5 ice fishing tips for beginners
Our ambassador Regine gives you her best ice fishing tips.
Think safety first!
Make sure the ice is safe, at least ten centimetres thick, ideally fifteen, if you're unsure of the quality of the ice! Remember the ice is not equally thick in all parts. Around reeds and estuaries, for example, special care must be taken. The ice may also be thicker close to land than further out, so it's worth checking multiple spots. Never fish on regulated waterways, such as those that supply drinking water. Always wear ice spikes around your neck. If disaster strikes, you'll have a greater chance of being able to pull yourself back onto the ice. If you're going out alone, it's a good idea to take a spare change of clothes in the car or on land. If you're unlucky enough to fall through the ice, it can be just as dangerous to go around in wet and cold clothing. In spring, sunglasses and sun cream will always come in handy.
Ice fishing usually involves a lot of sitting still and it's easy to get cold. If you're out in the mountains, proper clothing is especially important. The weather changes rapidly and a only a few degrees below zero can quickly become unpleasantly cold if it's also windy. In Norway, we've fortunately almost reached the point where we're born with wool against our bodies. Many people are familiar with the layer principle, which is not only effective in the cold, but also makes it easier to regulate heat if it suddenly warms up and the sun comes out. Personally, I really feel the cold! My favourite item of clothing above is the Ulvang Rav trousers. Imagine the feeling of a good, warm woollen sweater and now picture that warmth on your lower body as well. Underneath, I wear a double layer of wool long johns. Thermo or Rav are good options and I actually use both. On top of this I wear thick ski pants that are a couple of sizes too big. Air provides insulation and the biggest mistake many people make is to choose shell clothing that is too tight. For my upper body, I start with a wool T-shirt. I prefer the Training range from Ulvang, even if I'm not going to be exercising. If you get a little sweaty, for example, when drilling holes in the ice, the moisture is quickly transported away from the body. If it's a long walk and the T-shirt gets very sweaty, it's also helpful to be able to remove the bottom layer. Then I only wear only a wool top and the Rav sweater or the Ulvang Half Zip sweater on top. Around my neck I have RIM headover and, for my head, I switch between the Rav and Bugøynes hats. Last but not least, wool mittens and wool socks – I prefer to use Expedition socks with Raggsokken socks. Again, it's important to have enough room in your shoes, otherwise you get too cold. As a rule, your legs are in contact with the ice for the entire trip. Take along your portable stool and cover with an insulating ground mat, or do as I do and take your reindeer skin with you – it's the best underlay you'll find.
Keep warm with proper clothing.
Simple equipment will get you far
You don't actually need much equipment to fish on the ice. An ice fishing rod is very inexpensive and most sports retailers sell them. They come ready to use with a small reel, lure spoon and hook. I always replace the knots that hold the lure spoon, as well as the entire line between the hook and the spoon. To make it easier, you can just fish with the rod as it's supplied. The lure spoons come in different versions. Silver, gold and copper are the most common. A little golden rule is that if there's poor light, a lighter spoon is required. Some sports retailers and angling specialists have a good selection of live bait (worms and maggots), although this is not the case everywhere in the country, unfortunately, but most also carry artificial bait. Parts of raw fish or prawns can also work well as bait, although prawns may be banned in some waterways. In addition to pegs, lure spoons and hooks, you also need to drill a hole in the ice. An ice fishing drill does the job quickly and easily. Drills can be a more expensive investment, but local hunters and fishing clubs often lend out equipment so it may be worth getting in touch with one.
Ice fishing requires minimal equipment.
Different set-ups catch different fish
The most common 'ice fishing fish' is the Arctic char. Arctic char is often called a winter fish because it likes the Arctic climate. If it's your first time ice fishing, I recommend you choose waters with Arctic char. Municipalities, fishing clubs and other locals often know which species live in the different lakes and rivers, so you just need to ask around. Google is also a great source of information. In principle, fishing on ice is very easy and I would say something anyone could try. You simply attach the bait onto the hook and lower the hook and lure spoon down into the water until they hit the bottom. Once the bottom has been found, you wind the line up slightly again so the lure spoon and bait are hanging right above the bottom. And then you wait. And in between you just lift the rod a little so the lure spoon moves slightly in the water. It's always worth trying different variations, such as alternating between long pulls, short pulls and carefully tilting the rod. The standard set-up of an ice fishing rod often works best for Arctic char, but the odd trout may also find its way onto the hook. For Arctic char, maggots are the best bait. I often use a combination of red and white. I have also had luck with a mix of artificial and live maggots. The Arctic char lure spoon attracts the Arctic char so it finds the bait. Trout are more skittish and often prefer the lure spoon to stay completely still. If there are only trout in the water, try using a balanced jigging lure and hat mormyshka, which is a hook with a coloured head. I also prefer using maggots on the mormyshka and basically rarely fish with worms. But in certain conditions, a big fat worm can be impossible for the fish to resist. Sight fishing is incredible fun – this is where you drill a hole in quite shallow water and look down through the hole to watch the fish bite. If the water is deeper, I often use a flashing light, which hangs over the lure spoon and helps the fish see the bait.
Find out where in the water the fish are
Where to drill the first hole is always a difficult decision. If you're not familiar with the water, it's worth looking for previous holes, which are often marked with a stick. If there are no previous holes on the ice, start in shallow waters or off headlands and islands. When the lure spoon is lowered down into the water and allowed to sink down to the bottom, this churns up sand or mud, which Arctic chars like, and if there's one in the area it will soon come to check whether any food has been released from the mud. It often pays to be ready from the outset. If you're not lucky straight away, just start lifting the rod so the spoon can drop down again or twitch it from time to time to keep the bait in movement. Sometimes it seems as though the fish likes a lot of movement, while at other times it may prefer it if you hold it still. This can vary from day to day, and hour to hour, so there's no hard and fast rule here, you just need to see what works. If fishing in deeper water, it's also worth trying fishing at different depths. You may find the fish in the middle, or even right under the ice. If you've been waiting a long time for a catch, it may be worthwhile to change holes. Personally, I try not to sit for more than half an hour at the same hole if I don't feel anything. Arctic char often swim in schools in the water and it may be a long wait before the shoal comes by your hole. Trout may also swim around in schools, but it's more common to find individual trout or trout swimming around in small groups. In winter, trout become inactive and stay very quiet. Therefore, it's a good idea to move around often if you haven't felt any twitches for a while. Moving around gives you a greater chance of finding the school or individual fish.