With Halloween in the rear view mirror and Christmas coming up just around the corner thoughts of ice fishing are on some people’s mind, and if it isn’t, it should be! Why? Simple, getting ready when it’s still balmy outside is much easier than when it is the night before your trip, snowing sideways, pitch black and -25 Celsius outside! Most important, ice fishing gear is often some of the hardest fishing gear to get your hands on! Retailers often order less than they think they will sell for fear of having to sit on unsold merchandise for the rest of the year!
So getting your gear prepped and ready to go early will also remind you that you need new runners for your hut, blades for your auger or that you buddy left the ice anchors laying in the snow out in the middle of the ice and ensure you get that stuff before the retailers sell out!
When I am preparing I break my ice fishing gear I break it into 4 categories;
- Equipment- from the ice hut to the rod holders anything else that we bring on the ice.
- Connections: these are what connects me to the fish. Rods, reels, line, and tip ups.
- Tackle- anything that gets tied or clamped onto the fishing line.
- Clothing: from boots to hats, it’s pretty self explanatory.
I start here because this is always the hardest stuff to find and I’m always forced to deal with this outside. It is also the easiest to get thru! If you stored your huts properly than you wont need to clean them out…otherwise start by cleaning them out. Check the runners and if you tow make sure you have the pin and the tow bar is in good working order and connecting properly. Set up the hut and check out the material for holes and look at the poles, look for rust and treat accordingly.
Check your auger blades and if you have a gas auger get a tune up done now so you’re not stuck without one if we have some early ice. Make sure that the drill bit connects to the handle or drill and that nothing is worn out. One piece of advice for augers, before every trip check the bolts on the blades to make sure they are still tight, nothing worse than your auger coming apart while your on the ice! Make sure you know where your ice scoop is and that it is not broken or cracking.
Get your fish finder or flasher out, make sure that battery is working well, and get it on the charger. You want to make sure you hear the motor spinning and that it lights up and marks the ground. Fire up your heaters, organize your rod holders and sleds, check batteries and make sure you have everything you need for your walk out and setting up!
Taking a quick inventory of rods to see if any need to be replaces, you may have forgotten that you snapped your favourite crank bait rod and waiting until the day before lake trout open is not a good time to be reminded. Pull out all of your reels and make sure they function properly, get some fresh line on the mono and fluorocarbon reels, and make sure you give them all a good soaking with line conditioner. This will help insure that they repel water and prevent guide freeze up.
One thing to consider is pulling a good bit of braid off of the reels and laying it on the floor to see how it coils, basically looking for line twist. Line twist can quickly ruin a delicate presentation for panfish by making those tiny jugs spin and even fish that don’t see a lot of pressure will turn their nose up to that.
Making sure your tip up is clean and everything moves freely as well as using some sub-zero grease where needed will ensure you are not fiddling with it on the ice. Take a look at any leader material you use for quantity and look to see if it has been damaged in any way.
This isn’t too different than going thru your tackle any other time of the year, make a list of the things you need to replace while you go thru your gear. Make sure to check hooks, split rings, and all other connectors to make sure nothing is corroded or dull. At this point I usually start putting together boxes for specific species so that I am just about ready to do come first ice and doing it this way also helps me to remember what I am missing compared to having everything out in front of me.
This is the last category I work thru because I seem to always pack on a few extra pounds just before ice fishing really starts. Must have something to do with the holidays and all of that stress eating while the in-laws are over! First and foremost try everything on, while I’m doing this I’m examining everything for tears, especially the outer layers. Im also making sure the zippers work and there are no missing buttons and than sending it all for a wash. Inspect your ice cleats and that your boots and gloves are still functioning well and don’t show signs of wear that may be troublesome.
It seems like there is always a little learning curve or should I say remembering curve at the beginning of the ice fishing season, being prepared will give you one less to worry about.