Top Ice ToysBy Steve Ryan - February 1, 2005
Lets face it; life on the ice can be cold and boring. What one needs to add excitement to the icefishing game are gadgets. The thicker your wallet, the more gadgets you can afford. Mind you, I have had plenty of fun catching fish with nothing more than a homemade spud bar, a make shift jig rod and a handful of ice jigs. However, if I had my choice, the following toys would accompany me on the ice.
First, since my wish list is long, I would start with a Yamaha Kodiak 450 ATV four-wheeler. ATV's expand one's range and make one more likely to try multiple locations until active fish are found. They are also great safety devices. The old adage that 'no ice is save ice to drive a truck on' is fairly accurate. Not only do ATV's weight a lot less than trucks but their large tires contain considerable air pressure which can keep them afloat for an extended period of time. The same cannot be said about truck or snowmobiles. Yamaha's Kodiak 450 also possesses considerably more pulling power and carrying capacity than most snowmobiles. Even during years with little snow, the Kodiak 350 can be used on a wider range of terrain for icefishing purposes.
For added safety on the ice, I would wear an insulated survival suit. These suits resemble snowmobile suits but are designed as floatation and insulated suits in case one goes through the ice. Survival suits usually come in bright colors and include reflective tape on the hood and sleeves for added visibility both in the light and dark. Two of the more popular brands are Mustang and Streans. Not only will these suits keep one warm; they also have the ability to save one's life.
With mobility and safety on my side, I want a gadget that will show me where the fish are and how to get to them. Any quality ice fishfinder will display the depth and mark fish. However, Lowrance's M68C Ice Machine has taken ice fishing technology to the next level by integrating a GPS plotter into the fishfinder unit. Lowrance's GPS and mapping technology is nothing short of incredible. Turn on this unit while having your morning cup of coffee at the breakfast table and it will guide your course directly to the lake and to your latest hotspot. Forget about marking hot holes with a stick or a snow mound that can be discovered by other ice anglers. Simply add the hot icefishing hole as a waypoint on the Lowrance M68C. No matter how much snow falls or blows between trips on the ice, the M68C will always bring you right back to the hot spot. The M68C also displays savable plot trails which show where you got on the lake and the course taken across the lake. This plotting function becomes critical when weather conditions change and visibility is reduced. Blowing snow, fog and even nightfall can create challenging safety concerns on the ice. A GPS plotter lets one follow one's footsteps back off the ice even after all footprints have vanished.
Now that I can get to my location safely and accurately, I want to be comfortable and productive once I arrive at my hotspot. For comfort, I would select Frabill's Ranger TriPlex shack. This flip-over style shack is light, durable and totally portable. This unit sets up in seconds and is comfortable to fish from. The Ranger Tri-Plex has flip down bucket seats mounted on 360degree swivel bases and has enough room to accommodate three anglers. The advantage of its black construction means a darker interior and less glare. This allows one to more easily see down the hole to spot fish. Fishing from a shack helps one catch more fish by eliminating the effects of the cold and wind. The cold will ice up holes and jigging rod guides, while the wind can make it more difficult to detect bites.
With one warm and cozy in the shack, one must guard against becoming complacent. Fire up the auger, take advantage of the Yamaha Kodiak, the Lowrance M68C and find a location with active fish. With the benefit of a top quality power auger like the Eskimo Shark, cutting holes is not longer a chore. The Eskimo Shark auger will cut a dozen holes in minutes. With comfort design features like a foam handgrip, thumb safety and muffle cage, the Shark is not only powerful but also comfortable to operate.
To round off my gadget wish list, I would have an Aqua-Vu Quad 360 underwater camera rigged and ready to go at all times. This unit comes with the new 'wide screen' seven-inch monitor. With four separate lens, fish cannot hid from this 360 degree viewing angle. When the fish opens its mouth and jig disappears on the 7 inch monitor, set the hook. If the fish is too small as it approaches the jig, pull the jig away and try to entice the larger fish. It's like having an unfair advantage.
Add a half-dozen Frabill jigging rods, along with a few dozen ice jigs in every imaginable size and color and the wish list would be complete. Nothing left to do but to head out on the ice and effectively target fish.