How to make an on-ice livewell for perfect live releases


A livewell gives you time to safely take a photo of your catch


There are several advantages to this livewell technique. For starters, your catch will have a chance to recover horizontally in the water before you release it. More importantly, the amount of time the fish is exposed to the freezing air will be significantly reduced. And if you didn’t have luck removing your hook at the hole, the fish can remain in the well while you take the extra time to carefully remove it. All the while, the fish will be able to breathe, stay wet and remain protected from freezing. Plus, you even get a chance to warm up your hands.

Keeping the fish in the well a short period also gives you the time to easily measure your catch while it remains in the water, avoiding the potential of it freezing or getting injured on the hard ice surface. That way, you can determine whether you broke your previous personal-best record, or if the fish falls within the legal length for harvest. Once you’ve unhooked and measured the fish, and it is in good condition for a successful live-release, once again gently lift it from the water while your partner quickly snaps a photo (if you so choose) before you release it.


Some handling of fish is inevitable when hardwater angling—landing nets just aren’t practical—but this technique has awesome potential for most on-ice circumstances. Try it the next time you go ice fishing, and it will surely become a part of your ice-fishing routine. You might even wonder how you, and the fish, ever lived without it.