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Frugal Maniac

Bemidji MN, 56601

Ice Fishing

Ice fishing is one of our favorite times of year! You get to go out on the lake and there are not a lot of people on the lake and you can enjoy the silent time in your ice fishing shelter. 


If you get the right ice fishing house it does not take much of a ice fishing heater to keep you warm even on the coldest days. With the right ice fishing clothes it will not matter if it is -40 you will be able to hit the lake and get the fish you are yearning to pull through the ice.

Ice Auger

You cannot beat having a good Ice Fishing Auger. I've lived in the mountains of Montana and Idaho and I would use either an Ice chisel or a a hand crank ice auger because the ice did not get as thick as it does in North Minnesota.


 Because the lake ice gets so thick in Minnesota I bought a powered ice auger. I started with an ice auger adapter that I could add to my Dewalt 18 volt drill, I used a six inch auger bit from one of my hand crank ice augers. 

I then purchased a Eskimo two stroke 10 inch ice auger I loved it! But after a couple of years I realized the hole was to big to use with Tip-ups. I now have an 8 inch ice auger that allows me to use my tip-ups when I want to go and catch a few Northern Pike.

The reason I picked the 8 inch ice auger was because unlike the 6 inch it takes a really big fish to not fit through an 8 inch hole. I have had to take my ice chisel before with my 6 inch hand auger and hope that I did not hit my fishing line when I had to make the hole bigger to get a fish through the ice. 


The links below are affiliate links that if you purchase something we would get a small commission. However, we use these as an example of what they are. This allows you to see multiple examples of what there is out there and how they look.

Ice Augers








Bait

Bait is an important part of the ice fishing experience weather live, cut or artificial. You will need one of these to be successful. 


When I lived in the mountains of Montana the only bait you could use was worms, cut, maggots, mousees, or artificial. 


It would depend on what I was fishing for to which bait I would use. Northern Pike I would use frozen smelt you could pick up from my local grocery store. 


When I would go fishing for Lake Trout I would use cut bait, a rough fish I caught with a worm or maggot.

If I was going ice fishing for Cut Thought Trout, Rainbow Trout, or Panfish I would use a maggot (and when they came out this turned into a mousee they love the movement of the little tail). 


A little trick that an old timer taught me to keep your maggots lively and fresh. I NEVER did this, is to keep the maggots in your lower lip to keep them warm so that they do not freeze. 


Now that I shared that, LOL, I use one of the bait pucks and keep them in my front pant pocket, has to be the front it is the warmest, this keeps them moving and thawed out.

Remember to keep your maggots, mousees, and night crawlers in the refrigerator so they do not mature and turn into flies. This also works for your minnows when you buy them from your local bait shop. Change the water on the minnows every couple of days and add ice cubes, this helps keep them fresh.

Now that I live in Minnesota I am able to use live bait like Crappie Minnows, fat heads, and Shiners. Each minnow has it's place the Crappie minnow is small and works great for ice fishing Crappie, ice fishing Rock Bass, and ice fishing Perch.


While the next size up, the fathead, works great for ice fishing Walleye, ice fishing Northern Pike, even ice fishing Largemouth Bass, ice fishing Small Mouth Bass and those greedy little Perch. I will add that Walleye love Shiner minnows if you can find them Rosie Minnows work great when the pressure is high on the lake you ice fish.

When you go out spearing for Northern Pike you can not beat a sucker minnow, I admit the good old decoy works awesome but when it gets hard and there is a lot of pressure you cannot beat a live sucker minnow.


The links below are affiliate links that if you purchase something we would get a small commission.  However, we use these as an example of what they are. This allows you to see multiple examples of what there is out there and how they look. 

Bait










Ice Fishing Clothes

A good set of Ice Fishing clothes is irreplaceable. I admit when I was younger I would go sit on the ice with a pair of jeans with seat pants under them with a coat that had a fleece top under it. 


