Lindsay Munn
Smelt fishing on Upper Saranac Lake.
 
Lindsay Munn
Aine Kline fishes for the first time near Franklin Falls.
 
Justin A. Levine
Ice pick
 
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Anyone with an ax and a fishing pole can do this," Tim LaDue of Lake Clear says about ice fishing. LaDue has a variety of shanties, augers, poles and tip-ups to make his ice fishing more action-packed and fun, but with a fishing license, pole or line and a way to get through the ice to the water, LaDue is right. Anyone can go ice fishing.

But beyond the obvious essentials such as pole/tip-ups, shanty, bait and tackle, there a few other items that many consider essential.

First, you may want a sled to help haul your gear. Although you don't need a lot, you will likely have poles and/or tip-ups, something to sit on, food, water (beer), extra clothes, bait and possibly some other stuff too.

Any cheap sled will work, but the best bet is to invest in a high-sided sled. The high sides will help keep the snow and slush out of the sled, while also allowing you to haul a lot more stuff without having to tie it all down.

A five-gallon bucket can serve numerous purposes, including hauling live bait, keeping caught fish and even as a fairly comfortable seat.

If the ice is clear of snow, then it will be slick, and having some sort of traction for your feet is a must. Whether you wear an old pair of golf shoes with cleats in the soles or buy a pair of strap-on traction devices, being able to walk with traction and confidence goes a long way toward preventing injuries.

Any time you go out on ice, you should also be sporting a set of ice picks. Now these aren't the long type of ice pick that bad guys in movies use to stab unwitting victims. Modern safety ice picks are worn around your neck and will help you gain traction with your hands in the event that you fall through the ice.

The picks are shielded so that you don't inadvertently stab yourself, and are essentially large comfortable handles that have a metal spike at one end. The handles are attached by a cord and go around the back of your neck so that they are easily accessible if you suddenly find yourself swimming.

It may not seem likely, especially when there are cars and trucks on the ice, but weak spots can form and swallow a person up. You could fall through someone's old ice fishing hole or walk over a spot where there is a current or spring that makes the ice thin. Regardless, ice picks are a must when out on the ice.

The picks are meant to get you out of the water, but you will need to bring a way to get through the ice as well. An auger, ax or some sort of chopper are essential. Augers can be different diameters, although 6 inch is the most common. Augers can be hand- or gas-powered, and it's up to you to decide how much you want to spend and how much weight you want to carry.

Eye protection is also important, as snow blindness can be both painful and dangerous. Fishing often entails heading out before dawn, so it's easy to forget sunglasses, but they are just as important as any of your other safety gear.

An ice skimmer can be a helpful tool as well. Essentially a long ladle, an ice skimmer is used to pull slush from the ice fishing hole. With such cold temperatures, the hole you make will begin freezing up again right away. By using an ice skimmer to scoop out the slush, you keep the hole from icing over. Skimmers often have long handles to accommodate ice that is quite thick, and will keep your hands and gloves dry.

Beyond these items, it's good to have some extra clothes, gloves and hats. A GPS or fish finder could be useful and a shanty or shelter may be necessary depending on the weather.

But even more than all of this, it's important to remain safe and have fun. Fishing isn't about the gear, it's about the fun and fulfillment of catching fish.