The cold is here. Ice is beginning to set on your favorite lake. And the fish are hungry.
If you haven’t ice fished before, it can seem a little daunting. But have no fear. We’ve done all the research for you, and we’ve got a bunch of options for you to fill your freezer with some of the best protein out there.
Here are our picks for affordable and well-reviewed ice fishing gear.
Portable Ice Shelters
Ice Cube 3 Man Portable Ice Shelter by ThunderBay: $170 (15% Off)
Do you need an ice shelter? Not always. Will it keep you fishing for a lot longer, keep you comfortably warm, and entice more friends to join you? Yep. It will.
This three-person shelter is a good starting point, and it has rave reviews. It’s one of the few shelters with a five-star rating, and people really like its fast setup, blackout interior, and backpack carrying system. It comes with eight ice anchors. Best yet, reviewers tout that it’s bigger than you think.
The cons? It’s not insulated and will build up a bit of condensation. Fix: Pop open a window for airflow. You’re welcome.
For a bit more cash, you can level up to an Eskimo insulated shelter with a more space. If you plan on fishing with pals, go splitsies and go bigger. This comes with six self-tapping ice anchors, and it boasts two doors and six windows.
One fella said he fit into this deal with seven of his pals. It might have been a bit of a cuddle puddle, but I’m guessing it was pretty fun. Also, ignore the bad reviews of people using these in the desert as a tent. Or read them for entertainment. Up to you.
If you’re not looking to fish with a crowd, there’s a plethora of affordable one- to two-person ice shelters for under $100, like the highly rated GYMAX Ice Fishing Shelter for $90.
Eskimo Hand Auger: $50-97
Although an electric auger is the bee’s knees, it’s not necessary. And there’s something gratifying about digging your own hole in the ice. Depending on where you live and where you’re gonna fish, you have a few options for blade length as it relates to ice thickness.
If you’re in colder climes with deeper ice, go big. But if you’re not, the 6-inch option should be just fine.
And, if you’re ice fishing where a lot of people hang out, someone will usually take pity on you and dig the holes for you with their electric auger. Just sayin’.
If you feel like really classing it up from the beginning, an electric ice auger is the way to go. Seems like Eskimo and ThunderBay take top spots for affordability and ratings, and this five-star-reviewed auger looks like a great bet.
Ice Fishing Rods, Reels, And Tackle
I love things with weird names, and this rod and reel combo doesn’t disappoint. For $25, you get a nice starter kit.
Folks say this rod is durable enough for big fish, and with options from lightweight to heavyweight, it’s a nice middle-of-the-road combo for nearly anything that’ll take your bait.
Tip-ups can be used instead of rods and reels, or as a secondary setup if you dig a few holes. Just set the rig up, put it over the hole, and it’ll flag you once a fish takes hold. It’s an affordable and easy way to add more fish to the cooler.
I like this little kit. The jigs are varied in both size, shape, and color. Some glow in the dark! And they’ll work on a nice variety of fish.
For added oomph, go to your nearest tackle shop and pick up some live bait before you hit the ice.
A Few Extras
Save yourself the hardship of lugging your stuff from the truck to the lake and get yourself a sled. Not only will this transport your ice fishing kit to the water, but it will also go down hills for some real sledding. This sled is tough as nails. We’ve even used it to haul out a quartered elk after a snowy hunt.
Or, if you don’t wanna spend $50, I betcha you can rig a kiddo’s sled for a bit less cash.
Portable Gas Heater: $24
Heat is your friend while ice fishing. Most people would say that beer is too. But I think both make for a decent warming combo. And this little butane-powered heater is both affordable and easy to use. It’ll run for 3 hours on a medium-size butane tank. Not bad.
This is less an extra and more a must-have. Skimming the chopped-up ice from the hole allows a clear line of sight while fishing and a clear lane to reel ’em in once they’re caught.
You’ll use this way more than you think. And you’ll regret not having one when you’re fishing out the ice with your cold, bare hands.