Summer and spring are great times to get out on Lake Erie to fish for trout, perch and walleye. However, for intrepid fishermen (and women), fishing season doesn't end when the temperature dips below freezing.
What is ice fishing?
Ice fishing, as the name implies, means getting out on the ice, digging a whole in the ice and dropping in a line. In some parts of the country and the world, such as Minnesota, Upper Michigan and Finland, ice fishing is a time honored tradition and resident fishermen erect ice houses as soon as the lakes freeze. In our neck of the woods, the weather is less predictable and it's not safe to go out ice fishing every year.
How to know if it's okay to go ice fishing on Lake Erie
Lake Erie, the most shallow of the Great Lakes, tends to freeze early. However, just because the water is frozen along the shore line, doesn't mean that it's safe to venture out upon the ice to go fishing. Usually, northern Ohio temperatures aren't cold enough for there to be safe ice fishing conditions until January or February. Keep in mind that it takes four inches of ice to support a 200-pound person with gear.
Clear ice is generally the strongest. Cloudy ice or ice with debris in it means that the ice has thawed and re-frozen. This ice is usually weaker. Safe ice begins at about five to six inches of thickness. Use your ice auger to make a hole in the ice and gauge its thickness before you walk out onto the ice.
It's important to remember that no ice is completely safe.
What you need to know about ice fishing on Lake Erie
If you think you want to try ice fishing this year, make sure you are prepared. Just a few things you need for your ice fishing adventure include:
- A valid Ohio fishing license
- An ice auger
- A sled to get your gear to the site
- An ice chisel
- A change of clothes in case what you're wearing gets wet
- A dip net
- Ice fishing rods (short rods)
- Something to sit on
- Live bait and a bait bucket
- A gaff hook
- A skimmer
Ohio catch limits still apply to ice fishing. In addition, know that ice holes can be no larger than 12 inches in diameter. Winter anglers are limited to two hand-held rods and six tip-ups per person.
Lake Erie ice fishing safety tips
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources offers the following safety tips for Lake Erie fishermen (and women.)
- Consider hiring an ice fishing guide, particularly if this is your first ice fishing trip.
- Fish with a buddy.
- Avoid fishing in areas with bridges, docks, feeder streams or dams as the ice is usually thinner in these spots.
- Wear a life jacket, just in case.
Learn more about Lake Erie ice fishing