No need to stay inside during the long winter months. Be adventurous, bundle up, get outside and try ice fishing! You can get started with a minimum amount of equipment. You will have to choose your gear to match up with the fish you are after, the larger the fish, the heavier the tackle.
The first thing you will need is an ice spud or an auger to get through the ice. A spud is the most economical to purchase, or you can make one for little cost. It should be heavy with a sharp chisel head to make cutting through the ice as easy as possible.
A hand auger is handy for when the ice gets thicker. There are several nice models out there and it is hard to choose one. If you are after BIG fish you may want to take a spud with you also. There is nothing more frustrating than getting the fish to your hole and finding that it will not fit through it. With a spud you can enlarge the hole to get the fish landed.
You will need an ice skimmer to remove the ice and snow from the hole you just made, it looks like a small colander with a handle attached. They come made out of plastic or aluminum. Be careful! There has been more than one person who has had it slip out of their hand and go down the hole.
You will need a jigging rod. There are many different kinds and styles. You need a rod that will let you feel the lightest hit. The water is COLD and the fish sluggish, so the hits are generally light and hard to feel. Brim rods work well for perch, pan fish and sometimes trout spooled with 2-4 lb. test. These are essentially spring bobbers with a reel attached. If jigging for trout, walleye, etc., use a medium action rod and anything from 4-10 lb. test, depending on the fish you are after and the depth you are fishing. This is a good all around rod and will do you good steed as a starter.
One other item is a tip-up. There are several different styles and makes to choose from. Be sure to get one that has a free turning spool so when a fish takes your bait it doesn’t feel the spool as it is taking out line.
These items will get you started into the sport of ice fishing at a minimal cost. There are also power augers, portable fish shacks and fish finders that are nice to have, but are not a requirement if you are on a budget. Just be sure to dress warm and have a good time!