After a productive winter of pulling in your limit of Walleye, Northern Pike, or Perch, it’s gut-wrenching to think of stowing all your Ice fishing lines, rods, and tackle. If they were a way, you could use your favorite gear when ice isn’t covering the water. We’re going to look at how much of your gear can still land the big ones in the warmer months.
Snippet – Typically only about 30 inches long & used with ultra light reels, ice fishing rods aren’t ideal for all open water fishing, but they can help fill the limit when trolling or jigging in warmer weather. You already own gear that works under the ice. Read on to see how it can get the job done in open water too.
- What is an Ice Fishing Rod & Line, and How are They Used?
- How Open Water Rods & Lines Differ from Ice Fishing Lines
- How to Use Ice Fishing Gear for Open Water Fishing
- So, Does an Ice Fishing Rod Work in the Summer?
What is an Ice Fishing Rod & Line, and How are They Used?
While Ice fishing has many similarities to open water fishing, the equipment used and techniques used are unique to the ice fishing niche. Here’s a snapshot of ice fishing equipment and how to use it.
Tip-ups are devices that allow fishers to suspend their lines with spools and live bait beneath the ice. A flag connected to the spool tips or pops up when fish take the bait. The tip-up system has several advantages.
First, it’s easier to find the fish because you can watch more holes. Next, the spool being under water avoids the common problem of freezing. Last, don’t miss the lighter bites of fish sluggish because of winter’s ice. Best of all, tip-ups catch fish ranging from bluegills to Northern Pike.
Ice Fishing Rod with Spin casting or Fly Reel
When buying an ice fishing rod, keep in mind that just as you don’t use a sledge to swat a mosquito, you won’t need a heavy action rod to wrestle in bluegill.
Follow these basic guidelines when selecting a rod and reel combo, they apply to fish under the ice or in open water. The rod and reel you choose should hinge on the fish species you’re targeting. Simply put, matching your gear to the size of the fish you’re aiming for.
Ultra-light gear gives you the most play when you’re fishing for panfish like bluegill or crappie. Light action rods are good for perch, rock bass, or even smallmouth bass. Medium action gear handles walleye, trout, and largemouth bass. Heavy action gear lands the big boys like salmon, Northern pike, and muskie.
Typically, ice fishing rods are carbon fiber or fiberglass, both have pros and cons. Graphite rods are more expensive than fiberglass, but they’re lighter and more sensitive than fiberglass rods. As a result, you feel more bites which equal more fish hooked. Graphite does not tolerate the cold as well as fiberglass.
Fiberglass rods are cheaper to own but less sensitive than graphite rods. The upside is more flexibility, giving you better control when wrestling a trophy fish. Fiberglass also performs better than graphite in cold weather.
Ice fishing rods range from stubby 24 inches to 44 inches. 28 inches is an average length.
Ice fishing rods are shorter because instead of casting over the water’s surface, you lower your line through a hole in the ice and allow it to sink to the desired depth.
A few facts on shorter rods: They are best for ice shelters because of confined space. The short length makes them easier for kids to use. Graphite is the best all-around performer for shorter rods. Unfortunately, they’re less flexible and absorb less shock than longer rods, meaning you’ll need more muscle when setting a hook or fighting a fish.
Longer rods are more flexible, which allows more shock absorption and makes them more sensitive. The shock absorption means good hoot sets and greater control when reeling in your catch.
Spin casting & fly casting reels
Ice fishing reels need less line because you’re dropping a line straight down rather than casting across the water.
When using a spin casting reel, line weight should match the action of your reel.
An ultra light action reel works well with a 2-4 pound test line. Medium action rods with medium action reels with app. 4-6 pound test line. Match the reel and line weight to the rod’s action.
Fly casting reel – These can be the same reels you see anglers use for fly-fishing in warmer months, or fly-type reels designed for ice fishing. This simple in-line design helps to limit line twist. Allows for easy control line and jig depth. Gives you greater control when jigging.
How Open Water Rods & Lines Differ from Ice Fishing Lines
When fishing, the goal is always to get your bait or lures to the fish. For ice fishing, you drop a line through the ice to the desired depth. On the open water, you cast your line across open water. These contrasting delivery methods account for the radical difference in both rods and reels.
Under the winter ice, fish are sluggish, and strikes are lighter. Hook a fish and they don’t run or fight as hard. Therefore, ice fishing rods have lighter weight construction and less line on their reels. Both facts are why ice fishing gear isn’t the first choice for warm weather fishing.
Longer rods cast farther but can be squirrelly, difficult to control, and result in more twisted lines. Shorter rods, 5-7 feet, are strong enough for bigger fish and work well for fishing underwater structures like brush or cable spools when in a boat.
In open water, you’re casting your baits or lures over the water’s surface for much greater distances, then cranking them back over the same distance. This is why the average 28-inch ice fishing rod isn’t a good fit for the open water.
There are few exceptions where they work. Ice fishing rods are great first rods for kids. Fishing from a boat for panfish is another place they work.
How to Use Ice Fishing Gear for Open Water Fishing
First Kids Rods
My first ever fishing rod was an old ice fishing rod an uncle gave me. I used that rod the next few years to fish off docks, break walls, shorelines and hooked more than a few lake Erie perch from a boat. A 36-42 inch long ice fishing stick is a great rod to teach your kid to fish with.
The ice fishing jigs you already have are irresistible to panfish when carrying red worms, maggots, or even nightcrawlers. I’m sorry to say that for summer panfish Ice fishing rods stay in the garage, but be sure to bring your ice fishing jigs.
From a boat, use a long cane pole or spin casting rod and set it up with a lightweight float and a favorite jig no bigger than 1/32 of an ounce. Dark for clear water, bright for cloudy water.
Set line depth based on light conditions. Add live bait, peel off some, and place the line on the water’s surface, then allow the jig to sink. Fish around the structure or the edges of weed beds. Keep bait fresh, relax and enjoy the catch.
So, Does an Ice Fishing Rod Work in the Summer?
As it turns out, Ice fishing rods and reels aren’t really a fit for most warm weather fishing. Their shorter lengths make them less than optimal for casting over open water. Ice fishing rods have lighter weight construction and may not manage friskier warm water fish. Finally, ice reels lack line needed for casting or fighting more energetic fish.
But don’t pack away all your ice fishing gear yet. Those short rods, fitted with a regular spin casting reel, are great for teaching your kids to fish. Their compact size will work nicely the next time you want to do some light fishing while canoeing or kayaking. Finally, the ice fishing jigs you’ve used all winter can do double duty in the summer months to fill up on panfish like crappie or even some bigger walleye.