I never got cold and if I did I would pack up because I had been there for hours anyway. Now with the ice fishing gear that they have introduced (and my age) I use some of the new gear and now I never get cold.


When I get ready to go ice fishing preparation is important and with the right ice fishing gear you'll never have to worry about being cold. I start by having a good pair of thermal under wear, with a good set of thermals you almost do not need anything else. 


Next put on a pair of thermal socks so that your feet do not get cold. After you have this base set up you have completed the first steps of having a perfect day ice fishing.

Warm clothes while ice fishing

Staying Warm

The next layer would be a normal pair of pants; jeans, joggers, or dress pants if you prefer. For me I usually will wear a fleece style long sleeved top like a hoodie or something similar. Because you already have thermal underwear on and you will have a good set of outer winter wear you will not need to have a super extravagant outfit over the thermal underwear.


Moving on to the outer shell for ice fishing is a wind proof thermal set of ice fishing bibs or a pair of insulated wind proof pants. After you have the set of bibs or pants that you have a good windproof thermal jacket that will help keep your torso warm. A good ice fishing jacket is so important over almost everything else it keeps your internal organs warm so that your blood flow is directed to everywhere it needs to go, this helps fighting off getting cold and issues like hypothermia.


Now we are to the final layer, this would include thermal boots, thermal gloves, and a good hat. A thermal pair of ice fishing boots will help keep your feet warm and with the right set they help you get traction when you are out on the lake ice. They now sell some boots that have a built in heater that uses batteries to warm your feet. 


If you use a pair of the battery operated heater always us a set of lithium batteries because they perform well when it is cold, I have them in a outdoor weather station and they have survived -60 when the other batteries froze solid. A set of thermal gloves help your fingers stay warm and keeps frost bite away so that you will not loose a finger. Just like the boots gloves also have a built in heating option, either a battery power option or the little hand warmer packs.


Finishing up your ice fishing outer wear with a balaclava this protects your neck, aka your waddle LOL. With your ice fishing suit set up this way you will not get cold and will allow you to have the best and longest day ice fishing. The links below are affiliate links that if you purchase something we would get a small commission. However, we use these as an example of what they are. This allows you to see multiple examples of what there is out there and how they look.

Ice Clothes








A good fishing pole like in open water fishing is a plus, I will admit that I have at times used the hand over hand option when fishing. 


I will say that using a good ice fishing pole will allow you to feel what the fish are doing under you. It allows you to feel even the lightest bite that you cannot feel or see on a tip-up or rattle reel.

Ice fishing pole

Ice Fishing Pole

I use multiple versions of ice fishing poles, if I am ice fishing panfish I will use a ultra light set up. I have actually caught a 12 lbs. eelpout on this setup.


 I had two pound ice fishing line with a 10 bearing Diawa ice fishing reel, it took me twenty minutes to get this fish in and the guy I was ice fishing with would not touch it because he was afraid that it was going to wrap around his arm. When I am ice fishing Walleye I will use a medium weight ice fishing rod, no heavier then 6 lbs. test ice fishing line.


 When I am chasing larger fish like Lake Trout or Northern Pike I will use a heavy ice fishing pole, I use 100 lbs. braided fishing line. The braided fishing line holds up to the teeth of these larger predatorial fish.When I am out ice fishing and it is a little slow I will setup up an ice fishing tip-up with a 100 lbs. braid fishing line and a larger minnow that will allow me to pick up a possible wondering Northern Pike.


 Once in while you can pick up a Largemouth Bass or Walleye when they are set a little bit deeper. I always keep the bait about 2 feet of the bottom for Northern's and Bass and about 3 to 6 inches for Walleye. When setting up for Walleye I will use a 6 foot piece of 6 lbs. test leader. This allows me to search around a little bit to see if I can find out were the fish are at. 


Something that will give the ice fisherman a presentation that does not get much attention. Have you ever noticed that while fishing there can be someone fishing just 6 feet away and they are catching fish like crazy. Mean while you are not even getting a nibble.


