Mother Nature’s winter wonderland always falls upon us sooner than we realize in Wisconsin. Daylight Savings Time passes and the hours of daylight quickly become shorter.
Once upon a beautiful fall afternoon, while walking around a local lake with my lovely wife and my 2-year old son, I noticed the squirrels hustling and bustling to get their food harvested and back to their winter digs. Clearly, just one of Mother Nature’s visible signs telling us to prepare for what’s ahead!
Proper preparations is a key ingredient to so many successful opportunities, experiences, and adventures in life! Ice fishing being one of those!
Drastic climate changes between the four seasons is a special part of living in the “Great, White North!” Proper preparation can make all the meteorological changes more enjoyable for individuals particularly those who choose to live an outdoor and active lifestyle throughout the year.
FACT: An estimated 590,700 Wisconsinites 16 and over report they ice fish, up from 479,000 in 2000, according to the most recent National Survey.*
There are individuals who scoff at the idea of ice fishing with gruff utterances of, “Why would you want to sit on an overturned bucket, on a block of frozen ice, freezing your backside off, while staring a hole in the ice?”
The ice fishing season lasts anywhere from 60-75 days from mid-December to the first week of March so…Most ice anglers maintain a similar attitude when it comes to enjoying the sport, especially when fishing with the next generation of anglers…No one WANTS to “freeze their backside off” for 13 weeks out of the year!
Comfort should be valued by families who ice fish and there’s not one reason you shouldn’t be one to value it as well.
Like a conscientious squirrel, we need to prepare by making sure we have stock of the critical ice fishing apparel items enabling us to properly dress for the occasion.
Here’s a comprehensive list of clothing items needed to comfortably and safely enjoy ice fishing.
The goal when preparing to outfit yourself for an adventure on the ice should be to stay warm and dry! The main guideline is successful outfitting is best accomplished by dressing in layers.
- A moisture wicking base layer next to the body is key–walking through snow with a certain amount of gear requires exertion. REMEMBER: Ice Fishing IS a winter SPORT! The goal, again, is to stay dry, so keeping sweat away from the body is ideal for maintaining a warm core temperature. I highly recommend Under Armour Cold Gear.
- Moisture wicking socks as part of the base layer–there is nothing worse than wet feet, EXCEPT COLD, WET feet! I recommend Under Armour Cold Gear Socks as well.
- A Long Sleeve T-shirt–I know many ice anglers who claim “good luck” by supporting their favorite sports team within this layer!
- Blue jeans or Sweat pants–A loose fit style of pant makes for a flexible yet comfortable layer over your base and underneath your shell.
- A Quality Outer Shell–One might argue that Clam’s lineup of jackets and bibs designed exclusively for today’s ice fishermen and women is the most revolutionary outerwear. Personally speaking, there is no denying the piece of mind that comes along with their exclusive windproof, waterproof and breathable apparel. They also feature a padded knee and rear area keeping in mind the common postures of an ice angler.
- Two Sets of Gloves–I always carry a set of half-finger gloves with a waterproof palm, which is helpful when fine motor dexterity is needed to bait hooks, retie knots, and unhook/release fish. I also use mittens as opposed to gloves when not in the act of jigging. Keeping my forefingers and palm housed together, allows for quicker warming of the hands and fingers while using hand augers, scooping out holes, and transitioning on and off the lake, or between fishing spots.
- A form-fitting full head balaclava that easily converts to a neck gaiter for use in a multitude of changing weather conditions. is also included in my arsenal of ice fishing apparel.
- Quality Pair of Thinsulate Boots–Again, nothing is worse than cold, wet feet! I recommend Cabela’s Inferno 2000 Pac Boots. I have used the same 2000G Pac Boots for the past few years and have fished comfortably in air temps of -5 below! Well worth the investment.
- Baseball Hat or Visor–During the late ice period in February and March OR on the rare occasion we get a 50 degree day in the middle of winter like in 2010, wearing a baseball cap or visor to reduce glare from the sun overhead is key.
- Winter Hat–Anywhere from 7%-50% of body heat is lost through the head depending on level of activity. A simple winter hat is vital in maintaining your overall body temperature. While I may wear a baseball hat or visor for reducing the outer glare of the sun, I tend to wear a winter hat over them to keep my body temperature consistent.
- Sunglasses–I know…I know, it’s winter, BUT the glare of the sun reflecting off the ice or snow is a serious issue. Especially to those who enjoy jigging outside of a shelter and hole hopping. Repetitive exposure to that intense white glare can result in long-term damage to an ice anglers eyes just as it would during the open water season due to harmful UV rays.
Clothing is ONLY the starting point in regards to the equipment necessary for an ice angler.