Ice fishing has splashed onto the national scene in recent years. Though some of us have been ice fishing for a very long time, the sport is often perceived as rather exclusive in the eyes of newcomers. I speak to hundreds of anglers each year and the common consensus among those new to the sport is that ice fishing is expensive. I try not to dispute this notion, especially considering that I’m usually standing in a busy sporting goods superstore, surrounded by displays and shelves which are loaded with hyper expensive gear for hard water anglers. However, what I am careful to convey is that there’s what we need, and what we think we need. It’s difficult to draw a hard line between the two. This is especially true within the angling community.
Priced off of Ice
Among novice anglers’ greatest concerns has to be cost of gear. In truth, anyone can be ready to fish the hard water with an initial investment of around $200. This figure includes the cost of basic safety equipment, an efficient hand ice auger, terminal tackle and bait, an ice rod, and perhaps a small sled or pack for moving equipment. This cost may be reduced if the angler has access to rods and tackle beforehand. In this event, a durable ice auger may be purchased for around $50. I would advise that a spare set of auger blades are a wise investment. These will run another $30 or so, but can save the day should a blade be broken. (As a side note, it’s possible to save money in the long term if you prepare your auger blades for off season storage, or storage between trips by applying grease to them. Visit the “Ice Hacks” tab for more on this.)
The only true need in ice fishing is to be able to safely hook and ice a fish. If this can be accomplished, then all needs have been met. Drilling a hole and delivering an offering are the whole point. I know numerous anglers who prefer to fish without the advantages of portable ice fishing sonar units, GPS charts, or even a shelter in some cases. In all cases, our personal preferences will dictate our spending and our individual levels of satisfaction on the ice. However, when it comes to safety you must be uncompromising. Be sure to carry a spud bar or chisel, a good pair of ice picks, and a throw rope with flotation.
When making choices about what you think you’ll need, don’t be afraid to talk to experienced fishermen. They’ll be willing to offer good advice, and you may be a spectator to a heated discussion over which is the best way to go about taking to the ice for the first time. Be sure to listen, ask questions and consider their advice. Glean what you can from seasoned experience, as it is sure to help you in the long run.