The Ice Fishing "Blahs"

By Dave Duwe - February 1, 2011
When ice fishing slows around February, I get hit by what some call "cabin fever." I prefer to call it the ice fishing "blahs." The "blahs" happen when you start getting sick of ice fishing and can't wait for open water fishing. When that feeling hits, I can't help but dream about getting the boat in the water and setting out, but for me that's at least a month away. To make the time pass faster, it's time to start getting prepared for the upcoming open water season.
With the new 2011 catalogs in hand, it can't be any easier. To get prepared, I like to get my terminal tackle re-stocked, rods and reels prepared, and take care of any miscellaneous boat service items.

When considering the terminal tackle, you need to concentrate on the old saying: "hook, line and sinker." At the start of every guide year, I start with a new tackle box for my terminal tackle. I take everything out of it and inventory, organize and re-stock. Having done this exercise for many years, I've learned the hard way to really think things through when re-stocking. My first thought is to "think spring." Most of the items I use in spring are the only time I use them all year. I am always short of three-way swivels, which I use for rigs for the river walleyes. Since I only use them in spring, it's been a year since I've needed them and more than likely, a year since I've seen them in my tackle box so now is the time to find them or place an order.

I have three other "must gets" on my list. They are 3/0 XCalibur worm hooks, Thill bobbers with springs and painted walleye hooks. The XCalibur worm hooks are what I use for spawning Largemouth, while "stick" fishing with Yum Dingers. Many years of poor organization has had me tearing my boat apart looking for a hook.

Ninety percent of my bobber fishing is done with slip bobbers; that's why every spring when the panfish are in the shallows I'm rummaging through the tackle box looking for bobbers with a spring stopper. This style of bobber is great when fishing 1-3 ft of water for pre-spawn panfish.

As a rule, I have a favorite color in painted walleye hooks (chartreuse) that is always missing by fall. I'm sure we all have our own favorite terminal tackle items for spring, so make sure you replenish whatever is important to you.

Late winter is a prime time to clean reels and make adjustments to your rod and reel set ups. I will take most of the line off the reels, leaving only some backing on the spool for the new line. The backer line will save you a ton of money on new line, since you are not changing line that you'll never use before it gets too much memory in it. I typically leave about ΒΌ of the old line on the spinning reels and about 1/3 on baitcasters. Don't put the new line on just yet, you want the line to be fresh without any memory when you use it. However, I will purchase the new line now; I don't want to be at the mercy of whatever is left in the store when I'm ready.

Finally, February is the time that I will take care of minor boat needs that weren't taken care of in fall. For example, I know that a mouse got into my life preserver compartment. (Please a moment of silence as it is now deceased) But before his passing, I know that he ate a few preservers. I will need to evaluate the damage and replace as needed. I would never want my first trip out in spring greeted with a ticket for not having the proper life jackets on board.

All winter I have been periodically putting battery chargers on my marine batteries to keep them fresh, I've found that this will make them last longer.

Late winter preparation, can help pass the time during the ice fishing "blahs" and the biggest bonus is that the first trip out on open water is more relaxed because you've taken the time to prepare and eliminate the stress.

Author Dave Duwe
Dave Duwe
Full-time guide Dave Duwe owns and operates Dave Duwe's Guide Service, featuring the lakes of Walworth County, WI. Dave has been guiding for over 20 years and is one of Southeastern Wisconsin's best multi-species anglers. Dave is an accomplished outdoor writer and seminar speaker. He is a member of the Great Lakes Outdoor Writers Association and Walworth County Visitor Bureau. Sponsors include: Lund Boats(Jerry's Sport Service Inc.), Mercury Marine, Arkie Jigs, and Vexilar Marine Electronics, a pro-staff member of Minn-Kota trolling motors,Hummingbird graphs, Cannon downriggers, Lindy, Pure Fishing and All Terrain Tackle. For more information, please check out Dave's website www.fishlakegeneva.com .