Duke Cannon's Ice Fishing Confidential

Much like Scotch eggs or the rich cinematic tapestry woven by Ernest Borgnine, ice fishing is one of those things you’re probably very much into or not all interested in. If you’re among those (heaven forbid) who haven’t yet decided where they stand when it comes to long cold days on the hard water, or just need a refresher on what can help turn an average ice fishing outing into an awesome one, here are some tips from us, a devout practitioner of the art.


Maybe you’ll bring a buddy along. Maybe a fellow angler with a whole lot on his mind will waddle over when the bite’s off. Regardless, the key to commiserating all day without tempers flaring is to avoid potentially divisive subjects. After all, the only voting that really matters out on the ice is when the group decides what they should have for dinner (answer: catch of the day). So ahead and chew the cud out there, just don’t let it come to blows, or even worse, lead to grown men giving one another the silent treatment for an entire weekend. 


Multiple cases of light American beer (Busch Light, anyone?) are, of course, a must-have (also: don’t worry about bringing a cooler, as everything in the vicinity, including you, will technically be “on ice”). A thermos of hot cocoa is certainly acceptable. Pints and half-pints of your favorite schnapps will certainly help make the long days more interesting. And enterprising folks who like to stay caffeinated for night-long battles with 50-inch muskies might want to bring along their favorite style of coffee (a fire and a French Press is certainly feasible.) At any rate, be sure to stay hydrated while on the rocks. 


Shiners vs. Suckers. Wax worms vs. Mealworms. Spikes Vs. Wigglers. Suffice it to say, there are decisions to be made when it comes to piercing your hook with something a pike might contemplate devouring. May we suggest not overthinking this? If you were a hungry fish, what would you enjoy nibbling on (obvious answer: other fish, because FISH ARE CANNIBALS)? The last cheese curd? Why not? Maybe even do your finned target a solid and dip it in your favorite sauce (that we sincerely hope is not ketchup). 


There will almost certainly come a time on the ice when the fish aren’t biting, and boredom sets in quicker than a chill in your toes. Luckily, there are no shortage of pastimes the gentleman angler can use to while away the long hours. First, one could always stand to get some whittling done—although this is admittedly trickier when wearing choppers. A cribbage board has also been known fit nicely into the bottom of any respectable tackle box. And when all other activities have been exhausted, bringing along a book to keep you company (we suggest enduring classics such as The Shining, or The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson) is always a solid bet.


In a word? Layers. Body hair, a union suit, flannel pajamas, favorite hoodie, favorite sweats, lucky parka, lined pants, gloves with the fingers cut off, and a toque to top it all off like a cheery on a sundae. Conversely, you can always forego the layers, and go “starkers” beneath the warmest insulated coveralls money can buy (Legal disclaimer: Duke Cannon is not able to confirm the efficacy of this approach nor guarantee its acceptance by fellow shed dwellers).


Modern man has settled on three primary ways of excavating one’s own personal hole in the ice. The hand auger (manly, yes, but slowly going the way of the dodo), the gas auger (reliable, but smelly and loud), and the new kid on the block, the electric auger (quiet and shockingly powerful, but concerns re: battery life are understandable). And of course, we’d be remiss not to mention our old friend, the chainsaw. Our advice? Use whatever you have on hand, and whatever gets you safely through the ice.