A Beginner's Guide to Ice Fishing

NH Recreation Articles: NH Ice Fishing                                              

NH Ice Fishing 101

A Beginner's Guide to Ice Fishing

So you've decided to go ice fishing. It can be great fun, and quite rewarding if you know and follow the basics.

While there are many ways to ice fish, most folks in NH use tip-ups. They cut a hole, place the 'trap' on the surface, put bait on the line, and set the tip-up, (so called because a small flag rises when the fish take the bait.) Most will set multiple traps some feet apart and watch for the tell-tale flags to rise.

Thankfully, ice fishing doesn't require too much equipment: Ice fishing is fun for the family.warm clothes, a current fishing license, an axe or auger to cut holes in the ice, poles or traps to catch the fish, and bait, usually minnows. Warm, waterproof boots, a thermos with soup or hot beverage, and sunscreen, SPF 15 or higher, are highly recommended. You may also find snacks, a folding lawn chair and blanket handy. And ice fishing is definitely more fun, and safer, with a buddy or a companion.

Ice Thickness
Before going out, make sure the ice is safe. With the warm weather we've had lately, you want to make especially sure that you have at least 4 inches of hard, solid ice beneath you. If you are using a snowmobile, don't take it out on any frozen surface that is not at least 8 inches thick. Because lakes don't freeze uniformly, you will also have to check ice thickness at different places.

Making the Hole
You could use a chainsaw, axe or chippers to create the hole but an ice auger is the safest and most efficient option. Hand augers are much less expensive, but are much more work. A power auger can bore much faster and makes light work of the chore. Make it 8" wide.

Tip-ups and Rods & Reels
Inexpensive tip-ups (wood) start around $8-10 each. Quality ones (metal) are priced in the $15-25 range. Many fishermen take along at least one rod and reel combo. There are special ice fishing rods that look like a condensed version of an open water pole. It has shorter-length rod so that you can also use it from within an ice tent. Rod users may also bring lures based on the fish species in the body of water they are fishing.

Time Involved
If you are ice fishing for the first time, just plan on a few hours. It will take a while to open your holes and set your traps. If you wear the proper clothing you will be comfortable throughout. Do bring a buddy. Nothing is quite so discouraging as standing alone in the cold if the fish aren't biting. But when there is good action, you will want to stay as long as you are comfortable.

Bringing the Family
If the weather is 'warm-ish' consider bringing your family. Snowmen, snow forts, snow angels and good natured snowball fights all happen easily. If you have eight inches of hard ice below you, building a campfire is perfectly safe. Nothing beats eating your catch, and rosting marshmellows around a campfire.


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