Ice-fishing is winter fishing at its most traditional. On Finnish ice-fishing waters – in wide open mid-lake areas or bay heads – anglers can ideally experience such peace of nature and peace of mind that is difficult to find anywhere else in the world.
Ice-fishing falls within the scope of public rights of access, which means that you don't need any licences to go ice-fishing. At some point in their life, almost every Finn has sat by an ice hole, ice-fishing for perch, the national fish of Finland. Many have got such a bite on the end of their lines that this has kindled a lifelong spark for fishing.
Ice-fishing is a major hobby for many people during winter months. At some point in their life, almost every Finn has sat by an ice hole, ice-fishing for perch, the national fish of Finland.
Ice-fishing is indeed a popular pastime in Finland. Waters suitable for ice-fishing can be found almost anywhere and there's plenty of ice too. Ice-fishing competitions attract a lot of people. The mood on the ice-fishing waters is genial and peaceful. Gazing deeply at the ice hole will clear your 'hard drive' quickly and efficiently. However, a jolt at the rod will just as quickly sharpen your hunting instinct to the extreme.
Wear warm clothing
Proper equipment for an ice-fishing angler is simple: warm clothing, an ice auger, an ice-fishing stool, a rod and a jigging lure with bait to attach to the end of the line.
Clothing is key to a successful ice-fishing trip. Proper ice-fishing overalls, warm footwear, headwear and gloves are a must.
Photo: Jari Salonen
Posio in January at -20 °C.
A 4-to-6-inch basic auger is best suited as an ice auger. On Lapland's waters, you may need to add an extension arm to the auger. A spare bit is also in order, especially on ice-fishing trips in the wilderness.
The ice-fishing rod is a simple combination of a rod and a reel. When ice-fishing with a balanced sinking lure, the rod may well be inflexible. If you're using very small lures, such as mormyshka jigs, the tip of the rod must be very responsive.
Anglers use fine lines when ice-fishing to maintain a good fishing responsiveness. Monofilament lines are the most popular models, but if you're looking for a sensitive feel for your ice-fishing lure, filament lines are also useful.
Photo: Jari Matikainen
Late winter is the best ice-fishing season.
Vertical jigging lures most popular
For perch, vertical jigging lures and small balanced jigging lures are the most popular lures. Anglers frequently use small mormyshka jigs, which are especially effective when fish are not eager to bite. A small hook, a mormyshka jig or a coloured hook is often attached to a 10–15 cm leader below a vertical jigging lure. On its own, a big mormyshka jig at the end of a fine line is a top lure for big perch in clear and deep waters.
Pike is an interesting species for ice-fishing enthusiasts. A pike weighing many kilos may hit a big balanced jigging lure or vertical jigging lure at the edge of rushes or shoals. The bite is such that you'll remember it for a long time. For the line, you should choose a monofilament line of at least 0.40 mm and use a metal leader at the end.
Photo: Jari Tuiskunen
A relatively big balanced sinking lure works for zander.
Ice-fishing for zander early in the morning
The best waters for ice-fishing enthusiasts in pursuit of zander can be found in shallow bays of the sea and in shoals at their edges. The best bite times for zander occur in mornings and evenings. For lures, anglers use vertical jigging lures and balanced sinking lures and the easiest way to get zander to strike is to bait the hook with a morsel of fish or a fish eye.
People go ice-fishing for burbot around the spawning period in January and February using jigging spoons especially designed for burbot. Wearing down a predator that weighs many kilos at the end of the ice-fishing line is one of the finest experiences that an angler can enjoy.
Photo: Jari Salonen
Leeches and mormyshka jigs are effective with trout, grayling and rainbow trout.
Small mormyshka jigs for whitefish
Whitefish are common in many Finnish lakes and in coastal areas. They are particularly eager to bite ice-fishing lures on the first autumn ice and then again on the last spring ice.
Anglers ice-fishing for whitefish equip themselves with a sensitive rod, a fine line and small mormyshkas. Once in a while, you may also use a small vertical jigging lure with a small mormyshka attached below. A whitefish bites the lure tentatively and the corners of its mouth are frail. This is why you should also launch your counterattack calmly.
Photo: Petteri Kontila
Arctic char from shallow waters on a Lappish mountain lake. The excitement reaches its peak when a big arctic char starts circling the jigging lure.
Arctic char from mountain lakes
A sport of its own is ice-fishing for arctic char on the mountain waters of Lapland. Arctic char are capricious and there may be days even on a good lake when they simply won't bite. Then there may come a five-minute window when they bite like crazy.
Large jigging lures for arctic char –'arctic char plates' – and small mormyshka jigs attached below have been found to be effective. Various leeches are also extremely efficient. An arctic char lure can be baited with a worm or a few maggots.
Photo: Jari Matikainen
It’s nice to ice-fish in good company.
Beware of thin ice
Wherever you go ice-fishing, you should be careful of the ice; it is a surface that depends on weather conditions. Anglers going out on the ice should therefore always equip themselves with ice picks, which are the cheapest life assurance for anyone moving about on ice.
You should only venture out on the first ice when the ice has strengthened and is at least 5 cm thick. In many cases, water bodies freeze over unevenly. The ice on the shore may already be strong when mid-lake areas are still covered by just a thin crust. The ice is most deceptive in spring. Even a 0.5-metre layer may give way if the spring sun has made it brittle.