I have been called many things in my 37 years of life, and for the most part I like to believe that at least half of them were positive names. However, this time of year always brings about one name in particular, "crazy." I am that person looking at the 7-day and more extended forecast and hoping for weather well below the freezing mark of 32 degrees. So, if you think that is crazy, then join the majority in calling me that, however for those that still enjoy getting outdoors in the winter and chasing fish, we really need some cold weather and sooner the better!
The idea of floating around the lake or river are long gone. The boat is tucked away for the winter, and I have slowly gotten my ice fishing gear ready. I hope you are reading this column today with nice warm cup of coffee. I also hope there are frigid temperatures outside, if the meteorologists are correct in their predicting, I bet it is quite chilly out. This cold snap that is happening is the first step in the process of making the lakes safe for ice fishing. While it could be weeks away, or even a month away, I feel like these single-digit temperatures are an early Christmas present for me and my fellow ice anglers. With a multiple day string of sub-freezing temperatures, the reality of ice fishing could only be days away. To me, the sooner the better.
As stated, I have already taken the first few steps in getting my ice fishing gear ready. If you plan on ice fishing, this upcoming week might be a great time to do the same thing. I am predicting a very fast freeze, the water temperatures are already in the thirties, and a few optimal days will freeze it up tight. Once the ice becomes safe enough to venture out on, you will want to have all your things ready to go, and not stuck at home seeing pictures of your ice fishing friends catching fish.
T-R PHOTO BY TODD REED
This photo was taken last winter of local ice fishing enthusiast David Bowles. He was enjoying a day of ice fishing on Rock Creek Lake, a popular destination of ice anglers. With the recent cold weather, ice anglers will be in search of some safe ice soon.
Here is a quick rundown of things to keep in mind when getting ready for the upcoming ice fishing season.
Clothing- The clothing that you wear ice fishing can make or break your ice fishing trip. If you are cold, the chance of you having fun is not very likely. Take the time now to get things ready, and make sure you have one of everything that you normally take out on the ice. Of all my ice fishing outdoor gear, I think my boots are the most important items. A good water-proof pair of boots that keep your feet nice and toasty will keep you nice and happy while you fish. Of course dressing in layers is key to keeping warm, and having a warm outer shell can keep you ice fishing for hours when the fish won't let you go home.
Big Gear- When ice fishing I like to split my gear into two different categories. My big gear includes transportation, auger, shack and electronics. Many people are using snowmobiles 4-wheelers and UTV's to get around the lakes, these take a lot of maintenance and your attention. You car or truck needs some attention too. Are all the fluids up to par? When was the last time you had an oil change? Do you have sand and shovels in your vehicles? All these things are worth thinking about before going on too many ice fishing trips. An auger can be as simple as a $40 had auger or a $400 power auger. Either way, if the blades are not sharp, you will not be cutting any ice. The blades on your auger are the single most important thing in ice fishing, without them, you can't fish. Pay extra attention to them as you get things ready. The last big item is any electronics you use while ice fishing. GPS units, and fish finding equipment, like a Vexilar all need to be inspected and be sure the batteries are charged up and ready to go. Remember, you should charge your Vexilar batteries after each use for maximum battery life. Lastly, get that ice shack out and inspect it for any summer wear that may have occurred. If you have sliding poles on your ice shack, give them a shot of WD-40, you will be glad you did!
Small Gear- The rest of the items are the small gear. Rods, reels, tackle, scooper and bait are placed into my small gear category. These items often go over looked, and result in on-the-ice frustration. Every reel should get new, or fresh line every winter. Reels should be looked over for any wear, and replace anything that looks damaged. Make sure you have a scooper for the ice holes, this $5 tool is a must have! A 5-gallon bucket or large rod bag can hold all of these items and make for a good organization tool. Lastly, make sure you have plenty of bait. Waxworms, spikes and small minnows dominate ice fishing season and several stores in Marshalltown will start to carry them soon.
Hopefully you have gotten some good ideas today, and you are still reading. The MOST important thing you can do is get your SAFETY items ready for the first ice. These include, ice-spikes around your neck, a long rope, a flotation device and the use of the buddy system. Never go ice fishing without these things, one of them might just save you or a friend from a horrible accident.
If you have any questions about ice fishing, or the safety items listed, please feel free to contact me. Ice fishing is an "Outdoor Ambition" of mine, and I hope to see many more people enjoying each year. Be safe, and hope for that cold weather!