In some ways ice fishing is the forgotten sport. Although in many parts of the world ice fishing is extremely popular, including the Great Lakes region of the United States, ice fishing has remained a “cult” activity, which has received little media attention.
But ice fishing fanatics are found all throughout the northernmost nations of the world, including Canada, the northern US, Scandinavia, Scotland and Russia. And those who are well experienced with this sport will tell you there’s nothing like heading out onto the frozen lake at the crack of dawn with your gear and a warm thermos of coffee.
The view from atop a frozen lake at sunrise is incredible. There is a stillness and pervasive calm like nothing else you will ever experience. But when you contrast the peaceful nature of setting up camp out on the ice, with the thrill of catching a big fish, it’s easy to see why ice fishing is a sport of extremes.
There are as many different ways to fish a frozen lake as there are fishermen. Some anglers travel light, just setting up a stool or folding chair out on the lake, while others erect elaborate shelters, complete with heat and battery generated electricity.
Other fishermen use tents out on the ice, and these have the advantage of folding up into small packages that can be easily carried over the shoulder or as a backpack.
Besides the shelters that different fishermen use, fishing sleds are also very popular, and make it easy to transport fishing gear, bait, thermoses and other accessories to your favorite fishing spot. Sleds also make it easy to quickly move camp from one spot to another when the fish are biting.
But once you get out on the ice, there are three basic ways to fish. First, you can use the spear fishing method. This technique requires the fishermen to set up a decoy in a hole drilled through the ice. When a fish rises to the surface to check out the decoy, the fishermen’s spears the fish quickly.
This type of ice fishing requires a great deal of skill and patience. It also takes highly developed reflexes, because fish will normally only rise to the surface for a split-second before disappearing into the murky depths below.
The second type of ice fishing is the “tip ups” method, where the fishermen sets up trot lines around a hole carved in the ice. This is the least “hands on” type of ice fishing, and depends more on the desirability of your bait than on your skill as an angler. For this reason, many beginners to the sport choose to start out using the tip ups method.
The third type of ice fishing is called “light fishing.” This is a very effective technique using a short fishing rod and lure. Once a fish has gone for the lure, the fishermen will pull in the line by hand, rather than by reeling, as you would with a regular fishing.
“Light fishing” is more challenging than the tip ups method, and is also more exciting, as bringing in a fish by hand requires patience, strength and cunning.
Which ever type of ice fishing you decide to try, remember to always put safety first and use of the buddy system out on the ice; it’s also important to be vigilant against weak spots in the ice, and it goes without saying, bundle up well to stay warm out on the lake.