For casual anglers, there's no need to buy a lot of expensive ice-fishing gear
I had an amazing time last weekend presenting ice fishing seminars with my grandson, Liam Whetter, at the Ultimate Ice Fishing Show in Toronto. What always impresses me about events like this is the wide array of folks I meet, from avid ice anglers who count the days, and can’t wait until they get back out on the hard water, to folks who’ve never dropped a jig down a hole in the ice.
I was chatting with one young lady in the latter group, who told me she was super keen to try ice fishing this winter, but was perplexed by what she perceived to be the costly dilemma of equipping herself to get started.
Now, I am the last person to give advice about purchasing fishing equipment—I am a tackle junkie—but as I explained to her, if you use the KISS principle as your guide, you can get started easily and economically.
Take ice augers as the perfect case in point, as we did when we started our conversation. Fact of the matter is that Liam and I love running and gunning in the winter. I’ve joked many times that we drill as many miles of holes in the ice as TransCanada Pipeline does in the ground. It’s not uncommon for us to hit six, seven or eight spots in the course of a day and auger six, eight or 10 holes at each location. Add that up and it is close to 100 holes a day. And when we have friends joining us, the number increases exponentially.
I even asked my new friend if she owned an electric drill with a side stabilizer handle. She confirmed that she did, and was surprised when I told her that she could take it out on the ice and use it to power a drill-type auger like the Bass Pro Shops XPS Drill Pro. I’ve never used one of these attachments, and I’m sure it would drain your drill battery quickly if you tried to run and gun. But to get started?Heck, it is the perfect and most economical way, especially, if you’re panfishing for perch for just a few hours on Cook’s Bay or Lake Couchiching in southern Ontario, or driving out on one of the ice roads for walleyes on Lake of the Woods or Lake Winnipeg.
Heck, I started out ice fishing as a kid using a simple manual Mora hand auger, and I still have a slightly newer model that I use to this very day when the ice is thin—as it is right now—and when I am trekking through the bush on snowshoes, carrying all of my gear into a remote backcountry lake. Manual augers are super light to carry, as cheap as borsch, and in the smaller 5- and 6-inch flite sizes, you can drill a hole in seconds. Back in the days, we’d even have competitions to see who could cut the most holes the fastest. And we thought it was fun. Gotta’ say, we outgrew that notion.