8 Tips To Make Ice Fishing More Fun

By Ted Peck - December 1, 2012
Fishing's fourth season has seen quantum changes over the past 20 years with sophisticated electronics, power augers, quickly deployed portable shanties, sensitive jigging rods and dozens of options in ice fishing lures light years beyond staggering out with a stick and a spud to sit on a six-gallon bucket like grandpa used to do.

Every winter brings new gadgets and accessories to the hardwater arena. Many of these are children of convenience from the recesses of a wind-chilled mind. Innovation invites improvement, especially from folks who have a lot of time to sit and think while waiting for a bite.

Ice fishing is far less expensive than chasing fish in open water. You can be a player for just a few hundred dollars-and a serious competitor for less than $1,000--Provided a snowmobile or ATV isn't included in the package, of course.

Most of us hoof it, concluding "I'm getting too old for this stuff" on at least every third adventure in the Great Outdoors. Here's a look at 10 ways to improve your angling experience as we enter the ice fishing season.

It only takes one trip to the emergency room to realize the value of semi-solid footing on a surface which is slippery by design. At least six manufacturers market cleats designed to slip on over boots, ranging in price from $5-25.

Unfortunately, most slip off just as quickly as they go on. Most of the time you don't realize a cleat is missing until you're back at the truck with a heavy sack of fish. Buying two pairs is a good idea. With luck you'll still have two cleats left when it's time to put the bucket away for the season.

Although several companies offer portable shanties, there isn't a single model I am aware of which comes with a rope longer than six feet designed to pull the unit across the ice.

Many who have mumbled "I'm getting too old for this stuff" more than three times on a single outing while pulling their shanty have realized that a longer rope is much easier on the back and a more efficient way to negotiate steep grades when accessing or leaving the ice.

The need to affect rescue is always a possibility when traversing water in its liquid state. This possibility increases geometrically as the arrival of spring weather approaches.

The five or six gallon bucket is standard equipment for most ice anglers. Most buckets have a series of grooves and ridges around the bucket where the handle attaches. Wrapping and securing 25 feet of quarter inch nylon rope in the bucket's grooves might be the smartest thing you ever did before heading out on the ice.

Most portable shanties are designed to pull easily across ice and snow. Ease of towing is a relative thing. Spraying non-stick cooking spray to surfaces which contact Mother Earth is a terrific way to minimize friction.

There are several things you can do to this vital piece of ice fishing equipment which can make it even more valuable. A blast of non-stick cooking spray will minimize inevitable ice build up on an ice scoop on those days when bowling seems like a better recreational alternative.

Marking the dipper with minimum length requirements for gamefish provides a ready reference for fish" keeper "status. Most game wardens carry a tape measure-right next to their citation books.

Adding a cheap carabiner to the dipper's handle which can be attached to the wire handle of the bucket is more ergonomic than throwing this tool in the bucket with all your other gear.

Bungee cords are the standard for securing the cover which protects you from an auger's sharp blades. They are frequently lost or broken. Cutting several refrigerator magnets to size and super-gluing the magnets inside the auger cover is a cheap and effective solution to a perennial problem.

Tip-up hooks are notorious for finding purchase points other than fish lips. Gluing half of a wine bottle cork to a board-style tip-up is a great way to keep the hook secure.

Dad always used to say "the quickest way to get two rods tangled up is to get them within 10 feet of each other." What would MacGyver do with a 10-foot section of one-inch PVC pipe, five stout rubber bands and some duct tape ?

If he was a bucketeer he would make five rod tubes for his jig sticks. Rubber bands keep the rods from sliding by hooking them behind the reels. Use duct tape to attach the rubber bands to the PVC.

Duct tape and PVC can also make a quick splint for a broken limb if you choose not to follow tip #1.

Author Ted Peck
Ted Peck
Cap'n Ted Peck has over 30 yrs. guiding experience, specializing in multi-species fishing on Pool 9-10 of the Mississippi from Genoa, Wi. to Prairie du Chien. Cap'n Ted is a pro staffer for Lund, Northland Tackle, MinnKota, Bill Lewis Lures, Evinrude, Uncle Josh, HT Enterprises and Custom Jigs & Spins. When not guiding Cap'n Ted communicates the outdoors experience via newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and through seminars. This work has taken him all over the midwest, Canada and beyond... but he always returns to the upper Mississippi which he considers the most diverse fishery in North America. Click here for more info on Ted's guide service. Cap'n Ted's new book Mississippi Musings with the Old Guide is a personal account of his long career as a professional fishing guide on Old Man River.