Ice Fishing: A Northern Tradition
By: Bob Wilson
My thoughts are now on the upcoming ice fishing season, and coming up with some kind of a game plan to up my odds on the ice this season. After trying and using Baitmate fish attractant this season, I may have found just the ticket to up my odds.
Now 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, and trust me I have left it a mess in years past. Now, I start 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, and hope 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 upcoming 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 the 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 part of all ice fishing equipment that is overlooked. First, take a damp rag and wipe from the rod tip to the handle, and do not overlook or 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 do have an advantage over most, I have an electric Berkley line winder. This 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 to use is up to you, and how you will be applying your style of fishing. This is a good time to wipe and clean all dirt from your spools and look for cracks or nicks. 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. Where do I start? With so many different manufactures of tip-ups; small, big, round, just use your best judgment. For now, I will go with what I do and use. I have my tip-ups rigged for two different types of fish species. I’ll start with 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 an 8 in steel leader. However, you can pick your own leader size and the weight that fits your own application. I now will choose what size treble hook I will be using. Size, for me, will be anywhere from a number 4 or 6 treble hook. Your choice of manufacturer is just a matter of what you feel will help you have a better hook set. The treble hook I choose, depends on what lake I may be on. If you have nuts, bolts, or springs with your tip-ups, it is also a good thing at this time to clean and oil them.
Now my all around multispecies tip-ups, clean and oil all needed areas. Remove five feet of bread or nylon line and if you have a monofilament leader, replace it with a new one at this time. I use a 12 inch monofilament leader, with 10 pound test. For me, that works best. You may want to start there and adjust depending on the lake and/or species you are targeting. The treble hook size I like to use can vary from a number 8 to 10 and even a number 12, and that depends on what is biting, walleye, perch, or any type of panfish that may end up in my freezer for a nice winter fish fry. 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 in to them in detail. I use a number of jigs, from Custom Jigs & Spins, Northland baits, and number of other good jigs that have worked for me over the years. I would say that a bad or rusty hook is the downfall of many ice fisherman (myself included), make sure all hooks are rust free.
Auger time. I have an old school Jiffy. It is a 1990, 8 inch gas/mix auger. I will have to say, if you take care your auger it should outlive its user. I will start with the blades. For me, 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 it is possible to do this job yourself if you are so mechanically inclined; just be very careful with these ultra-sharp blades. There is one thing I do at the end of the every ice season, and that is I remove the old gas, and start with new gas at the beginning of each new season. Next is your spark plug. Clean and then test, if it is bad, replace it. 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 that is only my humble opinion. 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 ft. of line, at least I can toss the throw-away if needed. I also have a pair of ice cleats. We need all the help we 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 be sure to take a kid fishing.