The popularity of ice fishing is undoubtedly growing by leaps and bounds. Many outdoor enthusiasts are finding this winter sport to be both entertaining and rewarding. The question I often get relates to the basic equipment necessary to get started.

Although there was a time when anglers were somewhat confused over what to purchase for their underwater viewing system, I think there is consensus among most on what to get. There is no doubt that cameras are very nice and do allow anglers to actually see the fish they are targeting. However, the initial purchase has to be a sonar unit.

Sonar units are invaluable when it comes to searching the bottom for fish. They also show exactly where an angler’s bait and jig are in relationship to the fish. In many situations, they show the bottom to be void of fish activity and signal to the angler that it is time to move.

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Sonar units are not difficult to operate. Even without personalized instruction, anglers will figure out and interpret the signals quite easily.

Selecting the best fishing rod is another matter and one that I believe to be extremely important. Since most beginning anglers are going to be focusing on panfish populations that are more plentiful and easier to catch than walleyes, rod and reel purchases need to match the species they are targeting.

Many rod and reel combos that are marketed for panfish are set up for tightline jigging situations. These means they have no spring bobber attached for a visual bite detecting system.

Although tightline jigging is very effective, it is not an easy concept to master for a beginning angler. It is all based on feel and takes considerable practice. For this reason, I believe a sight approach with a spring bobber set-up is much more practical for novice ice anglers.

I frequently take along ice anglers that are interested in learning about the sport. For them, being able to see the bite is critical to fishing success.

Fishing line may not seem like a major concern for those that are getting started, but it is. Many rods come pre-wound with fishing line. This line will be anything from four to six-pound-test which is far to heavy a line for panfish angling.

By spooling on two or three-pound-test line that is designed just for ice fishing, a person can double or triple their odds for success. It is impossible to emphasis this concept enough! Heavy line simply does not transmit bites to the surface well enough for anglers to detect and catch fish. Three-pound-test Frost is my favorite.

One last thought has to do with bait. For someone targeting crappies, minnows fished under a small bobber is a great way to start. However, Euro larvae, or maggots as they are referred to, are an excellent choice for all around panfish appeal.

These larvae are tough, stay on the hook and work extremely well with any type of jigging presentation. They give off a scent that panfish find hard to resist.

Getting started in the ice fishing world is not difficult. There is no doubt that a mentor can help shorten the learning curve. However, there are plenty of articles and videos available that will help people get started.

The most important teacher is probably experience and understanding you can’t catch fish that aren’t there. Once fish are located, it won’t take long to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

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