Ice fishing can be an uncomfortable experience without the proper gear. Spending time in the elements during the heart of winter requires equipment that will resist some of the more extreme conditions. Anglers should prioritize clothing when they’re getting ready to hit the ice.
When ice fishing, you’re going to want waterproof winter boots, a moisture-wicking base layer, warm mid-layers, and a weatherproof outer layer. Ice fishing bibs and a winter jacket can be the perfect combination for outer layers. Anglers will also want warm gloves, a hat, and a face covering.
There are dozens of companies and types of clothing that could work to protect you on the ice. With a bit of research and your personal preference, you’ll put together an outfit to keep you comfortable in any conditions.
Ice Fishing Clothing
Layers are absolutely necessary to keep you warm when you’re ice fishing. You can’t expect to stay fully warm with only one or two layers, especially on those colder days.
More layers allow you to remove or add when the weather changes.
1. Base Layers
The first place to start is with your base layers. For many, base layers are the most essential pieces of clothing you wear in the winter.
A nice set of long underwear will pull the sweat away from your body and keep that core temperature consistent throughout the day.
If that core temperature fluctuates, you’ll find yourself getting tired faster and likely have to leave. Wool is an excellent material to try and find for your base pants and shirts.
Wool is naturally moisture-wicking and quite warm. Plus, the material allows you to move, bend and walk around without feeling too much friction.
Some anglers choose to use polyester and elastane material for their base layer.
The polyester is much lighter and will not constrict you at all. However, if you find yourself wearing it for the entire day, it can get cold as you sweat and dry.
Whatever you choose, make sure you have both an upper and lower base layer.
Your legs will naturally be warmer than your upper body, but keeping that moisture off your skin and body temperatures regulated is still essential.
Do your best to invest in your base layers. Traditional cotton t-shirts and sweatpants aren’t going to do the trick. They’ll absorb the moisture and give you that wet feeling the entire day.
Mid-layers are the layers between your base layer and outer layer. Many anglers will choose to put more effort into upper body mid-layers.
However, if the temperatures are freezing, a set of mid-layer pants may also be necessary.
a. Upper Layers
Most anglers wear a heavy hooded sweatshirt for their upper mid-layers. The sweatshirt should be windproof, moisture repellent, and have some sort of hood on it.
Many ice fishing companies like Striker, IceArmor, and Norfin all make mid-layers with these features. It’s never an issue if you have a mid-layer that may be a little thicker than you need.
If it’s an especially warm day, many anglers will lose their warm outer jacket and stick to wearing that mid-layer, so that’s why the weather and wind-resistant features can keep you comfortable.
Some anglers don’t invest heavily in their mid-layers and stick with a traditional hooded sweatshirt. These are often made of cotton and polyester, so they’re not genuinely weather-resistant.
However, they can do the job as long as the conditions aren’t too extreme. If you have to choose one place to spend less, do so on the mid-layers.
b. Lower Layers
A pair of weather-resistant sweatpants would do the job for your pants. Otherwise, a pair of jeans can also do the trick. Don’t feel as if you have to spend hundreds of dollars on a mid-layer pair of pants.
It helps if they’re weather-resistant, but jeans will keep you warm and can block out some of those colder temperatures. Make sure you have a pair of base-layer pants below the jeans if you choose to wear them.
3. Outer Layers
Outer layers are going to be one of the most expensive parts of your clothing setup, which is where you should not be afraid to make a more significant investment.
While a traditional winter jacket and snow pants will work for outer layers, they’re not as effective as ice fishing-specific options.
Ice fishing-specific jackets have various features that make your life far easier when you’re in the cold.
One of the more valuable features of these jackets is that many of them come with flotation devices that will keep you on the surface of the water in case you fall through the ice.
The flotation technology alone is well worth the investment. These jackets are also fully-waterproof and windproof.
Regardless of the elements, you’ll be fully protected and won’t have to worry about getting wet or feeling the wind whipping through your clothing.
The pockets on these jackets are fleece lined, so they’ll keep you warm, and you won’t feel utterly soaked if you have to dip your hand in the water or snow at any point.
The outer layers are generally 100% nylon, and the inner layers are polyester. Many will also come with a removable hood in case that’s not what you prefer.
IceArmor, Strike King, StrikeMaster, and Striker make phenomenal jackets with all of the features as mentioned above.
The next thing to purchase for your outer layer is a set of ice fishing bibs. Ice fishing bibs are a game changer for ice anglers.
They’re made of fully waterproof and wind-resistant materials, so you can confidently fish without worrying about getting wet.
Most bibs from reputable ice fishing companies are also equipped with floatation technology, so your jacket and bibs will work together to keep you safe if an emergency does happen.
Ice fishing often requires a lot of kneeling and sitting to get your gear in the proper places. Also, bibs have reinforced areas on your knees and backside.
Traditional snow pants don’t have these features, so you’ll find yourself wearing through the pants far faster than you would wear through a set of ice fishing bibs.
The pockets and snow guards on bibs are other added features that make fishing bibs necessary.
Boots are another piece of your ice fishing outfit that can make or break your time out on the ice. As soon as your feet get cold, your time on the ice will be very short.
It’s hard to recover from cold feet, so make sure you invest in the best ice fishing boots possible. When you’re looking to purchase ice fishing boots, make sure you take a look at a few details!
