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Ice fishing: Basic equipment

Related: Ice fishing: Finding the fish
Related: Cold ice means hot fishing

Catching fish through the ice doesn't require a lot of fancy equipment. A short fishing rod and reel, a few hooks and a package of worms are about all you need.

Ice fishing gear

Jigs and jigging spoons are great lures to use when fishing through the ice. Tipping the hook of the lure with a piece of meal worm or another bait will make the lure even more attractive to fish.

Photo by Ron Stewart

In fact, if you just want to give ice fishing a try, you don't even need an ice auger.

Drew Cushing, warm water sport fisheries coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says you'll usually find plenty of predrilled holes on the ice fishing waters you visit. "If anglers drilled the holes just a day or two before," he says, "they'll have only an inch or two of ice in them. Just break that thin ice, and you're in business."

If you want to drill your own holes, though, you'll need an ice auger or a digging bar. A way to create a hole—and the most basic fishing equipment you can imagine—are all you need to catch lots of fish and have lots of fun.

Simple and affordable

In addition to warm clothes and waterproof boots, Cushing says the following gear is all you need to catch fish through the ice in the winter:

  • A short fishing rod and a small reel.
  • Fishing line and some small hooks.
  • A package of wax worms or meal worms.

    Cushing says wax worms and meal worms are easy to keep alive in the winter, and they'll last a long time on your hook. "In the winter," Cushing says, "wax worms or meal worms are the best worms to use. Any species of fish that you fish through the ice for in Utah will take these worms."
  • If you like to fish with lures, buy some small ice flies or small jigs. Ice flies and jigs come in a variety of colors.

    "Make sure you buy a variety of colors," Cushing says. "That way, you'll have the color the fish want on any given day."

    Also, placing a small piece of worm or other bait on the tip of the lure's hook will increase the chance that a fish bites the lure.
  • A digging bar or an ice auger. A manual ice auger (one you turn by hand) costs about $50. You can pick up a digging bar for as little as $5 to $10.

    Cushing says some anglers use gas-powered augers. But a gas-powered auger usually isn't needed.

    "If you have a hand auger," he says, "you can drill through six to eight inches of ice in about a minute. Unless you're trying to drill through two feet of ice, a gas-powered auger usually isn't needed."
  • Because fish bite softly in the winter, you may also want to buy attachments that will help you detect the subtle bites of the fish. Spring bobbers, tip-ups and various floats are among the items that will help you know you have a fish on the end of your line.

Videos

More ice fishing basics are available in two videos produced by the DWR. You can see the videos at www.youtube.com/UDWR.

Part 3

The next story will teach you how to catch fish through the ice using the simple equipment mentioned in this story.

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