoring how they react to your lure. Don’t go ice fishing without one.
2. Ice Skimmer
A skimmer is essential for keeping your holes open and your fishing line free to move.
Nothing makes you feel colder than wet hands, but sometimes you’re forced to dip your fingers into a bait bucket or a hole. As soon as you’ve completed the chore, dry your hands thoroughly with a thick, dry beach towel.
4. Heat Packs
I buy these things by the dozen and stuff them inside my gloves, pockets and boots to ensure I’m comfortable at all times.
5. Polarized Sunglasses
A good pair of polarized UV-protected sunglasses is absolutely essential in the wintertime to avoid snow blindness.
Ultrabite, Dr. Juice, Berkley Power Scent and YUM LPT all work to help attract lethargic winter fish to your lures. Scent also tricks fish into holding on just that much longer while you set the hooks.
7. Fishing Gloves
I’ve seen several anglers hook themselves when one of the trebles on a quick-strike rig swings freely as they’re landing a fish. That’s why I always wear a pair of fishing gloves.
8. Long-Reach Hook Remover
This device is especially handy for retrieving small trebles on quick-strike rigs when they’re inside the mouth of a giant pike, lake trout or walleye.
9. Double-Sided Hook Sharpener
Your lures take a beating in the wintertime from banging around in sleighs and snow machines, as well as from scraping against the ice and the bony mouths of predators. Razor-sharp hooks catch more fish, so keep them honed.
For quickly constructing new wire leaders and quick-strike rigs, as well as removing small hooks from fish, you can’t beat a pair of forceps.
11. Seven-inch Side Cutters
Trophy lake trout, pike and walleye are far too valuable to kill because of deeply imbedded hooks. Simply snip them off using a good pair of side cutters.
12. Handheld GPS Unit
I carry a GPS at all times, both for navigating my way across the ice and setting up over my high-percentage waypoints.
13. Spring Bobber
A spring bobber, such as the Stringease Spring Bobber or HT Enterprises’ Little Jigger (pictured), is essential for pursuing panfish. Attach one to the end of your rod tip and you’ll be able to detect far more hits.
14. Replacement Trebles
Use high-quality, bleeding red Gamakatsu trebles in various sizes to replace the dull trebles found on most lures (or to replace hooks you cut from a deeply imbedded lure).
15. Super-Line Scissors
Rapala scissors are indispensable for cutting off tag ends if you spool your tip-ups with thick braided line.
16. Waterproof Matches/Flares
You need to be prepared for emergencies. Waterproof matches let you start a fire to cook, dry out or stay warm. I also carry self-starting railway-type flares when I venture into the backcountry. You can light a fire with one even when the wood is soaking wet.
17. Hole Covers
Essential on windy days, hole covers keep snow out of your hole and stop light from streaming through and spooking the fish. They also reduce the need to constantly skim newly formed ice from your hole.