Every year dozens of new ice fishing products hit the walls of tackle shops. Yet when it comes to getting gear for the hard-water season, you don’t only have to shop in fishing stores. In fact, many of the staple pieces of gear I use for safety and comfort reasons I bought at camping and outdoor shops. Here are just a few of my personal favourites.
LED lights draw little power from batteries and pack a bright punch for small units. My LED headlamp accompanies me on any outing, providing hands-free lighting when rigging baits or when walking trails at night. For $20 to $30 these items are a great addition to your ice fishing gear.
The other kind of LEDs I use are the small pocket models. Ranging anywhere from $3 to $10 these portables are great for several reasons. White lights are handy to charge glow lures. I also carry two red LEDs that are usually marketed to runners or cyclists. I attach these to my portable shelter when I’m fishing or leaving a lake at night to stay visible.
Rope is a basic piece of safety gear every ice angler should carry. Two years ago I upgraded to some decent stuff used for camping and canoeing. I bought about 30 feet for an emergency throw line. I also have another ten feet that I loop and tie to extend the overall length of my portable shelter’s rope. This add on lets me pull the sled more comfortably as I run the extra rope over my shoulder, walking in a more comfortable upright position. All total, the rope I bought cost under $15.
Outdoor Active Wear
I define these clothes as non-cotton garments designed for outdoor physical activity. They include thermal underwear, middle insulating layers, and an outer layer shell. These products help keep you comfortable when trekking on the ice by protecting you from the wind and cold, and wicking moisture away from your skin. Shop around and you’ll find some quality garments at decent prices at athletic or camping stores.
Other gear that will improve your ice fishing comfort is adequate food. One burns a lot of calories keeping warm in cold conditions, so it’s important to keep your internal furnace stoked with fuel during full day outings. Healthy snacks, like trail mix and energy or granola bars, are definite treats to keep on hand. Here’s a tip, use your inside coat pockets to store bars to keep them from freezing. Otherwise, granola bars will eat more like a rock candy if you let them freeze in your hut. Next, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. I own several Nalgene water bottles that I’ve had for almost 10 years. For around $10, they’re strong, lightweight and won’t hold scent from flavoured drinks like other brands. When it comes to hot drinks, use vacuum bottles to seal in the heat.
They range from about $15 to $35. Hot chocolate, herbal tea and coffee are my top hot drink choices for days on the ice. Lastly, if it’s really cold and you plan to be out the entire day consider packing a one burner stove, a pot, and some canned soup or stew. A one-burner, Colman stove retails for around $35. To keep things simple, match the stove’s fuel source with that of your portable heater (likely propane). It takes a few minutes to set up and cook a meal, but the effort’s worth it to enjoy hot food after several hours in the cold. If you’re fishing with friends, maybe bring a two-burner camping stove and consider having a fish fry for lunch.
Don’t forget a forks and plates. Camping stores have some durable and reusable plastic options. The above are some examples of basic outdoor gear not found in most fishing shops. As the winter gets colder, consider integrating these items into your outings for added safety and comfort when heading out on the ice.