The leaves are changing, football is on tv, and the mornings are full of chill. To the avid ice angler, these signs are the early indications that winter is not far off. After all, it is not unheard of to have walkable ice in mid-November. This gives us just about a month to prepare ourselves and our gear for the upcoming ice season. In this blog, we will break down the top 5 things you can do to prep for this ice season.
- Inventory your equipment
Planning is all well and good, but not knowing your baseline will make your planning more challenging and in many cases redundant. I start by going through all of the ice gear that I have left over from last season and make note of anything that is damaged, lost, or in need of a resupply.
Hopefully your shelter(s) have made it through the summer in good shape. But if a mouse or bird found their way through your fabric, it is much better to address this when it’s still 50-60 degrees rather than 20 degrees.
Check your ice line, look at your treble hooks, find your gloves and hat. These seem little, but they can be very frustrating to notice for the first time when you’re trying to leave the house to head to the lake. A good plan needs a good foundation. Know what you already have.
- Order what you need
If you have been in a sporting goods store lately, you know that they are already geared up for ice fishing. This is the perfect time to take advantage of the full racks and abundant inventory. Later in the season those shelves are as bare as October trees after a windstorm.
Many items are not produced year round and when the supply is gone, you’re out of luck. Being prepared ahead of time and making those strategic purchases sooner than later is key.
In the world of Custom Ice Rods, this is especially the case. At Tuned Up Custom Rods, we are making rods year round, but the demand is much lower in the late summer and fall months that in December and January. If you are looking to buy a custom ice rod, the wait times are steep. But waiting 4 weeks in October is much easier than waiting 4 weeks in late December.
- Perform Maintenance
You have invested many hard earned dollars and countless hours into your pursuit of fish. But that equipment often includes complicated machines that need to be cared for. Ice fishing is harsh and very hard on equipment, with the brutal temperatures and unforgiving landscape. If left untended, your equipment will fail.
This is the perfect time to charge the batteries on your fish finders and electric augers. Make sure they are receiving the charge correctly, and change batteries if needed. If you are still running a gas powered auger, fill the tank with new fuel and add stabilizer. Or easier yet, use Trufuel, or another stabilized gas. Then you never have to worry about having old gas in your tank. Make sure to run your equipment to ensure that it is working.
- Change Your Fishing Line
There’s nothing fun or glamorous about restringing a dozen fishing reels, but it needs to be done. If left on a reel too long, the line will hold memory of the tight wraps around the spool. When you go to drop your bait down the hole, a coil of line begging to tangle will be there to greet you.
With some lines, like braid, you can get through a couple of fishing seasons before needing a change. Monofilament line should be changed each season at the least. And fluorocarbon line will often need to be changed mid-season. If you find your line unmanageable, or frequently twisting, it’s best to put on some fresh line.
- Scout Your Spots and Map Map Map
Late fall can be a wonderful opportunity to spend time on the lake looking for new spots to ice fish. Usually the lakes will have far less traffic and you will be able to crisscross the waters without worry of cutting off a tuber, or getting soaked by a wake boat. This is also the perfect time to find hidden pieces of structure. With the weeds dying off, you can find the hidden rocks and bottom transitions much easier than in the summer months.
If you use your boat electronics for ice fishing, add waypoints that you can easily return too. If you don’t use your boat electronics, your phone can do the job too. Download the Navionics app and add waypoints while you are in the boat.
Having a game plan before heading to the lake can make you more confident and more productive. And that leads to more fish and more fun.