New Jersey winters can be variable in terms of weather and the formation of safe ice, but when conditions cooperate hard-water fishing can be phenomenal. Many of the most popular game fish, including largemouth bass, crappie and yellow perch are active and susceptible to ice fishing techniques. Muskellunge, pickerel and pike are also regularly taken - in fact, the state record muskellunge was taken through the ice!
Many anglers are wary of ice fishing because of the cold and the safety of being out on a frozen pond or lake. But ice fishing is a very safe sport if common sense is used. A minimum thickness of four (some say six) inches is the rule of thumb for safe ice for individual anglers. Areas near underwater springs and bubblers around docks result in thinner ice and should be avoided.
Modern outdoor wear provides protection from frigid temperatures and gusts of wind. Ice picks (2), or awls, which can be connected by a cord looped through your coat and out both sleeves, have become a standard safety item. For more on ice safety, see the Cold Water Emergencies article (pdf, 320kb) from the 2009 Hunting DIGEST.
Basic equipment consists of an ice chisel or hand (or power) auger, several tip-ups and/or jigging rod, hooks, weights (split shot, egg sinkers), live bait, jigging lures, ice ladle and a five gallon plastic bucket or sled to carry all of it.