Fishing is a social sport; ice fishing even more so. I can't recall a morning after a hot (or not-so-hot) dawn bite that I haven't stepped out of my shack to see who else was punching holes in the dark, ask how the fish were biting fifty yards away and shoot the breeze with a fellow angler. Having a friend or family member along to back up my story and add a joke or a tale to the mix is fun, too. It's the companionship of ice fishing that makes the sport even more enjoyable.
Sometimes though, finding someone to tag along on an ice fishing trip can be tough, especially when your buddies are busy with other things. But, in reality, you need look no further than across the dinner table or in the passenger seat on the way back from the grocery store. Though oftentimes our significant others can't grasp why we would want to spend our time staring down a frozen hole in the ice, they are quick to warm up to the idea of ice fishing after a successful outing or two, and you may gain a new fishing buddy and introduce someone to a positive lifelong pursuit if you can convince them to come with.
If you are planning to take your spouse or significant other out for the hard water experience there are many things to keep in mind, the foremost is conditions. Only the hardiest anglers hit the water when it is twenty below zero, the casual or inexperienced angler probably would balk at such a thought. It is better to present your plan to introduce them to the sport when the weather forecast leans toward calmer days with temperatures in the teens or twenties.
Make sure that the ice is safe for your mode of travel, and that the spot is not too far of a hike if you plan on going on foot. Consider snow depth as well, the inexperienced angler might not be comfortable trudging one hundred yards through drifts, no matter how good of a bite might be going. Focus on making the trip fun for your companion, rather than just for your sole enjoyment.
With a date in mind, perhaps a Saturday morning or evening, get ready a few days in advance. The night before the outing, or the day of your trip, get some snacks and drinks ready. Remember to pack a thermos full of your significant other's favorite warm beverage, such as hot chocolate, coffee or cider. Fill your auger, charge your sonar and have your rods set to go. Make sure propane heaters are working and have ample fuel.
Advise your companion to dress warm for the trip, and to err on the side of overdressing. One can always take layers off, but can never add them if they are not along.
Rig your combos with the lures you will use so you can begin fishing upon arrival at the spot you plan to fish. Know what species you will encounter, and be ready to fish for them, purchasing the proper bait before hand.
Scout It Out
It is important for new anglers to have fun on the ice, and fun means catching fish. Talk to your usual fishing buddies or the local tackle shop owner to find out where the fish are biting, or use your experience from this season and others to target readily biting fish. Steady action produces an enjoyable time on the ice, even if the average size isn't all that big. While one big fish may produce an incredible memory, a three-hour trip filled with thirty good-sized specimens will also be memorable.
Target fish that bite all day, like perch or pike, for a steady bend in the ice rods. Or target evening bites, focusing on the two-hour window where crappies, trout and walleye tend to bite the best through the ice. For these fish, don't arrive at your honey hole too early, as the slow time leading up to a night bite just causes inexperienced anglers to get fidgety and cold.
Remember the Moment
Don't forget to bring a camera and include the pictures of the outing, whether you knock the fish out or only catch cold. Take photos of you and your significant other enjoying the moment together, using the auger, baiting the hook and just having a good time. Whether you skunk or catch sixty, make it a memorable experience.
Write the results down in your fishing journal as to what worked and what didn't and how your significant other reacted to the finer points of ice fishing. Just like how you use your past experiences to try to figure the fish out, these notes will gauge further interest your spouse or significant other might have in other trips on the ice...in our outdoors.