How much gear is enough when hitting the ice? Being comfortable is important but too much stuff is just too much! There must be a compromise.
For the Bucket Boys, you take just what you can fit in a 5-gallon bucket, which is also your seat.
Sled Icemen can take more stuff. A sled is designed to take more gear more easily. The bucket fits into a precut hole in the deck. Rod holders carry the rods. The auger slides inside the box, along with rod holders and tackle. A long rope makes pulling the sled simple. The seat is the sled. If there is snow, the Smitty sled modification adds skis which make pulling even easier.
Safari Ice fishermen use a line of carriers to haul out a camp full of gear. This crew usually has a tent/shanty. Inside will be a heater, stove, music, air freshener. And other essentials. These shanties can hold up to 4 anglers.
Sled/Bucket The sled hauls your gear. It is also handy as a safety tool. The long rope pull handle helps you to slide the sled toward a breakthrough victim. My rope is 1 ½ times longer than the sled. Building an organized platform is important. The bucket can sit inside. Use a screw off bucket lid to save your fingers.
Auger This may include the battery drill with 2 spare batteries. If using gas or propane augers, you are looking at over 30 lbs. of weight. The battery augers are lighter, reliable, and more compact.
Ladle Clearing ice from the hole is important. Metal is more durable than plastic. Longer handles allow you to clear holes standing up.
Rods Bring what you need plus a spare. It’s way easier swapping out a rod than re-rigging.
Rod Holders Rod storage on the sled help. If you need to carry them, you can make a carry bracket. Holders on the ice help position the rods securely.
Bait This can fit into your pockets, where it can stay warm. Maggots, mealworms, nightcrawlers, corn, etc. Fish scent helps too. Live minnows, where legal requires a warm water bucket.
Forceps Hook removal tool to get hooks out of fish. Wear it on your coat.
Shovel Useful to clear snow if there is snow or ice from cutting your holes.
Walking Stick Clear ice is slippery. The walking stick helps keep you upright. Also good for getting on or off the ice safely. You could also use it to reach out in a breakthrough event.
Ice Picks These corded handles have a nail at one end to help you extract from a breakthrough. Wear them around your neck.
Hand Warmers Warm fingers can tie knots.
Tackle Box Take just what you need. Several pre-rigged jigs, hook sharpener, tippet, reel tools/clippers,
Layered warm clothing, footwear. If you are freezing you are done fishing. Wear layers to take on or off clothing. 90% of lost warmth goes out your head. Wear a warm hat and neckerchief/Capuche.
Gloves Cold fingers means time to go home. Carry spare sets of dry gloves. Slide a powder handwarmer into your gloves. Always have warmers for the kids.
Traction on boots Falling can result in injury. Stay upright. Traction allows you to move more quickly to a rod with a bite. It also helps you to stand up.
Sunglasses reflected sunlight can cause snow blindness. Wind can really make your eyes cold. Wear glasses for protection.
Fish Sack Put the days catch into a sack for transport. Now they don’t stink up your sled or bucket/gear.
Cell phones Perfect for pictures and marking locations. Also, good if you need to call 911. Keep in a warm pocket.
Fish Towel Hang this from your waist. It allows you to clean your hands after handling fish. Dry hands are warm hands.
Throw rope. A safety tool. You can stay back from a breakthrough and toss the 50-foot line to the person in the water.
Gaff Big fish need encouragement to get out of the hole.
Shovel Perfect for removing snow and slush. Works better than your boots.
Fish Finder If you know the water, the tech is normally not required.
Food/ drink Most Icemen can feast and hydrate in the warm truck. Eating a frozen sandwich or drinking will often make you colder.
An ice shanty means that you will be fishing a micro spot. No moving. You are either on the fish or off them. You will be warm, but the fishing can be cold.
Take what you need, no more, no less. Be organized and pre-rigged. More junk means more weight to haul or break through the ice.
Less is more when venturing onto the ice.