By Kent Danjanovich
The days are getting shorter and the temperatures are diving. What’s a fisherman to do? Well, you can still get out on the water – well at least frozen water that is!
Preparing for the upcoming ice fishing season is just like anything else – you need to make sure everything is in working order and everything you need is ready to go when the time comes. From my experience, it doesn’t hurt to make a list and check it twice (Ho, Ho, Ho).
First, round up you gear and give it the once over. Remember all those things you were going to fix or adjust last season, but then just stashed away without taking another look? Let’s start with the big stuff and work our way down.
For the best protection from the weather, a shelter is the way to go and the ‘flip type’ is the most popular style out on the ice. These models are built on a sled base, which holds all your gear while you travel and contains one to four seats for you and your friends. Just like a tent, you simply extend the poles and pop up the structure. Most models let you choose whether you want to have the structure fully open on the warmer days, zip the tent up on those really cold days or set up half-way like a wind break. The main benefit of this hut style is that you can set up or collapse it for travel quickly and easily, which allows you to easily move around a large fishing area, while also keeping you protected and insulated from the elements.
Check out your ice auger. I like the powered type myself. Drain and replace your old oil with new oil prior to initial start-up. Fill it up with a fresh tank of gas also unless you stabilized the gas before storage. If you added fuel stabilizer to the tank, it’s advisable to run that tank empty first before added fresh gas. Check and clean your spark plug. If you have a difficult time starting or it is running rough, now is the time to replace the plug. Check your blades and sharpen or replace any that require attention. Coating the blades with some Vaseline or fine-grade oil will help keep snow from sticking and will ensure that the blades will not begin to rust.
Having the right clothing combination may just be the most important thing you can do to ensure an enjoyable day on the ice. Layering is a must, working your way from a good base layer, then maybe some wool, wind-stopper and then of course something waterproof for those fast moving winter storms. I tried out a pair of neoprene gloves last season and the uses are extraordinary for ice fishing. They work great for grabbing fish coming through the ice and will keep you dry while jigging.
Next, I would highly recommend picking up an ice fishing specific rod and reel combo. I always thought that just using my regular spincast outfit was OK, but once I tried using the correct setup, things have become a lot better. A good reel is very important, even more so than the rod. Without fully dissembling a reel, there is still some basic maintenance that can be done that will help lengthen your reels life and maximize its performance. The first step I take is cleaning the exterior and working parts with rubbing alcohol, cotton swabs and paper towels. This will get rid of all the dirt, grime and extra oil and grease. The next step is oiling the bearings and greasing the gears. Simple and quick maintenance like this will help keep your reels functioning for many seasons of use. Also, I would recommend replacing your line at least every-other-year, if not every season.
This is a good time of year to clean out your tackle box. While you have everything out and in front of you, give the box itself a good cleaning with soap and water. This will get rid of oils, grime and rust that have no doubt built-up over the year, as well as unwanted scents that can have fish shying away.
Go through your tackle boxes and inspect your baits and lures. Since you have probably used a few of these lures during the summer and fall, hooks can get dull throughout the season, so have a file on hand to sharpen them. If the hooks are rusty or bent, replace those hooks – this can give old baits some new life. Make sure you have plenty of jigs and ice flies in your arsenal, as well as fresh scented baits if they are legal in your area.
Well, there you have it, my tips for you winter fishermen and women. Ice fishing is a great way to continue angling through the winter months and preparing early for the season will enable you to tackle anything you may encounter when on the ice. Follow these tips and advice and add a few of your own to get ready for an enjoyable and productive season on the hard stuff.