Solution: take a full size 6 foot rod, drill holes, north, south, east and west, in a circle around one central hole. The central hole will be the main fishing hole. Use jigging spoons and high visibility lures, attractors. Fish the outer 4 holes to see if you can pick up fish around the main hole that will not commit to the bait in the central hole. 


The links below are affiliate links that if you purchase something we would get a small commission. However, we use these as an example of what they are. This allows you to see multiple examples of what there is out there and how they look.

Ice Fishing Poles






A nice smooth ice fishing reel is a must, I use a reel that has that has multiple ball bearings and a drag that works seamlessly. 


I will keep them clean with and use a light grease in the gear box. I used to use a reel grease or Vaseline in the ice fishing real but found that when it gets to cold these tend to thicken up and the reels will not work.​


I have found that the best lubricant to use is a graphite spray lubricant because it does not have a problem in the cold. I have also used lithium grease with a fair amount of success.

Ice Fishing Reels

Ice Fishing Reels

Having a dependable ice fishing reel will help you out when you get that fish of your dreams on the other end of the line. Like I mentioned above keeping your fishing reel maintained will allow your reel to work its best when you need it the most.


The reels I have used in the past and had good luck with are Daiwa, Shimano and Abu Garcia. I use ones that have a high bearing count and have a smooth drag, the drag is important I have caught big fish that have smoked the drag on the reel. 


The links below are affiliate links that if you purchase something we would get a small commission. However, we use these as an example of what they are. This allows you to see multiple examples of what there is out there and how they look.

Ice Fishing Reels




Abu Garcia

Clam

Celsius

Daiwa

Eagle Claw

Frabrill

H.T.

Mitchell

Okuma

Penn

Pflueger

Pinnacle

Quantum

Rattle Reel

Shakespeare

Shimano


South Bend

Zebco


We know how it can be when trying to figure out what ice fishing line to use. Will it be fine to use the good old standby the blue monofilament. Some claim that you should use ice line.


There are different brands and styles all claiming to be the best. The truth is that they all have their place. Monofilaments, fluorocarbons, braided "wire" and line. We will discuss all of these and explain their use.


To start with lets  look at what monofilament is the most popular most used fishing line on the market.


Ice Fishing Line

Fishing Line

Monofilament or "Mono" stretches the most, has the largest diameter, is mostly clear, and it floats. So what is monofilament? Mono is a single strand of synthetic polymer fiber. 


It retains it's shape and works great when fishing for larger fish. The castability of mono is not as good as the other lines due to the memory it retains from being on the reel. 


It will remember the coils it has slowing down the line while be cast. The floatability of the line makes it the best choice when fishing topwater baits. 


Flourocarbon is invisible, sinks, hard to see, does not stretch and sinks. I prefer this line when I fish for light biting fish like Walleye. This line works the best for baits that sink like deep divers, rattle traps, spinnerbaits, and jigs. 


So what is fluorocarbon? Fluorocarbon is: any of various chemically inert compounds containing carbon and fluorine is used chiefly as lubricants, refrigerants, nonstick coatings, and formerly aerosol propellants and in making resins and plastics.


Fluorocarbon is almost invisible and hard to see in water if it is invisible the fish cannot see the line that is holding up the puppet that is the fishing lure. I will explain some say it does not matter because the fish use their lateral line to "see", that is all I'll add on that for now it could be a whole biology lesson. 


I use fluorocarbon. The "invisibility"  and sensitivity of the line has increased the amount of hook ups and fish in the boat.  


Braided is strong, thin, has not memory and is the most sensitive. This line is the best option when fishing deep water or in the weeds. The sensitivity is unparalleled because it does not stretch. 


What happens on the line you'll feel on the pole.  The line has no memory so it allows you to cast farther than you can with the other lines. This makes it the choice for spinning reels.


The smaller diameter of braided line allows the angler to have twice as much line on the reel. One of the downsides of this line is it is the most visible.


