Buying Tips for Getting into Ice Fishing

Buying Tips for Getting into Ice Fishing

Matthew Davies image of an ice fishing hut out on the lake.

The dog days of summer are over and winter is now in full swing. If you live in a place that offers ice fishing, you are no doubt considering your options for continuing to pursue your hobby in a colder environment. I, Matthew Davies, know that it is hard to get into a different mindset when it comes to fishing. I also know ice fishing can be just as expensive as regular fishing, but it doesn’t have to be.

If you are considering taking up ice fishing, you are not alone. More and more people are taking it up. In fact, ice fishing is more popular than ever before. I would venture to say this pique in interest can be attributed to the advances we have made in technology. Previously, you would have to bundle up, get out on the lake, saw a hole in the ice, only to be rewarded with hours upon hours of sitting on a bucket in the freezing cold and possibly snow. Today, we have lovely warm cabins that we drag onto frozen bodies of water, specialized ice hole diggers, and fun fishing electronics to help us find the fish. All in all, it is a fun outing to take with family and/or friends.

While all of these technological advances come with a hefty price tag, not all of them are necessary. In fact, you can get involved in ice fishing for dirt cheap. To do this, you can reuse all of your tackle from your regular tackle box. The same reels, line, sinkers, bobbers, and hooks can all be used for ice fishing. The only thing you will really need to buy is an ice fishing rod. They are much shorter than your summer rod because you won’t be casting with it. Alternatively, you can drop $50,000 on getting the best of everything, including a fancy house with big-screen televisions, bathrooms, beds, and a kitchen. Honestly, I have seen these, and they are bigger than my first apartment. Your options vary from spending very little to going all out and buying the best that money can buy. Below I will explore all of these options in detail.

No Cost Option

This is the absolute cheapest way you can pick up ice fishing. All you need to do is find a family member or friend that has all of the equipment already. Clearly, this isn’t a long-term option, but it’s a great way to try out ice fishing without making a huge investment in the sport. Most people will be happy to have someone to talk to on the ice. However, everyone has a limit on how willing they are to share their stuff. If you should happen to break or lose anything, it will need to be replaced. You can offer to replace it, but since you know little about the activity, they may end up just replacing it themselves. This can end up costing them a lot of money, so you will want to bump up to a better option as quickly as possible.

All you will really need if you decide to try out the activity is really warm clothes, some snacks and drinks to share, and maybe a flashlight to see what you are doing in low light conditions.

Low-Cost Option

After a trip or two with a family member or friend, you should know if you want to invest in some ice fishing gear. This would be the minimum level I would recommend for someone during their first season of ice fishing. The entire setup should only cost you around $100. While this amount will cover all the costs associated with your equipment, you will still need someone to drill a hole for you. In the future, you may want to pick up an auger that can range in price from $80 – $300. With all the other things on the list, it will be out of range of the $100 I told you it should cost for this option.

For this option, I recommend you purchase starter options for all of the following items.

  • Fishing rod and real – $25
  • Fishing line – $5
  • A small assortment of lures – $15
  • Slip bobbers and bobber stop knots – $5
  • Variety pack of sinkers – $5
  • Ice seining scoop – $5
  • Tie-up reel – $20
  • Tie-up reel line, leader, and hooks – $10
  • Plastic bucket or chair to sit on – $5 – $20
  • A lake contour map for your smartphone – Up to $50

These prices are just an estimate. Your location may see different prices. Just make sure that you don’t overspend on a hobby that you may or may not enjoy next year. With the exception of the phone app, you can sell the other stuff to recuperate some of your money.

Medium Cost Option

The medium cost option includes everything in the low-cost option, with the addition of that auger mentioned above and a few other things. At this stage, you are going to want to start considering a small pop-up to sit in for the winter. Most of these come with a small stove that you can use to keep warm. There are many options, so choose carefully so as not to overspend.

Last but not least, you are going to want to invest in a range finder. These can cost up to $500. Although it seems extravagant, these gadgets do come in handy for locating the best fish the lake has to offer.

All-in Option

As with the upgrade from low cost to medium cost, this option will include all of the above items. However, you are going to start upgrading your equipment, drill, and pop-up to the top of the line varieties. This does not make you a better fisherman. It merely makes your ice-fishing adventures more comfortable. And if you have decided this is something you intend to do for a long time, you’ll find it’s worth the investment.


Over the past few years, I, Matthew Davies, have upgraded from the no-cost option to just under the medium cost option. The more I go ice fishing, the more I want to get stuff. Maybe one day, I will have the opportunity to get that All-in Option. I hope you have found this helpful and look forward to seeing pictures from all of your ice fishing adventures.

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