Try something new this winter: Ice fishing

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 4_36_59 PM 2When the winter chill sets in, it can be difficult for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy all the open-air opportunities Iowa has to offer. But the winter months don’t have to halt outdoor fun. This winter, try something new: Ice fishing is a great way to extend Iowa’s recreational season year-round and enjoy the state’s beauty with friends and family.

The expansive Clear Lake in Cerro Gordo County is the perfect location for this cold-weather activity. You’ll find an abundance of fish species, including yellow bass, walleye and muskie as well as a growing population of perch and bluegills. The lake has an ample amount of fishable areas to claim and plenty of local resources to get first-time ice fishermen — and ladies — fishing safely and successfully.

Ice fishing season usually starts in mid-December and can run through the end of March. Local Clear Lake bait shop owner Dan Krauth recommends starting on the lake’s smaller west lake and moving eastward as the season progresses. For first-timers, it’s important to be aware of the lake’s conditions prior to venturing out on the ice. Five to six inches of solid ice is recommended for walking and 12 to 14 inches for driving. Anglers can check the Iowa Department of Natural Resource’s website or local bait shops’ websites for daily updates on lake conditions throughout the entire state.

The key to an enjoyable and productive ice fishing outing? The right gear. Special, smaller rods and reels are ideal, as well as winter-specific lures. Live bait like minnows and waxworms are also popular. Many fishermen bring tents and heaters to keep comfortable on long days, and wearing warm, water-and-wind-proof layers is important to protect against freezing temperatures.

Fishing guides are a great option for beginners. On a four-to-eight hour trip, your guide will take you to the best producing spots, explain ice fishing basics (drilling holes, types of bait, fish cleaning) and give helpful tips on how to make the most out of your trip. Trip costs depend on the guide, but most range from $175-250 a day, including all gear needed.

For more info on ice fishing basics and resources, visit our website.

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