If you look into the sled of an experienced ice fisherman, you'll notice an abundance of accessories designed to make any ice-fishing excursion more successful. While most ice anglers don't carry all the gear discussed on this page every time they head out onto the ice, at one time or another each item will be handy to have along.
SLEDS. Although many anglers simply use a large plastic child's sled to transport their gear, specialized plastic sleds with formed places to accommodate winter gear are available. Anglers traveling long distances with lots of equipment often choose deep-sided sleds with tow bars.
PAILS. Five- and six-gallon pails are an ice-fishing tradition for organizing and transporting tip-ups, rods and accessories. Some commercially produced models even feature insulated minnow buckets, storage compartments, and padded seats.
ROD HOLDERS. A variety of metal, plastic and wire rod holders are available, with the primary purpose of keeping ice rods and reels out of freezing snow and slush, while at the same time making them easily accessible.
HEATERS. Some tough winter anglers merely carry pocket hand warmers, but many opt for gas lanterns and propane heaters as outdoor sources of heat. Properly ventilated, some models may also be used in fish houses.
BAIT BUCKETS. Well insulated plastic or Styrofoam bait buckets won't freeze and keep minnows alive for a full day on the ice.
SKIMMERS. Ice chips and blowing snow can be scooped from your holes with a plastic or metal skimmer. Additions such as ice chippers or rulers stamped in the handle sections are also nice features.
GAFFS. Used to help guide large or hard-to-grasp fish onto the ice, gaffs should only be used if you plan on keeping fish.
FLOATING MINNOW NETS. To avoid dipping your hands in icy minnow buckets, use a floating minnow net or plastic scoop.
FORCEPS & CLIPPERS. Inexpensive fingernail clippers work great for cutting fishing line while forceps make it easy to remove tiny hooks from fish.
TIP-UP LIGHTS. Many winter anglers night fishing with tip-ups attach special lights, chemical light sticks, or reflector tape to the tip-up flag to see tripped flags from a distance.
DEPTHFINDERS. Clip-on depthfinder weights attach to lures or plain hooks and quickly sink to the bottom to determine depth. From here, you can accurately suspend your bobber, float, lure or bait at the desired depth above the bottom.
TIP-UP LINEMARKERS. Tip-up linemarkers are small slide or clip-on beads or bobbers that make marking your desired tip-up depth convenient. After a fish strikes and peels off line, the depth can easily be reset by locating the prerigged linemarker.
MOUTH SPREADERS. Wire mouth spreaders hold open the large, powerful mouths of toothy winter species for carefully removing hooks. Rubber-capped designs are most gentle on mouth tissues, and are best used on fish intended for release.
HOOK SHARPENERS. Down-scaled hook sharpeners are necessary to sharpen the small hooks found on ice lures.
THE EYEBUSTER. This handy, summer-time tool for removing crusted paint from jig hook eyes is a valuable winter tool as well, especially when fumbling with cold fingers and tiny jigs.
TACKLE BOXES. From pocket-sized jig boxes with numerous small compartments to larger models designed for carrying big lures and other equipment, ice-fishing tackle boxes should feature tight-fitting covers and durable snap latches.
SPORT RADIOS. Today's hand-held radios are portable, dependable and allow anglers to communicate with one another from different parts of a lake.
GEAR BAGS. The best bags feature water resistant fabric, outside and inside storage pockets, and a wide opening to easily see and access equipment.