Ice fishing is becoming more popular every year and a way to still get out there with nature and the thrill of the catch.
Because casting is not required in ice fishing applications it is not necessary to have a long fishing rod. To get you started an initial purchase of two separate rod and reel combos would be recommended. An ultralight model is an excellent choice for panfish. A standard length is approximately 28-inches with a fast-action tip. A medium-action rod is tailor made for walleye, small trout and pike, and will work well as your second combo. Look for a rod of around 28 to 30-inches in length, with a solid backbone throughout the lower 2/3rds.
During the winter, a fish's movements may be more subtle due to the colder temperatures, thereby making the movements harder to detect. As such, a more sensitive rod tends to come in handy. Graphite rods tend to be more sensitive to the movements of the fish. The only problem is that graphite rods also tend to break easier in colder temperatures. Therefore, when selecting your ice fishing rod, you'll also want to take into account the temperatures that you'll be fishing in. Some anglers opt to go with a composite or fiberglass rod instead because they tend to hold up better in the cold.
Look for an ice fishing rod with a handle grip that is not too cold to handle and allows you to feel the movements of the fish. High grade cork handle grips work well. They are sensitive to the vibrations of the ice fishing rod, and they tend to warm up quickly with the application of body heat.
Regardless of the species you are chasing, an ultralight reel is your best choice when ice fishing. It will complement the rod in weight and size, and will allow the line to run more true through the rod guides. If you already have ultralight reels that are used for open water fishing, these will do just fine. You may want to clean out the grease inside, as this can freeze when the temperature really dips, seizing up the entire unit. Many ice fishing reels come standard with "cold weather lube," and are quite inexpensive. The nice thing about buying a few is the option to use them once open water arrives, giving them a dual life.
Ensure that drags are smooth, as light line is often used for ice fishing.
Rods and reels can often be bought as combos, saving you the added expense of buying each separately.
Line is an important link in your ice fishing outfit. Mono normally works well and it is good to stick with a reputable brand. There are many new ice lines out on the market, and these lay claim to less memory and higher strength yields. Whatever line you choose, go with 2 to 4lb test for panfish, and 6 to 8lb test for walleye, trout and pike.
Get out there and enjoy Ice Fishing until the warm weather is back upon us.