A bitterly cold December and a pleasantly warm start to January have created good ice fishing conditions for fishermen across the southwest.

Prairie Pro Outfitters guide Ralph Smart has some tips for anyone looking to spend the warmer days on the ice. 

"We try to get out there either at first light or that last hour, hour and a half, evening bite is really key for walleye," he said. "That's just when they have the advantage with their eyesight, and then they don't expend as much energy. It's a prime time to be out there."

He added that minnows and wax worms are primarily the bait of choice, and his go to colours for jigs are pink and orange.

He also encourages new anglers to seek the advice of more seasoned fishermen.

"My advice is to talk to guys too...even stop at a shack or two," Smart said. "See how they're making out."

And he said that unlike other winter activities, ice fishing is relatively inexpensive.

"It does not take a lot of expensive equipment to get out ice fishing," he said. "Augers are reasonably priced, and these new pop-up shelters are quick and easy to use. Propane heaters in them to keep warm, keep the kids entertained. It's a real social thing, this ice fishing. But very, very easy to do."

But Smart cautioned that safety is always the top priority when on the ice.

"Just try to stay safe on this water," he said. "It's not necessary to catch fish by going out into uncharted water. Don't be the first guy down the ice road is what I always like to say, unless you are on a snowmobile or a quad or something. Follow established trails.

"Hopefully everyone has good luck out there."