Fishing in frozen waters isn’t for everyone, but close to two million Americans head to the ice every year to uphold tradition, bond with friends and family, or enjoy a quiet day of fishing.
Braving the Cold
Ice fishing is a popular winter pastime in communities in northern US states. Thousands of families brave the cold to bond around a meal caught from under the ice.
Finding the right time to fish is crucial for every trip, especially when scheduling around big events that usually draw in large crowds. Also, the ice should be thick enough to support the people on top of it — but not so thick that it makes it difficult for drills to punch through.
With its popularity, ice fishing brings massive revenues. Hunting and fishing shops in Michigan, as well as other states where ice fishing is popular, take in substantial amounts of money during winter. And often, a part of that revenue goes to local initiatives for wildlife preservation.
Preparing for Your Trip
You’ll need more than your usual rod and tackle box if you’re heading out to the ice. Unless you plan on sharing someone else’s fishing hole, you need to bring a drill or auger.
While you can certainly attach an auger to an electric drill, piercing through the ice by hand is a bit more satisfying. But with or without the electric drill, make sure to limit the size of your fishing hole to eight to ten inches to make sure no one falls through.
You can do with only a thermos and chair if you’re not staying long. But if you plan on staying, bring a portable heating device or maybe even a portable shelter to go with it. Also, make sure you have a spud bar to check the thickness of the ice — four inches of thickness should be the minimum, and wearing a life jacket is essential until you’re sure the ground is stable.
Ice cleats can help you move around with ease, and a pair of sunglasses can keep the glare away. Wear warm clothing and bring some sunscreen. You don’t want to come home with uneven tan lines on your face. Also, a day or two of being under the sun (though it’s not hot as you’re surrounded by ice) can expose you to ultraviolet radiation.
Bring a stove if you want to cook your catch or storage container if you want to bring it back home. Pack all your things and bundle them up in a snow sled for easy transport.
You’ll still need a license for ice-fishing — but there are exceptions. Be sure to check your local fishing laws and regulations and secure necessary permits before driving to the lake.
Free Fishing Weekend
You can fish without a license during the Winter Free Fishing Weekend in Michigan. But expect more people in the Great Lakes as locals and tourists head to the ice for two days of free fishing. The state also fills these weekends with festivities and activities for families.
Ice fishing is a long-held tradition in the Great Lakes. Friends and families bond on the ice as they share a warm meal. Pack your rods, augers, and cleats, and brave the cold for a day of fishing.