There are few experiences that can compare with sitting out on a frozen lake under falling snow and fishing. Ice fishing is one of the oldest sports around. In New Hampshire, the winter season is long enough, and cold enough, to create safe ice on the lakes and rivers to allow you to enjoy this activity. Don’t just grab a pole and a saw and go. There are a lot of different options, and regulations, that you should be aware of to get the most out of the experience.
Getting set up to start ice fishing
The first thing you will need to do is go online and purchase a fresh water fishing license for New Hampshire. Once that is accomplished, you can pick up some gear at one of the local stores or order from our gear providers to make sure you have the poles, baits and cutting equipment. Your best bet for beginning your ice fishing experience is to look toward Lake Sunapee, Connecticut Lake, Lake Francis and Lake Winnipesaukee for accommodations and to rent any of the larger equipment, such as an ice shanty or snow mobile, that you may need. Those areas are some of the most popular in New Hampshire for ice fishing and the fish stocks are managed by the parks department for quality. Once you are there, you can talk to local fisherman to find out other areas that will have the fish you are looking for.
Do it yourself or book a guide or tour?
On the surface, ice fishing looks easy; if you already have experience with fresh water fishing then you know the basics. It is the winter environment, and the ice, that can make this a slightly trickier venture than fishing in other seasons. You can download the New Hampshire Guide to Ice Fishing Safety to brush up on what you need to be aware of; you can also consider booking a guide or joining an organized tour for your trip. The benefits of having a local guide or being on a tour go beyond just having someone else present who knows which lakes and spots are safe. Most of the guided tours use sonar locators to select where you will set up. They also switch locations throughout the trip, using snowmobiles and portable ice shelters, to make sure that you get the most out of your experience. Even if you are an experienced ice fisher in another area of the country or world, you may want to take a guide with you on your first experience in New Hampshire to help you learn the water and ice faster.
Winter ice fishing events and competitions
Once you are comfortable with your skills ice fishing, you may want to take it up a notch by participating in one of the annual New Hampshire competitions or just join in on one of the events for an opportunity to network and get the latest gear. Ice fishing competitions run from late December through early March all around the state. It is a good idea to call the place you will be staying, or the local fishing shop, to find out which ones will be happening when you are visiting. One quirk of most of the events is that bass are not counted or allowed, which should tell you just how plentiful that fish is in the area.
Other activities to enjoy while you are there
When you need a break from ice fishing, or if you are traveling with companions who don’t find ice fishing as engaging, there are a host of other activities to do in the areas around the major fishing lakes. Mount Sunapee and Winnipesaukee are also major centers for down-hill and cross country skiing, as well as having facilities for snow-shoeing and snowboarding. Most of the winter centers are equipped to rent you all of the equipment you need so you don’t have to travel with your own to make sure you have quality supplies. Many also feature schools and workshops that can help someone begin to learn how to enjoy these activities, or take an advanced sportsman to the next level.