Newsroom Midwest Region

How to enjoy ice fishing (if you hate fishing and the cold)

January 8, 2018

Kissing the catch. Photo by USFWS.
Kissing the catch. Photo by USFWS.

If you’ve tried ice fishing and found it to be painfully cold and boring, but you want to show support for the ice fishing fanatic in your life, then you have come to the right place! Here are some tips and tricks whether you choose to play on the ice or stay inside.

Stay inside, but show some love

Ice fishing may not make your top 100-things-to-do-in-my-free-time list, and that’s okay. If there is someone in your life who does love ice fishing, you may be looking for ways to show your support or encouragement without stepping onto the ice. Here are a few ideas to get you started, but then it’s up to you to put on your creative thinking hat:

  • Scout it out: Help your ice fishing enthusiast scope out potential ice fishing spots. Volunteer to visit potential locations.

  • Be a gearhead for an hour: Offer to help with prepping the ice fishing gear.

  • Don’t be hangry: Slip a special snack or two into his or her pack to make sure that hunger doesn’t ruin time out on the ice. A thermos filled with a hot beverage will be much appreciated!

  • Be a foodie: Locally sourced fish, anyone?  Get out your fillet knives and turn the day’s catch into culinary masterpiece.

  • Ask about safety: Make sure that you know where your loved one will be fishing, when they plan to leave the ice to return home, and then wow ‘em with your homemade ice-rescue claws.  No ice is completely safe and having a plan for what to do if they or a fishing companion breaks through could save a life.

Beat the cold

If you do choose to participate in ice fishing, staying warm and comfortable is crucial to enjoying your time out on the ice. For those who are not avid winter outdoors people, chances are your gear is not up to the subzero chill challenge. Your feet are often the first places you feel the cold because you lose heat through the soles of your shoes, especially when standing on ice. To keep your tootsies toasty, wear your winter boots with the thickest soles. Ideally your boots are loose enough to let you layer warm socks, as well as slip in disposable foot warmers.

Make sure your base layers are wool, fleece or other fabric that continues to insulate even when wet. Snow pants, hat, gloves, gator and a heavy winter coat are musts as well. If your discomfort with standing out on frozen waterbodies cannot be cured by apparel alone, say no more. There are also pop-up structures to heated ice-houses that can be rented. Finally, don’t forget the sunscreen. On sunny days, light will reflect off of the ice and give you a sunburn that you won’t feel until you are out of the cold and wondering who set your face on fire.

Answering nature’s call

The sun, wind and cold can quickly dehydrate you, which makes it especially important to drink plenty of fluids when ice fishing. This leads us to a delicate topic that is perhaps the greatest source of consternation for those in the world who cannot pee standing up while out ice fishing. If you’re rugged enough to drop trou behind a twiggy bush on an Arctic cold day, our hats are off to you. For everyone else, you have a personal choice to make. Outdoor outfitters sell an array of gadgets to help answer the age-old question of, where to go to the bathroom? If none of the gadgets appeal to you, then we suggest the art of compromise. Ask your ice fishing companions if your fishing location can be either within walking distance or a short drive from a working toilet. Your solution may also make your fishing expedition more family friendly.

Slay the boredom

Ice fishing does not have to be about catching “the big one.” For many, fishing is about camaraderie and spending time in nature. Break the myth that ice fishing is about staring at a hole in the ice and bring your own brand of awesome to the experience. Wooded lakes offer snowshoeing and nature viewing opportunities. If you’re running with a rambunctious crowd, find a place away from other anglers to make lawn games into ice games. When fishing in a heated ice house, card games and board games are ice fishing staples. Even chores, like drilling the holes in the ice, can be made into fun and friendly competitions. Finally, help make the memories last a lifetime and consider being the outing’s official photographer.

This winter find new ways to make ice fishing work for you. Your ice fishing adventure can be as hardcore or tame as you like, but for making the effort, you are sure to impress the angler in your life.