Staying Warm While On the Ice

Many anglers across the Midwest are just chomping at the bit for a chance to get out and enjoy the wonderful sport of ice fishing. Early-season ice can provide some of the best fishing of the season. But with that mind, they’re also thinking about making sure they are warm and comfortable while out in the elements.

To do this, it’s very important that you dress properly so that you can enjoy the outdoors for longer periods. With just a little extra proper preparation, you can make your time out in the cold easier.

Without a doubt, proper clothing when ice fishing is key. If you’re out there catching fish but freezing your rear end off because you’re either cold or wet, it will definitely make you miserable. Plan for the elements and dress in layers, and remember, you can always take clothing or extra coats off if you get too warm. But adding clothing after your body temperature is too low may not help. Make it a point to purposely overdress for your day on the ice—you’ll be glad you did.

One of the most important, yet overlooked parts of the body is the feet. If you are like most, once your feet get cold, the rest of your body easily can too. To solve this, wear a quality pair of well-insulated boots. Take a moment and think about it: You probably have a substantial amount of money invested in your ice fishing equipment, so why not have a good pair of boots? You can get insulated boots on sale in many stores today. When choosing your pair, try and go with a boot that’s slightly larger in size so the warm air pockets will be retained and the circulation in your foot will be improved, keeping you warm. While I’m speaking of feet, you should also make sure you’re wearing the proper socks. Stay away from all-cotton socks for colder weather. Cotton is usually not the best insulating fabric and will not work well. Instead, wear a good pair of wool socks, as these can help keep your feet nice and warm much better. Some folks who don’t like the feel of wool socks can slip a pair of wool socks over the cotton socks if you like to avoid the wool feeling, as long as it’s not too tight.

Next on the list is keeping the hands warm. When doing this though, you want to try and keep the flexibility in your hands that big, bulky gloves can prevent. A little trick when ice fishing is to wear a pair of thin, rubber surgical gloves as a first layer against the skin. Over these, you can then put on a pair of heavy mittens. Now, if you have to change your bait or take a fish off you simply slide off your mittens and use the rubber gloves to quickly do your work. When you are finished, simply slide the mittens back on. This method works well since you can also keep your hands dry.

Another area of the body I see exposed all the time by those ice fishing is the head. I can never understand how they can be in the brutal cold and have no hat on for protection. Be sure to keep your head warm on the hard water. Again, you will find that wool, fleece or knit fabrics for hats work much better than cotton because, as I mentioned earlier, cotton is not a good insulator. Also, cotton performs even worse when or if it gets wet. Some folks prefer to wear two hats too—one usually is a ski mask and the other a larger hat that can fit right over the top of the ski mask. This is a combination that works especially well in more extreme conditions that may arise after you’re at your location.

Last, but by no means least, is your underwear and your outerwear. Your first layer should always be a good pair of loose- fitting thermal underwear. Thermal clothing is very effective at “wicking” perspiration away from the body, keeping you dry and comfortable. Again, for this layer, cotton does a poor job of insulation. If you get warm and sweat early in cotton, you will stay cold for the rest of the day, which is no fun. Over that initial thermal clothing, continue to dress in layers, using wool or fleece, and windbreakers or any other heavy, long-sleeved shirt. As a final outer garment, a one‑piece, insulated coverall is an ideal item to wear. Again, wear a slightly larger size for the best insulation.

If you start to feel yourself getting excessively warm, remove a layer of your clothing or open your jacket a bit to adjust your body temperature for a short period. Don’t expose the areas where you have been sweating through for too long. And bring along some extra gloves, socks and undershirts in case you get too wet and must change.

By dressing right for the cold weather you can make your time outdoors on the ice a longer experience. If you’re heading out to that favorite spot or just taking a walk in the cold winter air, remembering to dress properly will make your day that much better.


Email your outdoors questions to Mike Cyze at: [email protected]. You can also check out his blog at: or listen to him on ESPN Radio.