Skip to main content

Ice Fishing Tips from In-Depth Outdoors’ James Holst

All images via In-Depth Outdoors

An angler, guide, and TV personality who spends 1/3 of every year on the water…

That’s just part of who James Holst is. You probably know him as the host of the popular In-Depth Outdoors television show.

We recently caught up with James and his crew on his plans for the season and some ice fishing tips collected from hundreds, if not thousands, of fishing trips.

You won’t want to miss it.

ice fishing

In-Depth Outdoors TV is in it’s 10th season now. How did it all get started?

James actually started off as a guide on the Mississippi River in Minnesota. After a decade of successfully guiding anglers, he appeared on a local fishing program. Apparently someone thought he was pretty natural in front of the camera. Soon he had his own series, which has evolved over the years into what you see today.

What drew you to the near-live approach of your show?

Initially, James hosted a more typical fishing show, where many months could go by between the actual fishing and air time. He felt disconnected from the finished product, and wasn’t excited about it. Now they film, edit, and air each episode within the same week!

In-Depth Outdoors

How much of the year are you physically fishing?

The broadcast season is about six months. In that time, James travels about 1,000 miles per week, and spends up to 120 days on the water each year. It’s a pretty hectic schedule.

Can you tell us about any planned trips for this upcoming season?

So far in season 10, James has fished in northern Minnesota, Ontario, and even traveled all the way to Idaho to find some ice fishing. There are tentative plans to get back out west, fish all the way to Maryland, and south down to Kansas or Nebraska.

The problem with best-laid fishing plans is that Mother Nature often has different plans. In general, James loves to try smaller or unheard-of lakes and destinations. If he can pair big fish with amazing destinations, he’ll be there.

What are some of the most exciting fishing trips you’ve taken?

There are dozens of experiences that stand out, but four in particular to mention. One was fishing for monster alligator gar in Texas. Second, fishing for lake trout near Isle Royale in Lake Superior’s deep blue waters. Another is chasing huge walleye in Lake Erie. And the final was a remote, mountain ice fishing trip where the stars were brilliant each night.

in-depth outdoors


If you had to choose a single lure, what would you pick for walleye ice fishing in Minnesota?

Everyone has their favorite fishing gear. Hands down, the answer for James is an 1/8 ounce Tingler spoon, with a gold back and perch color on the front. You can tip it with minnow heads and catch walleye or perch, tip with larvae for panfish, or even use it to catch trout through the ice. It’s a very versatile lure for many conditions and species.

What are your top safety tips as we await the first ice fishing opportunities in the Midwest?

First and foremost, James urges us to not start ice fishing based on the calendar. Conditions are very different year-to-year. Second, always travel with a spud bar/chisel in hand. Punch the ice ahead of you as you go and check for strength. Third, never go ice fishing for the first time alone. If you fall in, you’ll be much more likely to return home if you have someone to help you. Also consider wearing floating cold weather gear.

In-Depth Outdoors

Tell us about your mobile fishing approach?

On many In-Depth Outdoors ice fishing episodes, you’ll see that James and his crew drill lots of holes. As in hundreds. After drilling a hole, they drop a transducer in and see if there are fish below. If not, they’ll move on to the next hole. He believes that staying mobile is part of the reason he’s so successful.

“You can’t catch what’s not there…And if you’ve never drilled hundreds of holes at once, you can’t really appreciate it,” he chuckled.

Once you’re sitting in your heated ice shelter with your jacket off and sandwich in hand, it’s pretty hard to convince yourself to move. Even if staying put means not getting as many fish.

ice fishing holes

Do you have a favorite fish you keep returning to?

James loves to target walleyes more than other species, simply because they are actually a challenging fish to catch. An angler needs to be accurate and versatile to consistently pull in note-worthy walleye week after week.

However, ice fishing for lake trout is a close second for him. The way they chase the lure, the devastating strike, and tremendous fighting capabilities are all thrilling.

In-Depth Outdoors walleye

Finally, do you have the best job in the world?

James gets this question a lot. He suggested that most people only see the final product (i.e., fishing show) and don’t know the tremendous work that goes into the job.

But he humorously admitted that even if he won the lottery, he’d still keep doing it all. Fishing is what he loves to do!

If you want to learn more about In-Depth Outdoors, head to their website, or check out Facebook and Twitter.

NEXT: 9 of the Best Ice Fishing Fails…or Wins? [PICS]

you might also like

Ice Fishing Tips from In-Depth Outdoors’ James Holst