Originally Published by the Kingston Whig-Standard, January 20, 2016

By Ashley Rae

I have hope that we are on a good cold stretch from here on out and that ice fishing season may be here to stay for a little while. I’ve had a few trips further north, but this has been one of the latest years I can remember. With more ice fishing adventures on the horizon, I figured I’d make a list of some of my favourite ice fishing accessories:

1. Ice chisel (also known as a spud). This long metal bar with a chiseled edge is a very quick and effective way to check ice thickness. The weight of the spud makes it easy to apply enough force to strike the ice ahead before stepping on it. I like the two-piece ice chisel made by Rapala as it’s nice and heavy and also breaks down for easy storage when not in use.

2. Safety picks. Just like insurance, safety picks sure make life easier in the event that you do need them. This is another must-have safety item. An ice pick is an inexpensive tool that hang around your neck and can assist you with pulling yourself back to safe ice if you happen to break through. I haven’t had to use my safety picks thankfully but they will always be there just in case. They are sold nearly anywhere that carries ice-fishing equipment.

3. Sled. Over the years I’ve tried various types of shelter options, but with the amount of snow last year (and the fact that I’m on foot most of the time), I found it much easier to downsize and store my gear in a sled. In previous years I had been using a flip-over shelter (with a built-in sled) but they tend to be much heavier than a pop-up shelter, for example. Switching to the sled is a lot lighter and an easy way to transport my gear out to the ice in one trip. I’m using a small Nordic sled made by Fish Trap.

4. This leads me to the next item: a shelter. Last year I primarily used a pop-up shelter as it’s fairly light and packs up quite easily, not taking up too much room in the sled. I decided to upgrade this season to a thermal model made by Rapala. In a few trips so far I’ve noticed a major difference in how well it holds heat, but has had no condensation dripping down.

5. Ice anchors. If you’re using a portable shelter, wind is not always your friend. I’ve been ‘that person’ sailing across the ice with my shelter because I wasn’t anchored down and it was a lesson learned. There are various types of ice anchors on the market that can make life easier when the wind picks up.

6. Propane heater. I don’t experience much of the cold on the ice because I run a propane heater inside my hut. Mr. Heater makes various options at various price points that are great for use on the ice. I use a Buddy Heater paired with a five-pound propane tank (and adapter hose). I found that it’s more cost effective to fill the five-pound tank every few trips rather than going through several of the one-pound propane tanks.

7. A good chair. I feel old as I’m writing this, but a good seat is definitely important if you’re sitting on the ice all day staring down. There are endless options for seating, some even ice-specific but even camping chairs can work great for ice fishing. I’d recommend something light, yet sturdy, with good back support and avoiding plastic materials that can easily break in the cold.

8. A flasher. I’d trade in for any of the above (except the safety tools of course) for a flasher! A sonar made for the ice, a flasher provides information about water depth, fish mood and some are even equipped with cameras. There are various options available at all kinds of price points, but they certainly help make the most of your time on the ice.

Ice fishing gear and lures is a whole other column, but these are just a few of my favourite accessories. What’s great about ice fishing is that it’s accessible to all, doesn’t have to cost a lot to enjoy, and can be enjoyed comfortably. Please be safe!

Follow Ashley Rae at www.SheLovesToFish.com.

 Photo courtesy of Ashley Rae. kingston_whig_standard