The staff at Norman’s Outdoor Sports poses with some of the ice fishing equipment that the store offers. From left to right is Lena Skunk Cap, Renee Thompson and Jack Norman. 

With the annual Valier Area Development Corporation’s annual Ice Fishing Derby rescheduled, the friendly staff of Norman’s Outdoor Sports wanted to remind those participating in the derby of some equipment tips and other tricks to make the most of their time on the ice. They also reminded anglers to practice safety through the course of the contest. Whether a beginning fisherman or an experienced angler, we hope this information helps to improve your experience and have fun in the process.


•Ice Auger–Whether a powered auger or hand auger, this tool provides an effective way to carve through the ice with an appropriately sized hole to fish through.

•Bucket–An easy way to keep bait fresh or provide a much needed seat in the absence of one.

•Ice Scoop–An effective way to remove excess slush or debris from the ice hole once carved.

•Tip-Up Setup/Rods–A tip-up approach provides a method to ice fish and sit back while waiting for the flag to shoot up, signaling a bite. Anglers are permitted two tip-up lines with two hooks per person. Depending on where you are in the state of Montana, anglers are allowed two lines per person max, regardless of tip-up setups or rods.

•Metal Cleats–Falling on the ice isn’t fun for anyone, and a pair of metal cleats help to eliminate that possibility, giving you full traction.

•Means of transportation–While it is only recommended at one’s own risk, some choose to bring a four-wheeler onto the ice to help transport equipment from the shore to their fishing spot. A safer way is to use a utility or sport sled, deeply reducing the risk of going through the ice.

•Clothing–Always remember to dress appropriately for the surrounding climate conditions on the day of the derby. Wear a coat, gloves, hat, earmuffs, thermal pants and plenty of layers.

•Ice Shanty–This provides added protection from the elements. A shanty also allows the user to maintain a warmer temperature with a heater inside.


•Thickness of ice–A good rule of thumb is to not venture onto ice that is less than four inches thick. While some are willing to gamble on the sturdiness of four inches, others prefer to stick to an area that is at least six or eight inches thick for personal safety. Remember, thin and crispy is way too risky. Clear and blue is tried and true. 

•Bait–There are several different types of bait that ice fishers choose to use, including worms, frozen smelt, salmon eggs or even corn. Check with your local bait shop to ensure that you abide by fishing regulations and for the best bait options for you.

With the derby rescheduled, we hope these equipment tips and recommendations help to provide competitors with a slight edge and an overall added blanket of safety through their time on Lake Frances. 

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