The excitement of winter fishing is always on my mind. I really like going out on the ice on a cold morning in pursuit of fish. And now that Thanksgiving has passed us up, it’s time to prepare your gear for the season ahead.
There are several points that are worthy of discussion as we get things together, and I’ll touch upon them here. There are numerous things that can be done while the in-between season is on us, and it’s difficult to get out until safe ice comes on.
If you’re like me, some of my reels get double-duty. I use them both in the summer and winter. If that’s the case, a good cleaning is generally in order. Grease can thicken up and cause a reel to be difficult to turn, so a cleaning and a couple of shots of WD-40 will lube it up properly for ice fishing.
I always like to check my wire bobbers to see if they’ve been bent permanently out of shape, and replace them if so. Plus spooling up with fresh mono or braid is always a good idea. Time and weather takes its toll on monofilament and braid, and you wouldn’t want to lose a good fish just because you didn’t change up rotten line. I generally go with 6-pound test unless I’m at the Berry, where I go with 10-pound or better for those feisty cutts and ‘bows. I also like a fluorocarbon leader, regardless of what I spooled up with.
I play a little game with my wife each year. I stow away my ice gear right out in the open of my storage room, and she’ll take it from there. She neatly puts things away, although I can now not find them so readily. She offers assistance and goes right to the location of the items I’m searching for. This is especially true for lure boxes. I have several that I use depending upon what water I’m fishing that day. This keeps me from hauling everything I own on each trip.
From here, I begin to pre-rig leaders with fast-snaps to make lure changes a breeze. I’ll tie up fifty or more of my most frequently used lures based upon size and color, and sort them by which lake I’ll be traveling to that day. Anything to lighten the sled is a good thing. Although I get some good exercise dragging that thing, it’s gets tougher every year. Speaking of sleds, I’m about in need of a new one; I’ve just about worn holes in the bottom of my current one. That plastic is getting thin.
Next, be sure to check all batteries on your electronics and such to make sure that you’re good to go. I put mine on trickle charge multiple times a year just to keep them juiced up. And sure enough, one of mine was as dead as can be. So I purchased a new, more powerful model for this season. Heaters, too, can be in need of testing. There’s nothing worse than to be without heat on those really cold, breezy days when you can’t keep the blood flowing in your fingers.
One of the last things I do is check the augers. I have a hand-model and a nice power auger for a variety of fishing needs. I don’t drag the heavy power model out when the ice isn’t very thick. I just cut holes by hand. Blades also need changed from time to time to make cutting smoother and faster.
My ice tent I take for granted. I looked it over when I last used it and made sure it was dry before putting it away. That tent alone can save the day when the cold is penetrating, but especially if the sun comes out to warm things. A black tent gets warm quickly in the sun, and the temps build up inside to a comfortable environment. Even the eight-inch hole I cut will stay free of ice in there without freezing over again.
I remember my last trip to Strawberry last ice season. The day was cold to start, but it warmed into the upper 20s before noon. The fish were cooperating, and I was almost constantly seeing fish on the finder until about 1 p.m. Then things died away for a few hours. But that morning was fast and furious for the cutthroats, and the occasional rainbow. I had my tent up, heater going, and life was good. I know that all the cutts were in the slot on that day, but with so many hookups I didn’t really care. The action was just that good. This turned out to be one of my best trips on the ice last year.
And those memories keep me going. I can’t wait to get out again this ice season.
If you’ve yet to give ice fishing a try, hook up with someone and take a trip out. That’s how I got the bug, and I’m so glad I did. You’ll never know what you’re missing until you give it a try. Be safe on that early ice!
Brad Kerr is an avid angler who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.