Exploring Ice Fishing
What Is Ice Fishing?

What Is Ice Fishing?

What Is Ice Fishing?


There are some sports in the world that exude a sense of mystery. Ice fishing is one of those sports. This ancient hunting method has eluded many people for years, but those with knowledge can tell you exactly what it is.

Ice fishing is a traditional way of catching fish in cold areas. It involves cutting a hole into the ice that lays on top of a frozen lake. Then, casting a line into the unfrozen water below. Fishermen will often sit on chairs on the ice by the hole, and sometimes they build huts to stay warm.

In the following article, we will discuss the specifics of ice fishing. This includes a brief history of ice fishing, what the sport entails, where and when people can go ice fishing, and the sport’s equipment.


A Brief History of Ice Fishing

Ice fishing was first used by various indigenous peoples throughout North America, and other arctic and subarctic areas around the globe. The first way to ice fish involved chipping through the ice with ice chisels and using spears to stab the fish below the surface.

Many different cultures throughout the world discovered this way of fishing independently of each other. Over time, people invented better techniques and tools to use when ice fishing. Ultimately these included better rods and lines, and more comfortable fishing huts to sit in while fishing.


The Elements of Ice Fishing

Ice fishing involves a few different main elements, including research, travel, trial and error, and patience. We will explore each of these areas in more detail below.

1) Research

You can’t simply go out onto any frozen lake and go ice fishing. Some fish species in lakes are less active than others, and so some lakes may see almost no action at all. Even more important is the safety of a specific lake. 

The ice of the lake you plan to go fishing on needs to be cold enough and thick enough to support your weight for extended periods of time. Thin ice is extremely dangerous, and cold water arguably even more dangerous. 

According to The National Weather Service, the following facts about cold water are true:

  • You lose body heat up to 25X faster in cold water.
  • 20% of people who fall into cold water die in the first minute because of temperature shock.
  • Once in cold water, your body only has 10 minutes of “meaningful movement” before losing stamina and muscle control.

These risks are part of the reason why research is so important to ice fishing. It would be best if you looked into which lakes are safe, and at which time of year they are safest. Even then, you need to test the ice of the lake when you get there. The ice should be 2-3 inches thick at the minimum before you venture out onto it.


2) Travel

Unless you live directly next to the perfect lake, ice fishing involves a lot of travel. A lot of the best places for ice fishing are in remote areas, like the Island of Ammassalik in Greenland. 

Getting to this remote but picturesque ice fishing spot involves flying into Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital city. From there, you take a flight to Kulusuk in Greenland, and from there, you take a helicopter to Ammassalik Island.

This is just one example of how the sport of ice fishing involves extensive travel, especially if you become passionate about the sport.


3) Trial and Error

The sport of ice fishing involves a lot of trial and error. And we do mean a lot. As with any fishing, there is no guarantee that you will catch a fish on any day that you venture out. However, with ice fishing, there is an extra element to the unlikeliness that you will catch any fish—the cold. 

The colder the water, the less that the fish move around, this means that the target areas of lakes that will have the most fish are areas where the fish feed. These places are usually more shallow and have water features, such as fallen trees, weeds, and other debris. 

Fish usually start feeding near the bottom and move upwards. They don’t move side to side or around the lake very much, especially the colder it gets. This is where the trial and error of ice fishing comes into play. You may cut your fishing hole in the ice in a place where no fish are feeding. After 10-15 minutes of waiting, you’ll want to move on to cut another hole.

You could cut dozens of holes throughout the day, and still not catch a thing.


4) Patience

After trial and error, comes the patience needed to wait for the fish to bite. It can take all day to get a nibble, and holding onto your rod can be tiring. That’s why many people use accessories like this Eagle Claw Ice Fishing Rod Holder. You can set your rod on the ice with the line in the water, and sit back and enjoy the wintery view.


Where Do People Ice Fish?

Anywhere in the world where the ice gets thick enough to stand on, and there’s fish in the water, it can be an ice fishing area. It is extremely popular in the United States’ midwestern towns and a lot of inland and Northern Canada. 

Some of the best places around the world to go ice fishing include:

  • Lule River, Sweden
  • Devils Lake, North Dakota
  • Lake of the Woods, Minnesota
  • Kathleen Lake, Yukon Territory
  • Lake Champlain, Vermont
  • Lake Simcoe, Ontario
  • Antero Reservoir, Colorado
  • Birch Lake, Alaska
  • Fort Peck Lake, Montana
  • Caples Lake, California
  • Lake Baikal, Russia


When Can People Go Ice Fishing?

Ice fishing can be done at various times of the year throughout the world. In the mid-United States, most of the ice fishing can be done throughout November, December, and January. Some places in Canada, like Pigeon Lake in Alberta, offer the best fishing in September and November. 

Ultimately, if you want to go ice fishing, the best time of year to do so depends on your location in the world and the season’s temperature. Some months may be colder than average, and the ideal fishing time can come earlier in the year than usual. Other years the winter may stay warmer, longer, and the prime time to go fishing will be pushed back.


Equipment Used for Ice Fishing

Ice fishing is one of the sports that can be as minimalistic or as embellished as you want. Some of the main equipment used for ice fishing are:

  • Ice saw or auger to cut through the ice
  • Fishing rod and bait to bait and reel in the fish
  • Ice rated fishing line to withstand the freezing water temperatures
  • Hooks as needed for regular fishing
  • Small shovel so you can move ice shards out of the cut hole
  • Portable chair to sit on while you fish

Some of the clothing and gear worn by ice fishers include snow gear, thermal garments, mittens, scarves, and traction accessories for their footwear, to prevent them from slipping on the ice.



Ice fishing is one of the unique hunting methods that people still take part in today. Within the community, people often joke that ice fishing is a sport that you only try once. This saying is popular because many people who try ice fishing are turned off by the cold, the effort, and the slow aspect of the sport. 

Despite this, however, ice fishing holds true as a right of passage for many people who live in frigid climates.



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