Ice Fishing Essentials Gear List
- 5 Gallon Bucket & Seat
- Rod & Reels (x 3)
- Tackle Box Tray
- Hole Cleaner
By essential ice fishing gear, we mean the minimum requirements to get out and enjoy a day on the frozen lake. This is not everything, and it’s not the high end of ice fishing gear. That’s another article.
To start with, and we try to list off the obvious items first, you need a 5 gallon bucket with a lid. The bucket is your tackle box and your seat. If you are trying to take more gear than you can fit in a 5 gallon bucket, you are taking too much. Inside the bucket should be your ice fishing rod and reel, your bait, and your single box of hooks and weights. Add to this a hole cleaner (like a big perforated soup ladle) and you are stocked with the basics. If you plan on keeping some of your catch, then you need to add a filet knife and some plastic storage bags. Remember, it should all fit in the bucket. The only things not likely to fit in the bucket are the rods and reels, but there is a solution to that.
I’m a big fan of The Fishin Hole so I’m going to feature some product pics available at their stores.
Once you get to your spot, you need an ice auger. If we were trying to fish with primitive weapons I would say a hand crank auger, but when you have up to 4 feet of ice to drill through during a cold Saskatchewan winter, you NEED a power auger. Generally there are 8″ diameter and 10″ diameter models available. Don’t be cheap on your auger, get a quality 10″ auger. If you are planning on drilling a dozen holes or so, you don’t want the auger to ruin your day. Make sure you have the tank full of your oil/gas mixture before you leave so you don’t need to mess with that on the ice.
So you have a few holes drilled and you can set the auger aside for awhile. Now make sure you have the least expensive item in your ice fishing tackle box / bucket ready to go, the hole cleaner.
Some people call it a skimmer, or an ice ladle. No matter what you call it, when your holes start to freeze over, this $5 tool will make it easy to remove that thin top layer of ice from the hole.
The bucket, as was mentioned first, is your tackle box and your seat. I recommend you buy a pivoting bucket seat cover to go with your bucket. It gives a little bit of extra cushion for your butt and lets you move around easier. You will want a lid that is easy on and easy off as you will be storing your tackle in it and you will need to go in and out of it frequently. One custom modification you will want to make is to drill a hole in an outer flap on the lid and loop a zip tie through the bucket handle and the hole you drilled. When you put your rods in the bucket, they will stick out the top too far to bend under the lid. So let the lid dangle, but not get left behind.
Your choice in lures and bait is almost endless. I have three favorites that I like to have pre-tied on three separate rod and reel combos. When you are out on the ice, especially on a cold and windy day, tying knots can be difficult. Have three rods rigged up will keep you fishing and able to adjust your lure and bait presentation quickly.
Above left is a Swimming Jig. I used to use just a regular jig head, the same as when summer jigging over a walleye hole. It was my go to lure. Now I like the action of the swimming jig which seems to produce strikes a little better, especially with perch. To add some flash to the presentation, the Whopper Hawger in the middle is easy to fish and with a single J hook is also quick to release the fish. When I’m targeting walleye and pike, I like the Lindy Darter which also has a rattle feature to attract predators from further away. For bait, check with your local tackle shop, but the standard meal worms for perch and minnows for pike and walleye will never go out of style. Leaches may also work well but are hard to handle in the cold with gloves on .
I always multiple lures of each kind available, in varying weights and colors, just in case I feel the need to change up. The need to change up is usually triggered by the guy next to you out fishing you 3 to 1 using an orange lure while you are using green. Keep them in a tackle box utility tray, just one. Don’t try to bring your whole tackle box with you, just bring the one tray, with just the essentials. Less gear makes for less hassle out on the ice.
I mentioned before to have 3 rods rigged up and ready. I like to have rods rigged up for the lure/bait combination so that there is no waiting and no tying while on the ice. Pick the rod, add the bait to the hook and drop it down the hole. I am far less fussy about the rod and reel for ice fishing than I am for fly fishing. You can get a good quality ice fishing rod and reel combo for $35 to $45 dollars. At that price, get 2 or 3. When you save yourself tying time in a -30 windchill, you will know.
So there are your Essentials for Ice Fishing Gear. As I am writing this post, I keep finding myself wanting to drift into talking about some higher end ice fishing gear, some which is listed below. That will be a future article.
Ice Fishing Advanced Gear List
When you go beyond the bare essentials, you quickly empty your wallet, but add to the experience.
- Tip ups
- Pop Up Shack or Shelter
- Propane heater
- Wood burning stove
- Underwater camera
- Snowmobile gear sled