Whether for a sporting activity or emergency calories, ice fishing can provide much-needed nutrition when the rest of the environment is a frozen wasteland. Ice fishing is full of traditions and a few hazards, but when done correctly (and with luck) – it rewards the angler with delicious fish.
But before you can catch anything, you need to have options for opening a hole in the ice. Holes dug with hand tools are the traditional way that our ancestors procured fish through the ice, and the methods still work to this day. Heavy, sharp pointed ice chisels (sometimes called spuds) are a common way to chop a hole through the ice. These tools include long handles which maximize their effectiveness.
Other ice fishing hand tools include hand turned augers to drill and a skimmer to clear ice chunks, slush and ice chips from the hole. But if you lack the tools to bore a hole through the ice, then step back a few thousand years and use something our remote ancestors would have used – a hot rock. Simply burn a large fire on the shore, heat up a large stone in the blaze. Make sure you collect the rock from a dry location, as waterlogged stones tend to explode violently in high heat. After an hour of heating, use a shovel to carry the dangerously hot stone to your ice fishing spot and set it on the ice. It will begin to melt the ice immediately and work its way downward. Soon the rock will melt through the ice and drop into the dark water below. Your ice fishing hole will be open, smooth and ready to fish.
And if you just can’t seem to stay warm while you’re out there on the ice, try a trick your old granny would approve – a hot water bottle! Just fill a sturdy bottle with hot water and screw the lid on tight to prevent leaks. Then stuff the bottle down inside a sock and place it inside your coat. This can provide you with hours of comfort.
These tips, and many more survival tips, are in MacWelch’s books: Prepare For Anything – the Hunting & Gathering Survival Manual – How To Survive Anything – the Ultimate Winter Survival Handbook – and How To Survive Off The Grid
Follow him on Twitter @timmacwelch
And check out more of MacWelch’s outdoor skills and survival articles in Outdoor Life Magazine.