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Ice fishing is a great winter tradition for many families. If you’ve never gone before, it’s time to get in on the fun! Stock your tackle box with these basic necessities to get you started, and be sure to check local ice conditions before you go.
Small foam or sponge bobbers
Bobbers help up know when to set the hook and keep your bait at the exact depth you want. These bobbers are best for ice fishing since they do not freeze easily and ice can be quickly removed by squeezing.
Small tackle is best - 1/64 oz or smaller for panfish. Ice jigs are brightly colored fish (purple, chartreuse, pink, orange) to attract a fish’s attention and heavy enough to sink through the frigid water.
Tungsten jigs have added weight that allows them to fall quicker and keep your fishing line tighter.
Small metal jigging spoons are commonly used to catch walleye.
If you plan to fish for crappie, you will need jigs that glow in the dark. Crappies tend to feed after dark, so this is the best time to catch them.
A variety of bait can be purchased where bait is sold. Wax worms or wigglers (mayfly larvae) on a small teardrop lure is a great combination for catching bluegill or crappie. Store your wigglers in an insulated container kept next to your body to keep them from freezing.
Small minnows are great for catching crappie, perch, yellow bass or walleye. Keep your minnows in an insulated bucket to keep them from freezing. Bring along a minnow dipper to keep your hands from getting wet.
The line you choose for your reel should match your rod. The more lightweight the rod, the lighter the line needed (2 to 4 lbs. test is recommended.)
Needle nose pliers
Helpful for removing hooks.
You need some tool to assist with cutting the fishing line. Line clippers can be purchased or you can use finger nail clippers or a knife.
If you plan to be on the ice after dark, you need a reliable light source. A camping lantern, powerful flashlight or LED light are good options. Bring extra batteries if you choose a flashlight.
Pack an old towel to keep your hands clean and dry after removing the hook.
Staying safe on the ice is key to a successful ice fishing trip. Pack these basic items to help keep you safe: hand warmers, ice picks (wear around your neck) to help you crawl out of the water if you fall in, a life jacket, a safety rope, a whistle to call for help, a basic first aid kit.
Before heading out on the ice, check the DNR weekly Fishing Report for current ice conditions and what’s biting where. Looking for a little help to get you started, attend a basic fishing clinic – check the DNR events calendar to find an event near you.