"Preparing for the Ice Season"
By  Justin Hoffman (c)2001

Cold man winter has begun to make his presence felt, and the hard water season will shortly be upon us. Ice fishing is a great way to continue angling through the winter months, and preparing early for the season opener will enable you to tackle anything you may encounter when on the ice. Follow these tips and advice, and get ready for an enjoyable and productive season on the hard stuff.
    Make a checklist of all the necessary equipment you will need for the upcoming year. This list should include such things as a scoop, minnow bucket, minnow net, sled to pull your things and of course, a trusty auger. Anything that is missing, or is not working properly, can now be purchase before you head out.
    Look at your auger to make sure the blades are still sharp. If they appear dull, or have lost their edge, perhaps a new set of blades would be your best option. Coating the blades with some Vaseline or fine-grade oil will help keep snow from sticking and will ensure that the blades will not begin to rust. If your auger is of the collapsible variety, make sure all the bolts are tight. (I had a bad experience of being out on the ice when a bolt came loose, and, not having a toolbox in sight, my day came to an abrupt end. Do not let this happen to you.)
A flashlight or lantern is another important piece of equipment. Make sure that you replace the old batteries with fresh ones, and test each unit out to make sure it still emits a strong light. This could be a lifesaver out on the ice - ensure that they work properly.

Include a strong rope in your pack this winter in the event that an accident might occur. Years back, a snowmobiler hit a pressure crack and went into the water close to where we were fishing. Luckily, we had a long length of rope and could get him safely back on solid ice. Accidents rarely happen, but if they do, it is best to be prepared. Take a rope that is at least 50 feet long, and with some sort of a floating device on the end to make it easy to grasp hold of.

Lures and Tackle
Sorting through all of your tackle before opening day will enable you to see what is needed or what can be discarded. Hooks that have become rusted should be thrown out and replaced. I recently switched all of my old hooks to Excalibur Trebles; and have noticed a significant increase in hook ups. These rotating trebles hold tight and are defiantly worth their weight in gold.

Experiment with prism tape on your spoons to create different colour combinations. I take along a few rolls of tape whenever I hit the ice, and will "doctor" my baits if the fish take a shine to one particular colour.

Check the condition of your tip ups to make sure they are working properly. Replace any hooks that are damaged or rusty, and check the first ten feet of line for nicks and abrasions. Remember, this line can damage easily with the abuse it gets from the ice around the hole.

If there is one thing I can recommend for those venturing out on the ice, it would be to get yourself a quality floater suit this season. These suits are extremely warm and comfortable and have the added insurance of floatation in case you happen to go through the ice. They may cost more than a regular winter jacket, however, they are worth every penny.     I tried out a pair of neoprene gloves last season and the uses are extraordinary for ice fishing. They work great to grab fish coming through the hole, and excel as "jigging mitts" when holding your rod. They are very warm, and waterproof, and have become a part of my ice fishing arsenal. If you haven't tried out a pair of these specialty mitts, take them for a test drive this year.

Ice fishing is a fun and relaxing winter activity that can bring smiles during the cold winter months. Preparation is the key concept for fun days on the water, and will prevent heartbreak when venturing out. Have a great "hard water" season and reap the rewards the ice can offer.



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