Lakes are locked up solid with ice and its high time to chase some orange flags.
Ice fishing is on every die-hard anglers radar, myself included, as I just got off the ice before writing this. My first trip of the year reminded me of all the gear you need to bring with you for a day on the hardwater. Starting off, tip-ups are the most common form of contraption to catch fish through the ice, Berkeley makes a decent one to get you started.
Spool up with Dacron for the main running line, then tie to a 50-pound Spro barrel swivel to which a 24-inch section of 8 to 30-pound seaguar fluorocarbon leader is tied to a size #6 to 2/0 Octopus hook depending on the target species which can range from small yellow perch and crappie to chain pickerel, northern pike and muskellunge. Live shiners are used for bait. Perch and bluegill are suckers for jigs such as Rapala Pilikki and Rufus Jr. offerings and jigging can be accomplished with the use of a tiny ice-specific rod and reel set ups such as a 13 Fishing Widow Maker rod matched with an ultralight Daiwa QR750 reel spooled with 8-pound Trilene Micro Ice monofilament.
Other must-have accessories to make a day out ice fishing successful and comfortable include a solid pair of Costa 580 lens Blackfins to repel the brutal sun glare, Berkley Ice Scoop to clear the ice chunks out of the holes, a pair of Berkley Hemostat pliers for hook extraction, and of course a Jiffy Ice Auger SD60i model to easily bust fishing holes through the ice. Chasing flags and jigging with tiny rods is a full on exercise in fun, and while many people think its nuts to be out on the ice, the rewards can be awesome.
I've had 50 perch days, pulled 46-inch muskies through the ice, and pulled out thousands of chain pickerel, trout, crappie, largemouth bass and landlocked salmon over the years. Plan your trips around low pressure systems moving in as the fish get on the feed before a storm front moves through and try to hit days of minimal winds. If you're a newbie to ice fishing, welcome to the club!