What better winter sport than ice fishing? Of course, you can always go for a little skating or such when there is an abundance of ice, but that can hardly beat the excitement of catching a big fish. The warmth of self congratulation does for all the discomfort, if there are any.
But, if you are a newcomer, first things first. A pro will, of course, already know about all the aspects of ice fishing.
Do not ever walk over ice that has not been tested for strength. If you are a first timer, do wait until the ice on the pond or the lake is at least six inches thick. You should also remember that, black ice is safer than white ice. Black ice contains air bubbles, it consists of snow that melted and refroze, it is safer. White clear ice is not as safe. If somebody is already fishing near the spot you have your mind on, ask about the thickness of the ice. If there are no fishermen around, drill small holes in the ice at places where it seems the thinnest. It is always safer if you choose a spot where the water is not very deep. A moderate depth is okay for ice fishing and water depth has really nothing to do with your success.
You have left home with all the equipment you need, except the ice augur. Disaster! Do not forget to carry the auger since it is of primary importance. This is the tool that will drill a hole in the ice for you. If you have a foot of ice, and you are absolutely new at sawing off ice, then its no mean task. There are two kinds of augurs available. One is manual, hand powered, the other mechanized, powered by gas. The latter is easier to handle, but also the costlier between the two. For beginners, the hand augur, priced at 30-40, is preferable to the 200-400 gas powered augurs.
You will also need tip-ups. A tip-up is a device that has a spool of line wound round a reel which is submerged through the hole that you have dug in the ice. In case a fish grabs the bait, a little colored flag at the other end of the tip-up goes up in the air, signaling the catch to the fisherman. These come in a number of different forms. However, with tip-ups, you should always be careful as to how many are allowed simultaneously. For example, Connecticut law does not allow youngsters under 16 to use more than six tip-ups at the same time.
Have with you a tackle box. Furnish it with gear like extra line, hooks, sinkers, pliers; and do not forget your knives. You will need all of these when you go fishing. Also, take along a tape measure and a weighing scale to exactly judge your prize catch. And do take with you an ice ladle to scoop the ice you dig from the hole. It always come in handy. If you are a braggart, take along your camera to immortalize your prize fish by photographing them.
For bait, use medium shiners for good results. It is universally used in ice fishing and comes more or less cheap.