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5 Ice Fishing Tips for Beginners



Winter in Minnesota might make our faces hurt from the cold, but there are still so many ways to enjoy the great outdoors. One way we do this here in Walker, MN is by ice fishing on the vast and frozen Leech Lake. If you’ve yet to go ice fishing, know you’re not alone, and we hope you find the list of ice fishing tips for beginners we put together useful!

Helpful ice fishing tips for beginners

For our visual learners, we found this YouTube video by Tailor Tackled very helpful! Otherwise, we’ve curated a list of helpful tips for your first time out on the ice.

1. Dress for ice fishing

It gets cold when you’re out on the ice and it can get especially windy. In order to stay comfortable and safe, we recommend the following:

  • Winter clothing – snow pants, hats, gloves, winter jackets, neck/face covering, and lots of extra layers 
  • Safety spikes to help you pull yourself out of the water
  • Cleats for your boots when there’s clear flat ice
  • Floating bibs in case you fall in

2. Bring the right gear

There’s an array of ice fishing gear you’ll need to be successful, including:

  • Sled to pull all of your stuff
  • Auger
  • Bucket to contain tackle and bait, and double as a stool
  • Ice scooper for cleaning out your ice hole
  • Ice fishing rod
  • Jigs for ice fishing
  • Bait (spikes aka maggots)

3. Drill your ice hole

This is where an auger (and maybe the YouTube video) will come in handy. You can get a hand or motor-powered auger. The hand-powered auger will require you to turn the handle clockwise until you hit water and the motor-powered auger will do the drilling for you.

After you’ve reached the water, you’ll want to pump your auger in and out of the water around 3 times to get all the big ice chunks out. There will be a good amount slush surrounding the hole that you can easily brush away with your boot. Finally, you’ll want to use your ice scoop to get the water as clear as possible, but work nice and slowly. 

*Pro tip: you’ll want to keep your ice scoop on hand as the top of the water will continue to lightly freeze over as you fish. 

4. Drop a line

Now that you’ve got your hole ready, it’s time to set up your rod. If you need help rigging up your line, check out this video! Otherwise, you’ll want to get a few spikes onto your lure and then lower your line down into the hole by opening up your bail. You will likely need to pull your line out by hand to get to further down in the water as it won’t be like casting out the side of a boat.

You’ll know you hit the bottom once your line goes slack. However, you want to fish 1-2 feet off of the bottom, so you’ll need to reel in your line a bit.

5. Try out a few ice fishing techniques

Now that you’re finally ready to start catching some fish, you can try out some tips and tricks for snagging the guys lurking around your lure:

  • Jigging – moving your line up and down, followed by a 2-3 second pause
  • Gentle jiggle your rod in place
  • Work your rod slowly upwards a little at a time and then drop it back down
  • “Big swoops” up and lowering it back down

Trying out these different “jigging cadences” can help you get the attention of the fish down below. You’ll know you’re getting a nibble when you begin to feel a “tap-tap-tap” on the line. Set your hook by lightly pulling up your rod about 3 or 4 inches. Then, you’re ready to reel your fish up! To learn even more about ice fishing, check out this article.

These are just a few quick tips for those of you just starting out in the winter sport of ice fishing. Contact us if you have further questions about ice fishing on Leech Lake and visiting Walker, MN!

Here are some helpful links for more information on places to stay and gear to rent! 

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