The links below are affiliate links that if you purchase something we would get a small commission. However, we use these as an example of what they are. This allows you to see multiple examples of what there is out there and how they look. 

Fishing Line



Heater​

Having a ice fishing heater is something that I have grown to appreciate. Over the last decade there have been several improvements to these heaters that have made them affordable and user friendly. 


I have used sunflower, kerosene, catalytic, buddy, and radiant heaters. These different styles of heaters have their place some are still being produced and some are no longer being made.

Ice Fishing Heater

Ice Fishing Heater

Catalytic heater was made by Coleman. The heater runs on Colman white gas and would put out 3500 BTU's of heat. They claimed that it would run a full tank of gas for about 18-20 hours and would only use a little over a quart over night. They needed to be well ventilated, but worked great if it was not to cold. 


Buddy heater comes in several different options, are portable and convenient. You can get options that will heat large areas and have many safety features others do not. They can be used depending on the model with single, 25 lbs., and 100 lbs. cylinders.


Kerosene heaters come in large high BTU models, like all of the other heaters you'll need to vent the area that the heater is used. I have used these before to heat my house when needed. So using one to heat a small area works great. The downfall of these is the kerosene used for fuel.


Tank Top heaters generate radiant heat that warms people and objects, rather than the air. These are a portable heating solution that works great for indoor and outdoor (ice fishing) use. Always make sure to vent these heaters


Our favorite heater are the  sunflower heater that attaches to the top of a propane tank. They are nice and will allow you to carry a high output heater that will keep you warm. I have been out fishing when it was 35 below in a clam wearing a t shirt because it was so hot.


The links below are affiliate links that if you purchase something we would get a small commission. However, we use these as an example of what they are. This allows you to see multiple examples of what there is out there and how they look. 

Heaters




Ice Shelter

I will admit that now that I have an ice fishing house I don't think I would go out ice fishing with out some kind of ice fishing shelter. 


The most inexpensive(frugal) fishing shelter is an ice fishing tent or those that you build yourself. 

Ice House

 I built one when I was a kid out of a fiberglass feed trough and a couple of down hill skis and made an ice fishing seld. It was perfect for a single man ice house, it was kind of heavy and not that easy to manage though. 


I then made one that would fold out to about 3 feet by 5 feet and when folded up it could be hauled on my back or even like a large suitcase. It was close quarters but I could fit in there and so could one of my children.


I then graduated to a larger house, once I moved to Minnesota, the ice is thicker here, I am now able to drive on the ice. If you do this you need to be very careful I am the last on when ice fishing season begins with an automobile and the first off when ice fishing season ends.


 Ice fishing Minnesota is a different ball game then ice fishing in the mountains of Montana. With that said I wanted a larger ice fishing house because now I could drive to where I was fishing and I could haul it there in the back of my four wheel drive. 


So I built an ice fishing shelter out of a 4 foot by 8 foot piece of plywood as a base and a tarp, not my video but check out the link below this is similar to the one that I built this design is very popular.


Moving on, I got frustrated with how long it took me to set the last ice fishing shelter up so I purchased one of the Clam Flip Over style ice houses. This style was quick and easy to set up and with the right sunflower heater I was able to fish even on the coldest of days with out getting cold. 


In fact I was out one day when it was -30 with my coat off with the flip over up and the heat going because I was so warm. The advantages I gained from this ice fishing shelter was mobility, if there were no fish biting I could move around and find the ones that are biting.


I used the flip over so much that I eventually wore it out so I had to find another ice fishing shelter. Because of this I opted to purchase one of the Pop up ice fishing shelters, they are kind of like having an ice fishing tent. 


The advantage to one of these is the size to weight ratio, you can get a four man pop up that weighs only a few pounds they set up quick and allow you more space for your other ice fishing gear. I have now picked up an ice fishing sled that can hold my ice auger, all of my ice fishing accessories. 


My ice fishing bucket, ice fishing flasher, all of my ice fishing tackle, pretty much all of my ice fishing equipment. With this new set up I can easily haul all of my ice fishing necessities in one easy to move container.


