"Checking the Ice Fishing Wish List" 

By  Justin Hoffman

 

With the days growing colder and snow already falling in some parts of North America, ice fishing season looks like it will be upon us shortly. Time to lug out last seasons gear from the shed or basement, and organize it in anticipation of that first step out onto hard water. Upgrading and updating some of that "old" equipment can mean more productive and enjoyable days out on the ice - a great help when the true cold finally sets in. Pick up some new gear that is guaranteed to bring phenomenal results, and look forward to a rewarding year while out on the ice.

The Basics
How many anglers are still using the same old "multi-species" rod they have had since they can remember? Although it may still catch fish, you are certainly putting yourself at a disadvantage when it comes to sensitivity, action and responsiveness. Ice fishing is much like freshwater fishing when it comes to having different rods and reels for different species and fishing applications. Today's new graphite rods are far more superior in craftsmanship and will make working a lure and fighting a fish much easier and beneficial. Why chase panfish with a rod that could haul small muskies out of your hole? By downsizing and choosing the appropriate rod size and weight for each species and situation, you will be well on your way to finding and catching more fish.
Line is an important connection between you and the fish, but how many people continue to use the same line year after year when out ice fishing? Start fresh this season and look into some of the specialty lines that are now on the market. There are numerous lines on the shelf that are specifically designed for cold-weather fishing. These "new" lines maintain their suppleness in severe cold and will not coil up as badly as regular mono will come winter. A variety of the new "superlines" can also be a great addition for heading out on the ice. These lines have virtually no stretch, no coil and are easy to handle both on a reel or fished under a tip-up. My suggestion would be to choose a dark-coloured line for tip-up use as it can be easily seen against the ice and snow.

Electronics
How many anglers continue to head out on the ice without a sonar unit or electronics, virtually fishing blind? Ice fishing has become high-tech now, and electronics make the job of locating fish and staying with the school downright easy. My advice is to pick up a portable flasher or fish finder (prices are relatively inexpensive) and see the difference they will make to your day on the ice. Finding dropoffs and weedlines (prime spots for hard water fish) is a breeze with these handy little units, and they have literally saved the day for me in showing me prime spots, or in some instances, not such prime spots.

Drilling numerous holes upon arrival on the ice and lowering the transducer down each can supply the angler with a wealth of knowledge and information. Is the water too shallow? Is there adequate cover and structure? Are there fish visible on the screen? Most of these questions would go unanswered without the aid of electronics, and that's were the beauty of having them along is really felt. The majority of anglers have electronics on their open-water boats, so it only makes sense to apply electronics to the ice as well.
Drilling Through the Ice
For those that spend a lot of time out on the ice, it might be time to make the switch from a manual hand-held augur to a gas-powered machine. Manual augurs have their time and place (occasional ice fishers that routinely only punch a hole or two each outing) but for those that like to move around or fish where the ice gets THICK (like here in Canada) the obvious road to take is an augur powered by gas. These augurs cut through the ice in seconds, are relatively light in weight and will ultimately pay for themselves over the course of a couple of seasons. For those who have never tried breaking through 18-inches of ice with manual equipment, the experience certainly leaves a sour taste in your mouth (and a sore back to boot!)

Portable Huts
We've all been there before - out on the ice when all of a sudden a severe wind starts howling or snow starts flying. Alas, there's nowhere to hide. Or is there? Portable huts are all the rage nowadays, with a variety of companies and models available to the consumer. The one thing they have in common is that they are light in weight, easy to assemble and disassemble and can be pulled out onto the ice on a sled or toboggan. Many can be set up to act as a wind barrier or as a full hut for added protection from the elements. Their ease of mobility out on the ice is perfect for chasing the fish and moving position. If you usually rent hunts throughout the winter season, buying a portable version can save money over time, with the added flexibility of setting it up whenever and wherever you choose.
Ice fishing is a great sport that can prolong the fishing throughout the entire year. Much like freshwater fishing, updating your arsenal with the latest inventions and gadgets will equate to increased angling success and fun on the water. Have a safe time on the ice this year and have a blast catching a bunch.

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