Q. I’m interested in taking up ice fishing. How much will it cost me to get started?
A. That depends on how much money you want to spend.
If you’re looking to start with everything brand new and going whole hog with a power ice auger, a portable ice house, a dependable heater, high-tech electronics, a couple of ice fishing rod-reel combos and perhaps a few tip-ups, you easily can spend upwards of $2,000.
There usually are bargains to be had, though, if you keep your eyes and ears open and don’t mind buying secondhand equipment. I’d recommend using caution if buying a used power auger, though. Be sure the engine runs well — in cold weather and under a “load” when drilling a hole — and the blades are sharp.
There’s a big difference, after all, between starting an auger in a heated garage and trying to fire up the machine on a 30-below-zero morning.
As for portable shelters, the “hub-style” houses that have gained popularity in recent years are probably your least expensive option. They’re lightweight, available in a variety of sizes and relatively comfortable once they’re set up. Getting them set up, though, can be a real pain on windy days. On this I speak from experience.
All of the well-known names in ice fishing circles are sponsored by the major companies so they obviously pitch the products that help pay the bills. Personally, I have an Otter “Medium Cabin” portable that has withstood more than 15 years of use with minimal wear and tear, along with a Vexilar FL-18 flasher unit and a Jiffy ice auger.
I also have an Eskimo “QuickFish2” hub-style house
The auger is cold-blooded — and has been since the day I bought it — but it’s taken a pounding over the years. A new auger isn’t in my immediate future, but when the day comes, I’m going to give the ION electric augers a serious look.
The next portable shelter I buy will have quilted fabric.
Regardless of what you end up buying, the growing popularity of ice fishing means there’s a steady market for any gear you might decide to sell.
In the meantime, cruise the aisles of your favorite sporting goods stores and see what you like and what you can afford. I’d also recommend checking out the 23rd annual St. Paul Ice Fishing and Winter Sports Show, which begins Friday and continues through Dec. 6 in the St. Paul RiverCentre.
If that show doesn’t get you fired up for ice fishing, nothing will.