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Ice Fishing: A Northern Tradition

Bob Wilson

Is Your Ice Fishing Gear Ready?

My thoughts are now on the ice fishing season and coming up with some kind of a game plan to up my odds on the ice. After trying Baitmate fish attractant this season, I may have found just the ticket to up my odds.

If everyone is like me, at the end of every season all my gear is put away, as is in the garage, with no special care taken or given. Trust me, I have left it a mess in years past. Now I to try to find out where I put everything, and when found, I start to lay it all out so I can work on the equipment with little or no mess, hopeful that I did not lose anything on the ice last year. What I start working on first will not matter as long as all equipment is in good working order and holds up this ice fishing season.

This year I decided to start on my ice rods and reels. First, I remove and strip all old line from my spools. Then I clean and oil all my reels and wipe all dirt and cobwebs left from storing in the garage. At this time, anything missing or broken is fixed or replaced. Moving on to the rods. This is one piece ice fishing equipment that you own that may be overlooked. First, take a damp rag and wipe from the rod tip to the handle. Do not forget to clean and check the eyes. I would hate to lose a nice fish of any kind to a bad or damaged rod eye.

Now on to the line. I have an advantage over most. I have an electric Berkley line winder, which makes my job of rewinding easy and fast. In past years, I have used monofilament line. This year I will be using fireline. What pound of line you use is up to you and depends on the application you will be applying to your style of fishing. This is a good time to wipe and clean all dirt from your spools and look for cracks or bad areas. I have seen many a fish lost to bad spools. When all is said and done with your reels, do not over-spool. This without a doubt will cause a big problem when you are on the ice jigging. You do not want to start the season on a bad note.

Moving on to my tip-ups. With so many different manufactures of tip-ups―small, big, round―just use your best judgement. Take this information and use it for your own application. I will tell you what I do and use. I have my tip-ups rigged for two different type of fish species: walleye and northern. First, the northern pike tip-ups I use all season. Start with removing about five feet of ice bread or nylon. If any part of the bread or nylon is bad, it will be in that first five feet and that is where you could have a problem. I use a number 8 steel leader. Pick your own leader size and the weight that fits your application. I now choose what size treble hook I will be using. Size for me will be anywhere from a number 4 or 6 treble hook. Manufacture type is just a matter of what you feel what will help you have better hook sets. I use what treble hook I like and what lake I may be on early or late season. It is also a good thing at this time to clean and oil all your tip-ups, and if your tip-ups have nuts, bolts, or springs, take care of them now. Better safe rather sorry.

Now that my all-around multispecies tip-ups are cleaned and oiled, I move on to one last task: the walleye up or downs. If you have a monofilament leader, replace it with new at this time. I use a 12-inch mono leader with 10-pound test. That is what works best for me. I also tie a barrel swivel between the monofilament and braided line. Pick what you like and what works best for you. That is about all I can tell you on what I do with tip-ups. It is best to read your manufacturer’s instructions on the tip-ups you own and you should be fine and with any luck have a problem-free ice season.

I will just touch on my ice jigs, but I will not be getting into them in detail, just what is needed for basic care. I use a number of jigs, from custom jigs and spins, northland baits a and number of other good jigs that have worked for me over the years. I would say that a bad or rusty hook or open water is the downfall of many an ice fisherman, myself included. Just make sure all hooks are rust-free. I have had many hooks break off in my hand while doing a test. We all know we put things away when we know open water is just around the corner, and the ice is not safe at that time of year.

Auger time. I have an old-school jiffy: a 1990 8-inch gas/mix auger. If you take care of the auger or anything that has a motor, it should outlive the user. I will start with the blades. This year I will be replacing my blades. If you are not replacing blades this year, you can have them sharpened at any small engine shop or if you are good, do it yourself. There is one thing I do at the end of every ice season and that is remove the gas and start new gas at the start of the next season. Besides, I can use it in my weed whacker over the summer, because it is a mix. Next is your spark plug. Clean and then test; replace if bad. I always keep a spare with me when I am out on the ice.

Last of all is a test run. Before I do that, I put seafoam in my gas tank. As a matter fact, I put seafoam in all my gas motors. They seem to just run better, but use what you like. When I fire my auger up, I let it run for about 10 minutes. Just a side note: I would test run my auger every time before I hit the ice. And as always, oil and grease what is needed. With that said and done you should have a worry-free equipment season.

Last is safety on the ice. As we all know, there is no such thing as safe ice, so keep that in the back of your mind when you venture out on your favorite lake. When I am on the ice, I have a throw-away with 50 feet of line, a life vest, extra line (I can toss the throw-away if needed), a pair of ice cleats, and my first aid kit. Hey, you never know. I am a fat old man and I need all the help I can get when I am out on the ice. I hope this information helps you have a very safe and productive ice fishing season. And take a kid fishing.

Contact Bob Wilson at bobgonefishingagain@yahoo.com or at 608.403.1239 and on Facebook at Gone Fishing Again Guide Service.