First, you want to make sure the boots are built to last. Ice and snow can be hard on ice fishing boots, so you’ll be in trouble if they don’t have thick rubber soles and strong sidewalls.
b. Temperature Rating
Also, ensure you pay attention to the temperature rating on the boots.
You have the possibility to be out in weather that is below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, so choose boots that are rated for the appropriate temperature.
Also, you’re going to be walking on snow and ice, so the temperatures are going to be even colder than the air.
One of the most important things to consider is how much you’re going to be walking and moving around on the ice.
If you’re the type to walk out to your spots and move around the entire time you’re on the ice, make sure the boots you choose are somewhat lightweight and comfortable.
The heaviest and warmest boots won’t be the best options for anglers who want to be free to move.
Finally, take a look at the traction the boots have to offer. Safety is critical because you will be walking around on the ice and slippery surfaces.
Some ice fishing-specific boots have areas for anglers to insert metal spikes to give them an even better grip on the ice.
Korkers, Baffin, StrikeMaster, Muck Boots, and Irish Setter all make great ice fishing boots. They have fully waterproof rubber soles and a significant amount of grip.
Plus, they have a higher top, so you’re able to walk through reasonably deep snow without having any of it fall down into your boots.
A quality set of ice fishing gloves will keep you on the water for hours. You’ll need to use your hands the entire time you’re fishing.
You’ll be digging in your tackle boxes, scooping out drilled holes, setting up ice fishing tents, and handling fish. All of these tasks are difficult to perform without a nice set of gloves.
However, many of the tasks require getting your hands wet. As a result, the choices you have for gloves are limited.
You’ll either have to remove and put your gloves back on throughout the day or purchase a set of entirely waterproof gloves.
Ice fishing companies like Striker and StrikeMaster make heavy-duty waterproof gloves that are quite warm and comfortable.
Entirely waterproof gloves are going to be made out of neoprene. The neoprene will keep the water away from your hands, but they’re generally not the warmest option.
Some anglers choose to purchase a second set of gloves that covers their neoprene gloves for when they’re not sticking their hands in the water.
Whatever you choose, ensure they’re wind and waterproof; otherwise, you’ll find yourself quite uncomfortable early in the day.
While the boots you choose are pretty important, they don’t fully protect your feet. Socks are a necessary layer to keep any of the cold that seeps through the boots away from your toes.
Also, the socks need to absorb any sweat from your feet.
Regardless of temperatures, our feet are almost always sweating, so without a good pair of socks, even the highest quality boots won’t keep our feet warm.
Merino wool socks are far and away the best choice for cold-weather socks. These socks are lightweight, insulating, and do an excellent job of removing any moisture.
A good pair of boots and one or two pairs of merino wool socks will be all you need for an entire day on the water.
Don’t mess around with cotton gym socks or basic casual socks. Merino wool socks will prove themselves useful in all types of cold weather situations.
Hoods from outer and mid-layers can do an excellent job of protecting our heads from wind, but they’re not as effective as a hat. In cold temperatures, our body heat looks to escape in any possible way.
Often, it escapes through the top of our heads. As a result, we need to do our best to protect our heads and avoid being trapped in the heat.
A wool blend hat is ideal. Wool alone isn’t always the most comfortable thing to wear on our heads, so a wool and polyester blend is absolutely perfect.
It’ll retain the sweat and also prevent any of our body heat from escaping. These also do an excellent job of blocking any wind or cold air.
Do not leave your house without a hat when you go ice fishing. They’re indispensable.
You don’t have to purchase a hat from an ice fishing-specific company. Any warm winter hat will do the trick.
8. Face Coverings
Many anglers don’t even consider bringing face coverings when ice fishing.
Even if you’re spending the majority of your time inside an ice fishing shelter, it still takes time to get out to the spot, set up equipment, and potentially move.
Our body heat will escape through our face if we don’t have an effective face covering. A wool or polyester neck gaiter or face covering is all that we need.
We can put it down around our necks when we don’t need it and quickly raise it for when we choose to head outside.
Face coverings are the accessory that many anglers said they refuse to leave the house without when they go ice fishing.
9. Other Accessories
There are several other clothing accessories that can be helpful when ice fishing. These aren’t required, but they can make a difference.
Sunglasses will make the overall ice fishing experience more pleasant. Even if it’s a cloudy day, they can help. Snow and ice are incredibly bright.
Our eyes are not built to handle the glare and brightness that they share. If you’re fishing with tip-ups or spending most of your time outside a shelter, bring along a nice set of polarized glasses.
They’ll protect your eyes and give you much better vision.
b. Boot Gaiters
If any snow enters your boots, it’s going to melt inside and make your feet wet, which can be uncomfortable and possibly dangerous while you’re out on the ice, so invest in a set of gaiters.
Even if you are wearing tall boots that prevent some snow from entering, a set of boot gaiters can protect you even more.
These gaiters are strapped around the bottom of your boot and extend up to your knee and cinch. Outdoor Research, Traverse, and Bramble all make nice boot gaiters.
As anglers, we often prioritize the places we’re fishing and the gear we’re using. We let things like clothes fall toward the bottom of the priority list, which shouldn’t be the case.
Ice anglers especially need high-quality clothing to protect us from the harsh elements we face when out on the ice. Focus on all of the abovementioned clothing when you’re getting yourself situated.
All of it will make a big difference and add to the overall fantastic experience of ice fishing.