Keeping Warm on the Ice

By Bob Jensen

It got cold again! That’s good and that’s bad. It’s good, because the ice is getting thicker and safer across most of the ice-fishing region. That means more anglers will be on the ice in the near future.

It also means that it’s easier for those ice-anglers to get cold, and usually getting cold is not a fun part of ice-fishing. However, it’s not necessary to get cold when you’re ice-fishing or doing anything outdoors this time of year. There is so much outstanding and affordable clothing that there really is no need to get cold outside unless you’re in unusually extreme cold. Here are some ideas for staying warm on the ice.

If you dress for the conditions when you're on the ice you'll enjoy ice-fishing even more, and you'll also be more successful at catching fish through the ice.
If you dress for the conditions when you’re on the ice you’ll enjoy ice-fishing even more, and you’ll also be more successful at catching fish through the ice.

Remember, if you get too warm, you’re going to get cold. If you’re drilling a lot of holes in the ice, or walking from hole to hole a lot, you’re going to get warm. When we get warm, we sweat, and if that sweat gets trapped next to your skin, you will eventually get cold. We want to be wearing under-garments that will wick the sweat away from your body. Garments made from cotton are not the answer: Cotton traps the sweat. Cabela’s MTP and Polartec base layers are a great place to start.

My next layer is usually a hooded sweatshirt, and I then slip into water resistant bibs. I prefer the bib style because it offers more protection from the wind to areas that could be exposed, and I like the water resistant feature because there are times when I kneel next to the hole to land a fish. The water resistant feature keeps me dry, and therefore warmer and more comfortable.

Next goes on the outer layer: I like parka length because, again, it provides more protection to areas of skin that could be exposed to the elements. My favorite is Guidewear for both the bibs and parka. In fact, the same Guidewear that I keep in the boat for summer fishing works great for ice-fishing.

Round this out with a cap and boots. Wear a stocking cap or something of that nature. Heat escapes from an uncovered head. Set up your fishing position so your back is to the wind, and pull your hood up over your cap. If you’re facing into the wind and you pull your hood up, you get a swirling effect, and that can be not-so-pleasant.

If your feet get cold, you’re going to be cold and uncomfortable. Boots can be a personal thing: Some folks like big “pac” insulated boots that are very warm, but can also be heavy. They’re great for keeping warm, but they make walking around a lot of work.

There are lots of lighter weight boots available that do a great job of keeping your feet warm if you keep moving–several layers of wool socks can help a lot, but be sure to size your boots big enough that the layers don’t cramp your toes–cramped toes are cold toes.

And then, probably the best way to keep warm on the ice is to fish from a permanent shelter that has a heater inside. This year I’m spending quite a bit of time in an Ice Castle house. It’s warm, it’s comfortable, and it’s also very easy to move to follow the bite. Now, that’s really the way to go ice fishing.

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