By Montana Grant

Posted: February 12, 2022


Everyone must start ice fishing sometime. Your first few times can be great learning opportunities. If you are a Beginner Iceman, learn to ask questions. Fortunately, Icemen are the most generous and sharing fishermen in the sport of fishing. Ice men are friendly, unselfish, and always ready to help.


Overcome the fear of ice.  Know your limits. Stay off any ice until there is at least 5 inches. Learn to read the ice. You need to understand how ice grows, moves, cracks, melts, and shifts. Pressure ridges, leads, ridges, bulges, and open holes all have a risk of safety.

                Find a Mentor. This easier said than done. Honestly, most fishermen avoid the ice. Some Icemen are better at fishing than catching. What I have learned is that the “catchers: are often friendly and helpful. To have a friend be a friend. Search on local Ice Fishing Facebook Groups for a new friend. You will be surprised how many Icemen are willing to teach. Mentors will accelerate your learning and success.

Dress for Success. If you are cold and miserable, fishing the ice will suck. Buy floating bibs and parkas. Don’t over dress. You don’t want to be as big as the Michelin Man. Gear up in thin layers that can come off and on. Don’t forget the feet, face, fingers, and head. Waterproof packs with treads or add on ice cleats will keep you standing. Sunglasses help you see trouble and protect your eyes from reflected light.

Do Your Homework.  Go onto local ice group sites and ask questions. You tube videos are also amazing teachers. is a free state-by-state resource that offers great current information. Baits, jigs, line, prods, augers, etc. are all important. The best fishermen ask the most questions.

Fish Smart.  Where you cut a hole is important. Using technology is helpful but not required. Learn to read structure and topography near shorelines. Fish off points or in bays especially if there is an in or outflow. Look for evidence of past fishermen success. Blood and bait on the ice can tell a story. Look for birds on the ice, they are there to feed on remains of fishing success.

Search for Success.   If a hole is not producing change what you are doing. Mix up baits, depths, jigs, lures, or techniques. If there is not bite, move. Remember some holes are better at different times of the day.

Don’t look for limits and trophies the first time out. These will be earned later after you learn how to catch a fish. Success is measured in being comfortable, safely cutting holes, navigating the lake, meeting new mentors, and using your gear correctly.

                Safety First!   Be Careful. If there seems to be a risk, back off. Learning to walk on ice can be hard. Use a ski pole or cleats to keep you upright. Have a set of ice picks around your neck and know how to use them. A sled is way easier to carry than a bucket. You can also carry extra gear such as a throw rope, shovel, or…

Don’t forget to have FUN! 

Montana Grant