Ice fishing as the great equalizer

by Ray Blades | February 6, 2023
kids pulling ice fishing gear in a sled
Photo: Jason Bain

What I’ve always loved about ice fishing — aside from it being a great excuse to be outdoors getting fresh air and exercise during winter — is that it is the most inclusive fishing option we have.

Sure, like so many outdoor pursuits you can take it to complex levels and have all the latest gear: electronics, snowmobiles, ATVs, and portable ice shelters, but, at its core, ice fishing is angling’s great equalizer in that anyone can participate, have access to some of the best water in the province, and catch limits of fish using only the basics. Gather a pair of good boots, some decent gloves, a hand auger with questionably rusty-sharp blades, a pocket-sized box of jigs and spoons, and ice rod and reel, and you’re off to the races.

It can even be simpler than that. During warmer stretches of the season, I’ve seen anglers forgo an auger and just run and gun, the ice-fishing version of trolling, using holes drilled the previous day that didn’t freeze over or are only covered by thin, heel-stompable ice.

Keep ice fishing simple

In the keep-it-simple vein, I’ve seen some monster fish landed by anglers using a willow branch stuck into a snowpack, turned into a sensitive strike indicator by attaching a set-line spool, tipped with a hook, minnow, and split shot at the terminal end. It doesn’t get much simpler than that, especially when you can do it all within a 100-yard walk from where you parked.

I’ve lived through the finesse-fishing craze and threaded my share of one-gram tungsten jigs onto four-pound test line in howling winds and dimming light. But I’ve also had a lot of fun — despite cold, wet feet — with family and friends enjoying the fun found in keeping it simple. This winter, whether you go high-tech or keep it simple, I hope you enjoy your time on the ice.

Ray headshot

Ray Blades is the Editor of Ontario OUT of DOORS and a lover of wild places and the life-giving magic of hot black coffee. Reach Ray at:; Twitter: @rayOODMAG; Instagram: @ray.blades

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