Breaking the Ice

Are you curious about ice fishing?

In many areas of the north small figures, often with huts, appear on ice-covered lakes. Though normally I don’t approach strangers, I’m drawn to anyone holding a fishing rod. And a vast majority of my new acquaintances like to talk fishing.

Are those ice fishermen out there any different? Would I be intruding like walking into someone’s camp, or would it be just like passing any other shoreline angler?

I asked Tim Johnston, a local ice fisherman, about this approachability issue.

“Most guys don’t have a problem at all talking to other guys. We talk to a lot of people on the ice.” But he added that when drilling, anglers try to respect each other’s space.

To be successful with any type of fishing often requires some scouting and time on the water. Visit the right ice angler and you may just learn a thing or two.


  1. For instance, as a novice ice fisherman, I always seem to notice some new set up, organization, gear, or tackle.

  2. You can get the conversational ball rolling by inquiring about the ice thickness and condition.

  3. And if you are lucky they might even share their technique such as what bait or lure, what depth, and how they are working it.

I noticed a couple of anglers giving their minnow a little more action by nudging the line a few times with an insulated boot every few minutes. One fellow even let me photograph this technique, which lets you keep cold hands in pockets and not have to bend down. He grinned and said, “I don’t usually like to give away secrets.”

Even if you are not yet into ice fishing, I recommend you grab your ice cleats and polar ice picks and experience a slow walk on some really hard water. It might even be a good occasion to try out your new “it’s not my fault” joke. Or not.

Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb is a columnist, outdoor humorist, and stressed-out Dad. He says there are “people who fish”… and there are “fishermen”.  One of the few things he knows is that he is a “fisherman”…  To the point it could be classified as borderline illness.  Sharing this obsession is rewarding, therapeutic. He likes to encourage people to “stop and smell the crappie.”  Enjoys catching fish, but gets a greater thrill out of helping someone else hook up.

Born in Florida, but raised on the banks of Oklahoma farm ponds. Now relocated to western Pennsylvania. He has fished, worked, lived all around the US.  He has a B.S. in Zoology from Oklahoma State as well…

And he met his wife while electrofishing. He has been contributing weekly to since 2011.   


« »