|Get Ready For The Up Coming Ice Season Now
By: Scott M. Petersen
Every year the waiting games starts around this time of the year, when will the ice season get here and when will we be ice fishing again? That is the questions that has many different answers and as the years go on the only one who really knows the answer to that would have to be Mother Nature. But one thing for sure you can be ready and waiting to go when the ice season gets here. Lets look at some of the things that you can do to get ready for the up coming ice season and what to do when you get onto the ice to put more odds in your favor this ice season.
Do not wait until the last minute before you get your ice shelter down off of the rafters or out of the shed, get your equipment out now and start to get it ready. I was in for a little surprise when I started to get my equipment out last year as the mice had gotten into my ice shelter during the summer and had a little chew session. After going into a panic I found out all that was damaged was the cover, but if they would have damaged the shelter itself I would have had a hard time getting it repaired before the trip I was leaving to take a few days later. So get your shelter out and check it now for tears, broken zippers, or rodent inflicted wounds. This will allow you time to get repairs done if needed and if not get a good roll of duct tape.
Power or hand, all augers need pre season attention. For power augers do the yearly maintenance that needs to be done. Spark plug, pull rope, check all bolts and screws and replace any that you find missing. Fill the gas tank with new fresh gas (hopefully you drained last years gas before storing your auger for the summer) and start the auger to make sure it starts and runs. I have seen many fisherman pull and pull trying to get their auger going to either pack up and leave or come and ask if they could use an auger to drill a few holes to fish with for the day. So take the time to make sure your auger will start and is running well before you even get to the ice. One last thing, make sure your blades are sharp. If it has been a few years either get your blades sharpened or replaced them with new ones. For those of you that are using just a hand auger you will definitely want to make sure your blades are in tip-top shape. This can be the difference in cutting a hole in minutes or having to fight to even get the hole cut.
Rods And Reels
This is an area where a lot of ice fishermen fail at getting ready for the new ice season. They take their reel off of your summer rods and away they go to put them onto their ice fishing rods not even changing the line or down sizing it. This is a big mistake, you have to change your line and in most occasions you should down size your line when you are ice fishing. Remember this simple fact that during the summer you are moving and the water will be at its dirtiest level during the year. The water alone will hide your line somewhat during the summer allowing you to get by with bigger line. Now take the wintertime, the water is at its clearest point of all year because the water is not moving. You are sitting still, you are not moving the lure and your line through the water or the fish zone like you were during the summer, so you have to make your bait look more natural, if fact as natural as possible. By down sizing your line you are taking a step in the right direction to making your lure do just that look as natural as possible. As a rule of thumb line size that you should use for crappies and gills is 2lb and in tough conditions 1lb test line. Walleyes 4lb and 6lb line will get the job done. For pike tip-ups braided line works best and for jigging rods 10 to 12lb test line will get more strikes than heavier line. As for your rod do not forget to check them to. It seem we treat out ice rods in a more care free manner than we do our summer rods, we just throw them into a bucket and away we go fishing, thus creating more of an environment to do rod damage. Do the Q-tip test on all your rod eyes. Go over your eyes and look for snags this is a good sign that you have a faulty or damaged rod eye. If you find a damaged eye either replace the eye or the rod.
There is not much care for your baits that you need to do, but you should make sure that all of your hooks are sharp. Take a few seconds on each bait to sharpen the hook. It can mean the difference in getting more fish through the hole during the day. One more trick that I do with small ice baits, open up the hook bite a little. Take a small pair of pliers or forceps and open up the hook gap just a little, this will give you better hooking power and give you a better hook set.
Stay Light and Mobile
As the season starts you will have to walk to all the destinations that you will want to get to, so pick a lake that is small. This will allow you to fish all the fish holding structure. Only take onto the ice what is needed, do not weight yourself down and carry things that you will need at the mid part of the season in your shelter. If you need it, take it, if you do not, leave it behind. If you make it hard to move you will not be as aggressive as you need to be and move if the fish are not biting. Believe me I have been there and played that game before, you will start to think well I will wait here another _ hr and give the fish a chance to move in when you should have been moving looking for fish instead. So make it as easy as possible to move and keep moving until fish contact is made. Now if you did your homework during the fall season you may have some good ideas as to where the fish will be when you get back onto the ice. During the fall lock spots into a hand held GPS for use during the winter ice season. Believe me using a GPS beats going onto the ice and having to drill 25 holes to find that dropoff that you always fish. Once you get onto the ice do not fret if the fish are not in the exact same spot as to what you locked into your GPS. If the fish are not in the same exact spot they generally will not be that far away so just check the area.
Keep Your Bait Fresh
As I have mentioned earlier there was not a lot that you can do with baits but we were not taking about live bait. When I hit the ice I always bring the big three of the live bait options with me. I have had too many days when the fish got an attitude as to what they were going to bite and would not bite anything else. Wax worms, euro-larva and minnows should cover all your needs. One key to successful ice fishing is keep your bait fresh. Not only keep a new supply of bait on hand, but also keep the bait on your lure fresh as you are fishing as well. A bait that is left down the hole for a long time will start to give off a negative scent instead of a positive, attracting scent. So after 10 minutes if you have not gotten a bite, change your bait, and if you catch a fish change your bait as well, do not put the same bait back down the hole.
Well I hope this list of tips will not only help you get ready for the up coming ice season but will help you catch more fish along the way. You know we never really know when winter will get here but one thing is for sure this year you will be ready to go when it does get here. Please remember to practice CPR (Catch, Photo and Release) The future of fishing is in your hands.