Ice Fishing Minnesota's Big Four

A Gear Revival
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Ice Safety

Although the lakes in Minnesota typically freeze solid, some more than three feet thick, it is necessary to be cautious whenever venturing out onto the ice. The DNR does a good job of keeping areas notorious for having thin or weak ice marked with flags to keep people away from potential danger. Most resorts and local radio stations give "ice reports," which update the status of lakes and the depth of ice. It is important to stay informed of current conditions and not to venture out until it is safe. Many anglers carry a length of rope and a personal flotation device in case of emergency.

For further information contact the following:

Mille Lacs Tourism:
(888) 350-2692

Leech Lake Tourism:
(800) 735-3297

Minnesota's Lake of the Woods:
(800) 382-FISH


Ice fishing and its gear are undergoing a revival of sorts. The emphasis is being placed on personal comfort and convenience coupled with technology. Today's icehouses have become portable mini-motels with creature comforts ranging from gas heat and padded seats to bunk beds and toilets. Portable shelters can be set up and taken down in less time than a camping tent. Augers for drilling holes are fast and efficient and anglers can simply fire up a gasoline-powered machine to break through the thickest ice.

On big lakes, location is critical and finding a particular spot is next to impossible without some guidance. Today's anglers are relying on GPS systems to hover in on their favorite spots, as well as keeping track of all the holes that are drilled during a day.

GPS can also be a lifesaver. On the larger lakes, it is not uncommon to travel a couple miles or more to get to the fish. In the event of a winter storm, that GPS unit may be the difference between getting lost and making it back to shore safely.

Underwater cameras are also becoming more popular with anglers on the ice. These devices give anglers a view of the watery world below and bring sandbars, gravel beds, and vegetation to life. Cameras can even be hooked up to full-size televisions and allow everyone in a fishing party to watch what's happening underneath them.

With all the emphasis on high tech, it is still possible to catch plenty of fish with the simplest gear. The tip-up is a ubiquitous piece of ice-fishing gear that has been around and continues to thrive. It is extremely popular for live-bait fishing and requires little effort to use. It is essentially a triple cross (think of x-y-z axes) that lies over a drilled hole, with a spool of line and a flag attached to a piece of steel that signals a strike. You simply bait a hook, lower the line, and rig it to the steel and wait for the flag to indicate fish on. The tip-up is nice because it can be used simultaneously with other lures, such as jigging spoons, and gives the angler an extra chance at success.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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