Basic Ice Fishing Questions. Please help. Going out for my first time….?

I am an avid fisherman. However, I have never been ice fishing. I totally got hooked up for Christmas and I couldn’t be more excited. I have all the essentials including a great selection of jigs. I know I can just “google” some ice fishing tips, but some personalized answers from experienced anglers would be much appreciated. So I will post a few basic (and ignorant) questions below that I would love to have answered.

1) Safety. When do I know the ice is safe enough to go out?
2) Location of holes. I am getting a four man shanty. Do you drill the holes parallel with each other or can you do a “four corners” type thing? For example… if you can do the “four corners”, would it be safe to step in the “t” shape (middle) left in the ice?
3) Bait and jigs. What are good baits and jigs to use? Do minnows or night crawlers work well? How about tipped on a jig? (there are walleye, crappie, large mouth and smallies in the lake I will be fishing)
4) Other essential equipment. I know I am going to get out there for the first time and be like “Sh!t, I forgot the…” What crap am I gonna forget that I need to bring?

So, yeah. Any advice would be much appreciated. I have the epuipment, a case of beer and some fresh herbs just waiting to hot box the sh!t out of my shanty. I can’t wiat!
Let me be a little more clear on the location of holes. Basically, what is a safe distance between holes without weakening the ice? Or is such a mass quantity of ice not going to weaken? I just don’t want to step between some close holes and fall through. You smell what I steppin’ in?

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5 thoughts on “Basic Ice Fishing Questions. Please help. Going out for my first time….?

  1. First off a safe distance between holes is probably about 20 feet. You can drill two holes a inch apart but by going 20 plus feet your maximize your chances of finding fish.

    1.) Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. That means you want to go out at about 20 and under. You can go out at 32 but I diffidently would not recommend it. You can most likely find local fishing forums and even weather websites to tell you how the ice fishing has been and when its good to go out. A good test is to go into very shallow water by the bank and start stomping on the ice to make sure its good. I would just check local websites though.

    2) I can not answer that. Honestly I don’t even know what a shanty is.

    3.) Ice fishing you will target walleye crappie and maybe smallies. Walleye fishermen love to jig spoons tipped with a nightcrawler and crappie fisherman love to tip small sunfish jigs with…well nothing. Sometimes a jig with a minnow will be just the right thing. Also I am positive there is sunfish right? Same as crappie for fishing.

    4.) All I take with me is some food, rod, drill or shovel, and chairs. Fish finders do help though in ice. Normally they are cheating but in a frozen lake its fair game.

  2. You need at least 4 inches of ice to hold a person on foot. I perfer 6inches or better to walk out myself. Here in minnesota you can have 2 holes apease and they are usualy about 2 feet apart. So you can watch both holes. For walleye and pike as well as some pan fish I use minnows. For crappie and sunfish I use small jigs with wax worms or spikes.
    If you have 6 inches of ice you can drill hales every foot and be safe. If anything be carefull you don’t step in the holes yourself” I use 3 holes one for my vexlair and 2 for angling. All within 2 feet of each other.

  3. First off,ice needs to be minimum 6 to 8 inches thick,hard black ice,try to cut a hole in it,near shore less than head deep water.if it cracks when you step on,get off.A safe trip is remembered,an unsafe one is remembered more,by didn’t survive it.Ice doesn’t freeze uniformly all across the surface,the underside will vary in thickness,like around a spring or current,it will be thinner there.,so watch for dark areas that look different than the rest of the surface,stay wide of open water areas.Holes shouldn’t be too close proximity to each other,swiss cheese isn’t safe.6 ft. is minimum distance.The shanty is heavy,so count that weight into things too,like everyone’s weight added to it,the ice has to be strong enough to support it all easily.check with the emergency personnel,like fire department for a guideline.If they assess it to be unsafe,stay off.Once you get the ok,bait is usually shiners,on tilts or maggots on tiny jigs and lures jigged in the holes,like swedish pimples and jigging rapalas.Walleyes like a leech on a jig.Other essentials,a skimmer ladle for clearing chips out,a dipnet,for the shiners,and aerator in the baitbucket,and a small gaff to hoist out the fish when landing them,also a depth sounder clipon weight,and a button threaded onto the line for maintaining the proper depth.You find the depth,and place the button there on the line,then you can locate the depth when replacing the line back after a fish has been caught.,when the button is at the ice’s edge,you are at the preset depth again.It can also be a small length of yarn,if used on a jigging stick,as a button won’t pass through the eyes of the rod.the yarn will however.Also handy is a length of sturdy floating rope,just in case about a hundred feet long,with a good strong bowline on the end,and a 2 way radio,and cellphone,and tell someone when where and how long you’ll be out,in case you don’t come when you should.An instant inflatable lifevest is also a good never know.If you decide to bring a heater,make sure to ventilate the shanty,carbon monoxide is created when they are used,and you can’t smell it.The gas will kill you before you are aware of it happening.I’ve seen people get drunk out there and pass out,and almost freeze to death of hypothermia,so watch the inbibing too much.You don’t want a good experience to turn ugly.bring food and water to drink,and a camera,to record the fun for posterity.We bring a small tabletop gasgrill,and bratwurst and hot chocolate,beer and booze don’t belong there,at home is fine,but driving home hammered isn’t a good idea,if Mr. warden decides to check you out.Oh,and burning herbs can be smelled across great distances,so be aware.You never know who’s walking around outside the shanty you don’t see.

  4. First of all, where are you going fishing (pond, lake, river etc). For a small pond, you only need 3″ of ice…but be careful. On a lake, I would recommend 5-6″ of ice to safely walk on. Always be on the lookout for natural springs…this creates weak ice. As for the location of holes, I tend to just scatter my tip-ups. Generally, I space them 20-40 feet apart depending on the size of the pond/lake I’m fishing. As far as bait is concerned, I use either shiners (for bass and walleye) or suckers (for pike) on my tip-ups. I often like to use a jigging Rapala to catch bass and pike on a spinning rod. Mealworms on a jig are good for perch and sunfish. Regarding the equipment needed, bring warm clothes, jigging rods, tip-ups, auger, ice scoop, bait and a bucket to sit on. I’m from upstate NY by the way. Good luck this year!

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