Beginners Guide to Ice Fishing

What is Ice Fishing?

Do you love Utah Lake? Do you love fishing? Do you love wintertime? If you answered yes to all three of these questions, you need to go ice fishing! Ice fishing is a great way for anglers to take their family and friends out fishing during the wintertime without a boat. Whether you already go ice fishing, or this is your first time hearing about it, keep reading for some great tips, how-to’s, and safety precautions.

Check out the Fish Utah Interactive Map from the Division of Wildlife Resources; an interactive map which helps you find the best places to catch your favorite fish species in Utah. This map gives you information about the latest fishing forecasts, stocking info, regulations by waterbody and more.

Ice Fishing Safety:

There are so many exciting things to do while recreating on the ice, however it is important to remember how dangerous it can be as well. Before you go out on the ice always check weather conditions and consider ice safety tips to prepare everyone for a safe and enjoyable time.

Click here to visit individual State Parks Conditions. Visit this link for the Utah Lake State Park Webcam. These are a few helpful resources from the Utah State Parks, that help us stay up to date on conditions to be aware of.

Safety Tips:

Click here to see more Ice Safety Tips.

Here is a great video that goes into a little more detail about some of these suggestions and displays some helpful safety gear.

Gear you need:

While freshwater fishing and ice fishing are both…fishing…the gear and equipment needed for ice fishing is much different. You need special ice fishing gear to handle both the fish and the elements. The essentials to ice fishing include:


Live or artificial bait will both work for ice fishing.


Ice fishing rods are very short, usually spinning rods varying from 24-36 inches. This allows you to stay closer to the hole you are fishing out of. Another popular device is a tip up. A tip up is a device that sits on the ice above your hole and dangles bait beneath the water. Attached to the tip up is a small reel and a flag that is bent over. When a fish takes the bait, the reel turns and releases the line and the flag at the same time, this alerts the angler that there is something on the line.


An auger is one of the most important tools to have when getting ready to ice fish. An auger is a tool with a large blade that allows you to drill through the ice to create the hole you will fish from. There are battery, electric, hand, cordless, propane and gas-powered augers. A battery or gas-powered one is best to use if you plan to change fishing spots often or have thick ice to drill through.


Ice fishing can get cold when you are out on the ice, especially when the wind picks up. An ice fishing shanty is a portable shelter to keep you from the cold. Some shanties are hand-made while others can be bought at the store. Some are made of wood and others are made of lighter material such as canvas or vinyl.


The most important thing about ice fishing clothing is that it keeps you warm. Whether you get the higher tech clothing that have a wider variety of capabilities and comforts or layer warm clothing, it is key that you stay dry and warm. In addition to being insulated, some ice fishing suits are windproof, waterproof, have breathable outer shells, and quick-acting drainage systems. In some cases these suits are capable of flotation as well. Insulated boots, scarves, hats and gloves are also key to staying warm.

Click this link to visit the webpage that talks a little more in detail about important Ice Fishing Gear. In addition, click here for some specific brands and kinds of clothing that are popular.

How to Ice Fish:

If you are just a beginner in the ice fishing game, these steps will help you in your pursuit to learn how to ice fish! Now that you know what gear you need and preparation to stay safe, let’s talk about how to do it!

Step 1:

Purchase a fishing license that is valid in the state you will be fishing.

Step 2:

Check the fishing regulations that apply to the state and waterway you are fishing at.

Step 3:

Find a fishing rod that has a good amount of sensitivity, but that is shorter than a standard rod. Since you will be fishing in a hole close to you, a long rod over 3-4 feet is unnecessary.

Step 4:

Decide when and where to fish. Check the weather forecast, dress appropriately, and educate yourself and those you are going with on fishing safety. You will want to learn the spots on the waterway you are recreating on that are both safe and likely to hold fish.

Step 5:

Decide what bait you will use, whether that is live or artificial. Live baits such as minnows and wax worms are best for beginners.

Step 6:

Test the ice and drill a hole using an ice auger. Use extreme care and place the auger blades on the ice while applying pressure as you drill the hole into the ice.

Step 7:

Rig your lines using your live baits or lures and allow them to fall to the bottom. Once they hit the bottom, reel your baits or lures up a foot or two. This will hopefully position your line within striking range.

Step 8:

Wait for a bite and reel it in! (:

If you are looking for a good video that will show you the process of ice fishing, watch this video from the Utah Fishing Channel!

One more tip…LEARN, LEARN, LEARN! Learn about the behavior of the species you want to catch. Learn from slow days by keeping a journal and noting what did and didn’t work. Learn from others who are more experienced in ice fishing. Learn about the specific body of water you are going to and its depths at various locations. Pairing information about the body of water and behaviors of the fish you want to catch, have the potential to increase your catch rate.

The Division of Wildlife Resources has some more great suggestions that will help you when ice fishing.

Decrease impacts to fish for catch-and-release ice fishing:

When you are preparing to go ice fishing it is important to remember the effect you have on the fish. Just like hot temperatures and warm water can have impacts on certain fish species, freezing weather can also be tough on fish.

The fish you are catching are living in water that is not frozen. This means that the water temperature the fish are experiencing is usually warmer than the temperatures the fish are exposed to when you bring them out of the water. Pulling a fish up through a hole and exposing them to freezing conditions can be stressful to a fish. The water that remains on sensitive areas — such as the gills or eyes — can begin to freeze and this can cause damage to a fish.

One way to eliminate the air exposure time is to make sure you have quick access to all the tools you will need to release the fish easily and quickly. Fish have a protective slime coat on their skin and wearing gloves while handling the fish can remove the slime coat.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources goes into a bit more detail on these tips that will help you decrease stress and increase survival for the fish when catch-and-release ice fishing. Visit this page on their website for more information.

Ice fishing tournaments:

If you are looking to spend some quality time with your family and friends, go ice fishing and be given an exciting challenge check out some of these ice fishing tournaments! The Utah Division of State Parks is hosting several tournaments at parks across the state. Register today to reserve your spot!

Why you should Ice Fish at Utah Lake!

Utah Lake is one of the greatest places to be! Not only is it great for boating, fishing and other summer activities but now you have one more exciting thing to add to your list of winter recreation at Utah Lake! Clearly, our staff is biased on this topic ;)… and we should be, because it’s the greatest lake on earth, but here are 5 reasons we pulled together why you should ice fish at Utah Lake:

  1. Its close to home
  2. Has a large variety of fish to catch
  3. Has 5 state fishing records
  4. Has 27 public access points
  5. Always has beautiful views

Utah Lake is the place if you are looking to participate in a fun, diverse list of activities! Don’t forget to take the right safety precautions, so that you can have a safe and enjoyable time at Utah Lake. (:


Fish Utah Interactive Map

State Parks Conditions

Utah Lake Webcam

Ice Safety

Ice Safety Video

Ice Fishing Gear

Ice Fishing Clothing

Ice Fishing How To

DWR Ice Fishing Tips

Catch-and-release Tips

Ice Fishing Tournaments