Ice fishing preparation means gearing up for the hard water season
Ice fishing season has arrived for many anglers across the state. In fact on some waters at higher elevations, including the Adirondacks, there has been ice fishing action since mid-December. When it comes to ice fishing, or any other outdoor passion for that matter, preparation is surely one of the keys to success.
Each year, sometime around the holidays and after deer season has passed, I go up into the loft of my garage and bring down all of my ice fishing gear with the intent to get things in order for the season ahead. That task was made a little easier this year because not once did I venture out on the ice last season due to the uncharacteristically warm winter. I certainly hope that’s not the case this year. In fact, by the time you read this I hope to have an outing or two already under my belt.
For me, my gear preparation always starts with tip-ups. I do a lot of deep-water fishing for lake trout and my tip-ups take a beating. Some years I replace all of the braided line on my tip-ups, but most of the time I simply need to trim down some of the worn line from the year before. I always replace the leader with about 15 feet of fluorocarbon ice fishing line and brand new treble hooks. No matter what fish species you target with tip-ups, replacing terminal tackle and leader line should always be a priority. Some anglers I know who fish multiple days of the week (lucky souls) do this more often. I also inspect my tip-ups and make sure the flags are triggering properly, that all nuts and bolts are tight and that the drag on the spools is adjusted.
As for jigging rods, I often use the same reels I use for warm weather fishing, so I simply rig them for the ice fishing season and put them on the desired rod. This usually means new line and swivels if I use them. I do have one jigging outfit each for panfish and lakers that I use exclusively for these species. But my other reels are used year-round.
The most important aspect of gear preparation in my opinion is the sharpening of one’s ice auger blades. If you can’t sharpen them yourself you can likely get them done or purchase replacement blades from the local bait shop. There’s nothing worse than hitting the ice for that first time with a dull auger.
Trying to keep ice fishing gear organized is an ongoing challenge, but I still use an assortment of packbaskets and buckets, all tucked neatly into a small ice fishing sled. As a safety reminder I wrap a set of ice picks around the rods and tip-ups in the packbasket. The ice picks go around my neck as soon as I step on the ice. Of course there are other things to consider, such as maintenance on things like ATVs or electronics if you use them.
Hopefully you’ve already made your preparations for the ice fishing season. If not, the time to do so is now. Good luck, and fish safely.