Ice Fishing Checklist: Essentials for a Successful Trip

John Malcolm
John MalcolmPublished: October 20, 2023
Ice Fishing Checklist: Essentials for a Successful Trip

With winter upon us, it's time for ice fishing enthusiasts to gear up for the season, and getting the right gear is crucial for a successful ice fishing trip. 

Whether you're a seasoned angler or a novice trying ice fishing for the first time, having a checklist prepared is crucial. So, we've compiled a comprehensive list of essentials you need to bring for a successful ice fishing trip.

If I were starting again, I would want a checklist to help me cover the basics and make sure I'm not missing anything. So, hopefully, this is helpful to you, too.

Ice Fishing Auger

Ice Fishing Auger Bit on the Ice

The first item on your checklist should be an ice fishing auger. Why is this the first thing? Because you can't fish if you can't get to them.

You will need to use an ice fishing auger to make a hole in the ice to catch fish. A manual auger is excellent for most anglers as it's lightweight and doesn't require gas or electricity. A gas or electric auger is better suited for serious anglers who fish often and don't want the back-breaking labor associated with a manual auger.

Here are a few of the best augers we've used.

ModelTypeFeatures
Eskimo Hand Auger with Dual Flat BladesManualThis hand auger is available in 6 to 8 inch sizes. It features dual flat blades for efficient cutting, and is lightweight and easy to carry.
ION Alpha PlusElectricThe ION Alpha Plus is an 8-inch electric ice auger. It's designed for high performance with features like a brushless motor for maximum efficiency and smooth break-through. It also includes an easy-to-connect 5-amp-hour battery.
RAZR ScoutGasThe RAZR Scout is a gas-powered ice auger designed for your brushless drill. It's built tough and comes with everything needed to attach the auger to your drill.

Ice Fishing Shelter

Ice Fishing Shelter in Northern Michigan

An ice fishing shelter ensures that you're comfortable while fishing. It also protects you from extreme cold and wind. 

This isn't completely necessary if you're fishing in nice weather, but they're still nice for those long hours on the ice.

A cozy, insulated fishing shelter is a must-have item to keep your hands and feet warm while waiting for your catch.

There are so many variants of ice fishing sheds/shelters in the market today. These range from the more robust (which almost look like mini homes on the ice) to the lightweight and dainty. However, a lightweight, portable shelter that can also stand up to the elements is typically recommended as it's easy to carry and set up.

These are our favorite shelters that provide ample space and insulation.

Shelter ModelFeatures
Clam Legend XLThe Legend XL is a one-person ice fishing shelter known for its durability and comfort. It features a full thermal skin that retains heat and reduces condensation, a flip-and-go pole system for a quick setup, lightweight design for easy transport, and a padded seat for extra comfort.
Thunder Bay Ice Cube 3The Ice Cube 3 Man Portable Ice Shelter is a spacious and easy-to-set-up ice fishing shelter for two people. It features 300 denier fabric to keep the cold weather out, six self-tapping ice anchors for stronger hold and stability, reinforced corners for durability, and extra wide skirting to keep drafts out. This shelter is made for the harshest conditions winter can throw at you.
Eskimo OutBreak 850 XDThe Eskimo OutBreak 850 XD is an insulated ice fishing shelter designed to provide optimal warmth and space. It features an oversized, trip-proof door that fully zips down to the ice, 600 Denier IllumiDarkā„¢ Gray Interior fabric that brightens the interior making it easier to see and fish, and extra headroom enabling you to stand up while fishing. Nobody likes to squat the entire time.

Ice Fishing Rod and Reel

Man Holding Ice Fishing Rod and Reel

You will need a specialized ice fishing rod and reel. Can you get away with your regular spinning reel? Sure, after one trip, you'll wish you had an ice fishing rod.

Both of these items are designed for ice fishing conditions. Ice fishing rods are shorter than regular fishing rods, making them more responsive and designed to withstand extreme cold.

See the latest and best ice fishing reels in the industry!

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Ice Cleats

Ice Fishing Cleats on Boots

The next item on your checklist should be ice cleats. 

These help prevent you from slipping on the ice while fishing. When walking on the ice, the cleats provide extra traction, making moving around easier.

If you don't ice fish too often, you'll be fine without them, but they're a relatively inexpensive upgrade to your cold-weather boots. They slip on over your boots easily and provide excellent support while on the ice.

Ice Fishing Sled

Angler Hauling Ice Fishing Sled Across Pond

A sled is essential to transport all your gear across the ice. It also doubles as a handy surface to organize and store items while fishing.

Look for a sturdy, lightweight sled that can carry your equipment without being too bulky or heavy. Keep in mind that you'll want enough room to haul your trophy bass back to land.

Some models even come with built-in seats, making them a convenient place to sit and rest. 

Get the Shappel Jet ice fishing sled! Free shipping on orders $99+

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Hand Warmers

Small Hand Warming Pouch

Along with keeping your body warm, keeping your hands warm is crucial if you want to succeed in ice fishing and spend more time on the ice.

The cold temperature can cause your hands to freeze, which will most likely be the first thing to make you cut your trip short. Hand warmers are a simple and effective solution to this problem.

I usually keep a bag of them with my gear because buying them in bulk is cheaper, and I typically use 4-6 on each trip.

Hit the ice and reel 'em in!

Not only is it dangerous to go out on the ice without the proper gear, but it can also significantly impact your fishing experience. Following this checklist and ensuring you have all the essentials, you'll be well-prepared for a successful ice fishing trip.

We didn't cover every detail, but you'll also want to remember to bring snacks, drinks, a first-aid kit, and any other personal items that may be useful during your time on the ice.

Do you have some ideas of your own? We'd love to hear about them in the comments below.

John Malcolm

John Malcolm

Expert Angler

John is a highly skilled angler with over two decades of experience and a passion that has led him to participate in numerous tournaments, including reeling in a remarkable 9lb bass on Lake Okeechobee. His dedication to fishing and willingness to share his expertise make him a respected ambassador for the angling community, inspiring others to appreciate the sport.

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