Exploring Ice Fishing
How to Keep Ice Fishing Holes From Freezing

How to Keep Ice Fishing Holes From Freezing

How to Keep Ice Fishing Holes From Freezing: Complete Guide


Ice fishing is a time-honored tradition for many people, but it is not without its challenges. If you’ve ever been ice fishing, you may have run into the problem of how to keep your hole from freezing over. This can be especially annoying, but luckily, there are many ways to keep holes from freezing over.

You can use the following methods to keep ice fishing holes from freezing over and ruining your trip. Some of these include:

  • Can of Coals Method
  • Use of Oil
  • Heated Shanties
  • Aerator Method
  • Insulated Boards
  • Hot Water
  • Ripple Pucks

This guide is going to go more in-depth about how to keep ice fishing holes open and some general tips and tricks. Pay attention, and you might find the trick that works for you!

1) Use a Can of Coals

This method is relatively simple and easy to employ. All you need are some lit coals and a coffee can.

After that, follow these simple steps:

  1. Drill a second hole next to the original with your augur.
  2. Connect the holes with a shallow channel of water.
  3. Place your coffee can with lit coals in the second hole. Add rocks for better flotation.

As you can see, this is a method anyone with a can and some coals can try – but how does it work?

When you place the can with coals in the second hole, it heats the water in that ice hole, which then continually heats ice around it faster than it can freeze. As a handy side effect, the heated water constantly circulates around, which is where the channel comes in. That heated water will move into your main fishing hole and keep it from freezing over.

Another thing people add to improve water circulation between the holes is a copper tube at the bottom of the can. This redirects the heat to the hole you’re fishing in.

This method is best for those who will spend the whole day fishing and doesn’t have you scooping ice every few minutes. You do have to replace the burned-out coals, though.

It may be easy, but not without its risks. The bucket of coals produces smoke and carbon monoxide as a byproduct – so you can’t use this with sealed shanties.


2) Use Heated Shanties

This method is a little more involved but also works well. Ice shanties can be made, and nothing more than some wood, or nicer ones can be bought and rented. The shanty provides protection from the weather, and with the aid of a heater, keep your hole open. If you leave a heater on a low setting, your hole won’t freeze up over a period of time.

Not everyone can afford to make their own shanty or buy/rent one, making this a more advanced method best left for later.


3) Use an Aerator

If you get a good aerator, like used in fish aquariums, it can be used to keep ice fishing holes open. Simply use aerator stones with the pump and run tubes to your holes. This will pump air into the water, which keeps water moving so it cannot freeze.

If you’re thinking about doing this, make sure you get a pump that can move a decent volume of air; some weaker aerators for minnows won’t be able to keep up with ice growth.

A downside of this method is that you have tubing all over the ice, so consider if you could tolerate that. Tubing everywhere might cause you to trip, so be careful.


4) Use Oil

Another easy way to keep holes open is to use oil. Many people use fish oil, but other scented oils work as well. The oil moving around with the water in your hole will keep it from freezing. Make sure that there aren’t any chemical ingredients in the oil that could harm fish or the environment.

The downside of this is that the oil will get on everything you put in your hole, so take that into consideration with this method. Greasy reels aren’t fun for anyone!


5) Manual Ice Removal

This is a popular method of keeping holes open. Simply go around your holes with a scoop or spoon and remove frost and ice that form in your fishing holes.

This method is best for beginners who don’t have special equipment, though it takes more work than the other methods. You’ll also get your hands soaked manually, removing frost and ice this way. A way to prevent that is to only skim ice off the top as it forms.


6) Denatured Alcohol

Denatured alcohol is biodegradable and can be periodically added to your fishing holes to keep them open. This method doesn’t leave behind an oily residue like some methods, but you do have to carry the bottles around.


7) Insulated Boards

If you place an insulted fishing hole cover on your fishing hole, it will keep it from freezing up by protecting it from the ambient temperature. If you put a rock on top of it, the wind can’t blow it away. It really is as easy as a styrofoam board!


8) Hot Water Method

Use a stove or heater to boil water, which is then poured into your hole and stop the hole from freezing up. This requires you to buy a heater and stove, so it’ll cost more than other methods.

Some people contest this method with the claim that hot water will freeze faster than cold water – your mileage may vary, in other words!


9) Ripple Pucks

Ripple Pucks are handy gadgets that vibrate using AA batteries and a small motor. Simply turn them on and throw them in your hole – this creates small ripples that keep the water from freezing. There are conflicting opinions on whether they scare away fish, but they remain popular choices for ice fishermen.


10) Candle Box Method

If you manage to bring a tip-up box, you can light candles and put them in the box. Then you put the box in the water of your fishing hole. The heat from the candle warms the water and keeps it from freezing. If you happen to have this stuff lying around already, this can be a very useful way to keep holes from freezing up.


11) Cooking Spray

Oil is the ingredient in most cooking sprays, but the aerosol delivery system is handy. Yes, and your equipment will get covered in oil too! It’s a compact and portable way to keep holes open, though. Keep the spray warm to prevent the aerosol from freezing, and it will serve you well.


12) Bring a Drill

A more obscure method to deal with icy holes is to bring a drill and a car battery. If you don’t want to worry about scraping, this will definitely go through any ice that’s formed. Obviously, this is heavy to lug around, so take that under consideration if you go this way.


Final Thoughts

As you can see, you have quite a few choices as to how you keep your fishing holes from freezing up. The things that vary are how much space you have to consider, materials you already have on hand, and how much to spend.

If you’re fishing for a long time, the can of coals method will probably be your best bet. A more compact way would be a can of cooking spray or a bottle of denatured alcohol. If you have a shanty, just keep the heat on, and that will keep your holes looking brand new.



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