The ultimate list of ice fishing essentials


November 25, 2022


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Ice fishing essentials

The idea of going ice fishing can be daunting. After all, who wants to be on a frozen lake with the temperatures below zero and only a thermos of coffee to stay warm! But according to Annie Keovongsy, buyer at SAIL and ice fishing enthusiast, it’s one of the best winter activities there is to do. It allows anglers to admire great winter scenery, it can be done on pretty much any lake in Quebec or Ontario and, as a bonus, you come back home with your dinner! But having the right equipment can make all the difference between enjoying yourself in the great outdoors, or having a miserable time on the ice. SAIL has put together a complete list of all the ice fishing essentials to take with you on your outings. This way, you will never forget anything at home, only to realize it once you’re standing on a frozen lake!

In this article you will learn more about:

  1. What to expect when you go ice fishing
  2. Top tips to stay warm and comfortable
  3. Best places to go ice fishing
  4. A few ice fishing pro tips
  5. The complete list of ice fishing essentials

What to expect when you go ice fishing

Those who want to give ice fishing a go can do so in a shanty or cabin (often heated), and most outfitters will have the basic equipment available onsite. All you have to bring are your clothes and some snacks! This option can be a great family activity. Many of us probably remember going tomcod fishing in one of the 500 huts located on the Sainte-Anne River as children. On the other hand, some anglers prefer to move about on the ice to increase their chances of catching fish. This requires more gear in order to stay comfortable and warm throughout the day.

Basic ice fishing equipment required

Ice fishing essentials ice augerFirst, you’ll need an ice auger to cut holes in the ice. You can opt for a gas powered one (don’t forget to take extra fuel with you), a battery operated one (bring your charger) or a manual one. Once you’ve cut a few holes in the ice, it’s time to get the fishing rod out. You can choose to use an ice fishing rod or to set up a few tip-ups. Once you’ve installed several of these, all you have to do is step back, keep an eye on the horizon, and run over whenever you get a bite.

You’ll also need your basic fishing kit, which includes a reel, fishing line for ice fishing, hooks, bait, spoons, rigs and lures, as well as a knife and pliers. Annie’s top tip? Use a sonar. “If I don’t get a bite, I don’t stick around. I’ll pack up and look for a better fishing spot,” she says.

Staying warm and comfortable when ice fishing

Dressing up warm, even if you are likely to stay inside a heated hut or tent, is crucial. Use layers, and remove or add items of clothing as and when needed. Read our article here to find out more about layering to stay warm.

What to wear

Ice fishing essentials snowsuitYou’ll need a good winter snowsuit. Any quality snowsuit will do, but if you intend to take up ice fishing as a regular hobby, you may want to consider a jacket and snow pants designed specifically for the sport. Ice fishing snow pants often have an extra layer of padding on the knees for kneeling down, as well as pockets made of sturdy material so you can carry sharp objects (such as tools and pliers) without damaging your jacket. Both your jacket and snow pants should also be waterproof as you are bound to get wet at some stage.

Your boots should be waterproof, and high enough for you to thread through the slushy layer that sometimes sits on top of the ice. They should also be warm, but not too heavy as you will be walking a fair bit, checking on your tip-ups throughout the day.

You’ll also need a good hat, a neck gaiter, warm socks (and a few spare pairs just in case) and some mittens or gloves. Annie recommends gloves over mittens, as they allow for better dexterity in cold temperatures. Nobody wants to remove their mittens at -20 °C to deal with wet fishing gear!

How to stay comfortable on the ice

Our expert suggests using a sled to carry your equipment. Whether you pull it yourself to the middle of the lake, or attach it to a snowmobile, you’ll enjoy having everything you need at your fingertips. You can also set up a tent or shelter, and bring in a heater to warm yourself up throughout the day. Make sure your chosen heater is suitable for this purpose (look at Mr. Heater’s models for a wide range of options), and that your tent has adequate ventilation. Don’t forget to bring a comfortable chair or, at a minimum, a cushion so you can sit on top of an upturned bucket.

The best places to go ice fishing

Ice fishing essentials best places to go ice fishingThere are plenty of amazing places to go ice fishing in Quebec and Ontario, but the SAIL team particularly enjoys exploring the Saguenay fjord for groundfish (such as cod and turbot), and the St. Lawrence River for walleye. However, if you want to fish for trout, you will need to go to an outfitter.

A few pro ice fishing tips

Always check local regulations before going fishing and ensure your fishing permit is up to date.
Remember that using live bait is forbidden in Quebec.

Make sure you either eat the fish you catch, or put it back in the water. Don’t let it freeze outside the water and just leave it.

The complete list of ice fishing essentials

Here is everything you need to take with you on an ice fishing outing:

Ice fishing essentials

  • Sled
  • Tent or shelter
  • Heater and spare propane cylinder
  • Chair (or a cushion to sit on)
  • Ice auger (with charger or extra fuel)
  • Lunch and snacks
  • Water
  • Fishing permit
  • Bait and bait bucket
  • Spoons, rigs, lures
  • Hooks
  • Fishing rod / tip-ups
  • Fishing rod case
  • Reel
  • Fishing line
  • Spoon (to remove the ice forming on the holes)
  • Fishing knife
  • Pliers
  • Bucket

What to wear

  • Winter coat
  • Snow pants
  • Warm, waterproof boots
  • Warm socks
  • Hat
  • Neck gaiter
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Spare layers (base layers and mid layers)

A few luxuries

  • Sonar
  • Thermos of coffee or hot chocolate
  • Toe and hand warmers!


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