Finally, having a good ice fishing shelter is a must when you want to go out and enjoy a full day of ice fishing on the lake. I have plans of moving up to the next level of comfort while ice fishing. 


I will either build or purchase one of the ice castle style ice fishing trailers. They have beds, heaters, some have kitchens, Televisions, they are like bringing your home out on the lake.


The links below are affiliate links that if you purchase something we would get a small commission. However, we use these as an example of what they are. This allows you to see multiple examples of what there is out there and how they look. 

The choices that we have for ice fishing are almost as large of a selection as we use in summer only in smaller sizes. There is a trick that not a lot of people mention.


A fly fishing wet fly tipped with a mousse or maggot works well  below a slip bobber with a little bit of weight. Use pattens that resemble bugs that are common to the area.  


When I was in Montana you could not beat a Royal Coachman wet fly tipped with a maggot when fishing for whitefish through the ice.


These are worth trying when nothing else works. I have a few in my box, after all what could it hurt.

Then there were other times that I would be out fishing for Kokanee Salmon using a Red Prizm 1/10 oz. Swedish Pimple tipped with 3 maggots about 10 feet below the ice over 100 ft. deep hole. 


This set up was always my go to when nothing else worked. This set up would also work for monster Pumpkin Seeds in the shallows of some of the Montana lakes, every once in while you'd even pick up a Largemouth Bass. 


However, I have noticed no matter where I have fished and want to put fish on the table that a small 1/64 oz. glowing jig. Tip the jig with a maggot for sunfish or a Crappie minnow for Crappie, Wallleye and Northern. 


The links below are affiliate links that if you purchase something we would get a small commission. However, we use these as an example of what they are. This allows you to see multiple examples of what there is out there and how they look.

Having a good ice fishing sonar is not a necessity but once you use one you will always want one!

There are many different choices when looking for a good ice fishing sonar. Do you need an ice fishing sonar to go our ice fishing? I will say no, any chance to go fishing is a must no matter the extra tools you have. I will say that once you do you'll want one they make a day fishing more successful, making it easier to find where the fish are.


I have an electronic handheld depth finder that I used before I started using the newer ice fishing sonars. With the handheld depth finder you can clean of the ice and use a little bit of water from a water bottle. I recommend to always have extra water on hand either to drink because trudging through the snow or to use when looking for the depth of the lake that you are searching for.


I graduated from the depth finder to a Vexilar FL 8 that was quite a while ago. I loved it when I first started using it the down fall of the first models was that if you had multiple sonars in an area they would interfere with each other causing false readings. I then upgraded to a Marcum Showdown which I liked but I got pretty used to the Vexilar and really liked the way it showed you what was below your ice fishing hole.


After using the FL8 and the Showdown for a few years as more and more ice fisherman got the newer sonars and we were always interfering with each other. I started using a friends Vexilar FL 18 they did not interfere with the other sonars making so that we could all fish together with out having to worry about what my fishing buddies were using. It made it nice and a lot less frustrating.


 When I finally purchased an updated sonar I picked up the Humminbird ICE 35 ice fishing sonar. The options that the Humminbird offered for the price was better then some of the other ice fishing sonars.


I will say that having the ice fishing electronics becomes an addiction, or at least it does for me. After looking at my sonar day in and day out in a buddies permanent ice fishing house seeing fish and not picking any up I picked up a under water ice fishing camera that would allow me to see what was going on under the house. 


To our surprise there were a couple of large Musky that had set up their residence underneath our ice fishing shelter. Thanks to the ice fishing camera we knew that we needed to move the house to a different spot and low and behold we started catching fish again. I will say however it would've been awesome to have hooked into one of those monsters!


The links below are affiliate links that if you purchase something we would get a small commission. However, we use these as an example of what they are. This allows you to see multiple examples of what there is out there and how they look.

Hand Held depth finder

Awesome Ice Fishing Links and Information!