By Anietra Hamper
Posted On: Feb 7, 2014
I have always wanted to try ice fishing, but fear of walking onto unknown depths of ice and my dislike of cold weather have kept me from taking the plunge.
So, I teamed up with Ken Fry, Outdoor Skills Specialist for the Ohio Division of Wildlife (ODNR) and Curtis Wagner, ODNR Fisheries Biologist to give it a shot. I discovered that with proper attire, safety preparations and experienced mentors, ice fishing is a truly an enjoyable winter activity.
As we trekked out onto the ice at Portage Lakes State Park, there were a number of fishermen who had already been there for hours.
Even though I was outfitted with an inflatable life jacket, and ice picks to wear around my neck (used in case of falling through the ice), those first steps onto the frozen lake were unnerving.
As we set up base, Curt used an auger to drill several holes in the ice while Ken measured our depth. With six inches of ice beneath us, we were comfortable to begin baiting hooks with maggots, wax worms and minnows.
Trying to juggle my tiny bait with giant gloves, the long line on the tiny pole, wiggly fish, my drippy nose and making sure I was stable on the ice was a lot. However, over time, managing these things became easier.
We used sonar to help navigate the depth of the fish. It was indeed a great day to be on the ice. I landed nine crappies, which I threw back, but there were fishermen nearby pulling in piles of crappies, bluegill and walleye that they will take home to eat. The state has specific regulations on the size of fish you can keep so it is important to know that ahead of time.
Here’s a beginner’s checklist, if you want to try ice fishing yourself on one of Ohio’s great waterways:
- Clothing- It’s important to be warm and comfortable. Layering on both top and bottom is essential.
- Safety – There is no such thing as “safe” ice. Knowing how thick the ice is, using the buddy system and having safety devices on-hand (life jacket, throw bag, ice picks) will decrease your chances of something bad happening.
- Equipment – You MUST have a valid Ohio fishing license to go onto state waterways. You can get outfitted with basic ice fishing gear for under $75 (auger, rod, hooks, bait, ice scooper and bucket). As you get more experienced, you may opt for a shanty or sonar device to add to your tools.
Ice fishing is a fun and enjoyable experience if you are comfortable and prepared. If you are a first-timer (like I was), I recommend finding someone experienced who can take you out to show you the ropes. The Ohio Division of Wildlife is a great reference for information.
A good first experience is important. After several hours on the ice, I also highly recommend some hot coffee and a big bowl of chili!
For more information about ice fishing in Ohio, check out this video from ODNR on the ice fishing experiences at Lake Erie this year! Some are saying it's the best they have seen in 40 years!