Why Are Ice Fishing Rods Short? 6 Reasons

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If you want to go ice fishing, one of the most important things that you will need is an ice fishing rod. If you have never seen one before, ice fishing rods are relatively short, much shorter than a normal fishing rod, and yes, this is for good reason.

The number one reason why ice fishing rods are so short is because you need to be close to the hole in the ice. You need to be able to see down past the ice to see what is going on in the water. There are also other reason why ice fishing rods are short, including being able to feel nibbles and having to fish in confined spaces.

Let’s figure out how long ice fishing rods are, why they are short, and why you need one.

kids ice fishing


How Long Are Ice Fishing Rods?

On average, ice fishing rods are between 24 inches (2 feet) and 32 inches (2.66 feet) in length. Yes, there are ones that are up to 46 inches (4 feet), or as short as 18 inches (1.5 feet) long, but these are not nearly as common.

Yes, as you can see, ice fishing rods are very short, and it’s all for good reason.

Why Use An Ice Fishing Rod: Benefits

Ok, so let’s say that you have a nice 24 inch ice fishing rod. What are the benefits of having a short ice fishing rod like this, and why wouldn’t you just use a normal rod?

People, there is a reason, or actually many reasons, why there are specialty rods for ice fishing, and it’s not just for show.

Great For Tight Spaces

The first reason why ice fishing rods are so short is because when you go ice fishing, you will often be inside of an ice fishing hut.

In other words, you may be sitting inside of a very small cabin, something that resembles a large outhouse, with just enough room for a hole in the middle, to put some chairs around the hole, and maybe for a few pieces of gear.

Folks, some fishing rods can be up to 10 or 12 feet long, which in some cases may actually be longer than the ice fishing cabin is wide or long.

Simply put, you cannot possibly maneuver a regular length fishing rod inside of an ice fishing cabin, especially if there is more than one person ice fishing.

You Can See the Water

The next reason why ice fishing rods are so short is so you can actually see the hole and the water.

If you try ice fishing with a normal rod, in order to hold the handle properly, you would need to be several feet from the whole, which then means that you cannot see through the hole and down into the water.

Of course, you might not always feel those nibbles, in which case having a pair of eyes to survey the scene comes in really handy. You actually want to see what is going on in the water for your best chances of catching something.

You Can Feel The Nibbles

Another reason why ice fishing rods are so short is because they allow you to feel nibbles, even those from very small fish.

For one, the longer the rod is, the less energy can be transferred from the hook to the tip of the rod, and from the tip to the handle.

The longer the rod, the harder it is to feel those nibbles. Short ice fishing rods features great energy transfer so you can feel nibbles from even the smallest of fish.

They Are Designed To Withstand Extreme Cold

The next reason why ice fishing rods are beneficial is because they are specially designed with materials that have the ability to resist extreme cold without becoming stiff and fragile.

If you go ice fishing with a normal rod, and it is super cold, when you hook a big fish, that rod might be too brittle to handle it, and it could snap on you. Ice fishing rods remain flexible and strong even in the coldest of temperatures.

It’s Easier To Fight Fish

Yet another benefit of ice fishing rods is that it is much easier to fight fish with them than with normal rods.

If you are fishing out of a small hole, and you are inside of an ice fishing hut with limited space, you just won’t be able to maneuver and fight well with anything longer than 3 feet.

If you plan on fighting a fish and tiring it out to the point where you can pull it up through the hole, that rod needs to be short.

Related: Our 11 favorite ice fishing lures.

They Keep Fishing Line From Snapping

The sixth and final benefit of ice fishing rods is that they keep your line from snapping. If you have a long rod, you will be forced to maneuver in an awkward way, which can cause your line to scrape along the edge of the hole in the ice.

It doesn’t take much scraping against a sharp ice hole edge for the line to snap. Because ice fishing rods are so short, you can keep the line from touching the ice, thus ensuring that it does not break.


Can You Ice Fish with a Normal Rod?

Ok, so technically speaking, you can try ice fishing with a normal rod, particularly if you have a very short rod that is rated for extreme cold, but quite honestly, it is not recommended.

Here are the main reasons why ice fishing with a normal rod is not a good idea.

  • Regular fishing rods are too long to fight fish with when it comes to that little hole. In order to fight a fish with a regular rod, you would need a whole lot of clearance on the topside. It just doesn’t work well.
  • If you use a regular fishing rod for ice fishing, chances are almost 100% that you will end up scraping the fishing line against the edge of the hole in the ice, and this will almost certainly result in the line snapping, probably sooner rather than later.
  • If you are using a normal size fishing rod, you definitely won’t be able to fit inside of that super snug ice fishing hut with your friends. You might not be able to fit inside of it at all.
  • If you use a normal fishing rod for ice fishing, it’s going to be so long that you will have to sit anywhere from 5 to 10 feet away from the hole. This makes it much harder or just impossible to see what is going on under the surface, which is of course not beneficial.
  • Regular fishing rods that are not built with the proper materials just cannot handle that extreme cold. Regular rods will become very stiff and brittle, so when you go to fight a fish, chances are that your rod will break or snap clean in half.
  • The other reason why a regular rod is not recommend for ice fishing is because the length of it greatly reduces energy transfer, and this makes it much harder to feel those small nibbles.

Related: Ice fishing gear checklist. 

How Many Rods Can You Ice Fish with?

You may be wondering why this is a question at all. After all, there are special ice fishing rigs out there that allow you to set up a rod over a hole without actually having to hold it, and then, when you hook a fish, there are special alert systems to notify you.

Therefore, technically speaking, as long as you have enough rods and rigs, you could fish with an unlimited amount of rods.

However, the issue here is the law. In most places, there are laws in place against using an excessive amount of ice fishing rods. For instance, in many places in Canada, it is legal to use up to two lines at once, as long as you are within 60 meters of both lines.

There is of course also the fact that if you hook more than one fish at the same time, you can only reel one of them in. It takes two hands to operate an ice fishing rod.

So, technically you could fish with a near unlimited amount, legally you will often be forced to only use two or three, and realistically, based off the fact that you only have two hands, one is really all you can handle.

Related: How to pick the right size Auger.


The bottom line here is that if you plan on going ice fishing, you need a short ice fishing rod. A normal fishing rod, particularly anything over 3 or 4 feet in length just won’t do. As you can see, there are many reasons why this is the case.

Jason Downs

I created Fishtackly to share my 30 years of fishing experience and knowledge with others with the aim to help, and hopefully get more people involved and educated in this fantastic hobby that I love.