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Get Ready For Ice Fishing

By Bob Jensen - November 1, 2002
I woke up the other morning, looked out the window, and thought I had over-slept, by about a month!! There was snow on the ground!! This reminded me that ice-fishing is probably not that far away. As with open water fishing, there are things you need to do to make sure that the first ice-fishing trip of the year goes smoothly. Here are some ideas as to what you can do to insure a trouble-free first ice-fishing trip of the year.

Number one thing. Make sure the ice is strong enough to support you and your gear. There are plenty of fish out there; let someone else be the first one on the ice. By the same token, let someone else be the first one to drive their four-wheeler or snowmobile on the ice. After that let another angler be first on the ice with their truck. Make sure that the ice is safe before you go out there.

If you insist on being the first one on the ice, it's a good idea to wear a life-jacket and to have some ice-picks in case you do go through.

The line on your reel is the first thing you should change to get ready for the season. Generally I just cut about fifty feet of line off the reel and re-tie new stuff to the remaining line. In most of our ice-fishing we don't have much line out, so it isn't necessary to replace all the line on the reel.

Line seems to get more abuse in ice-fishing than in open water fishing. In open water, it's just the section of line that is coming in contact with the bottom and the fish's teeth that gets beat up.

In ice-fishing, any line that is off the reel can get damaged on the ice around the hole. Select a line designed specifically for ice-fishing. Trilene Micro Ice or Cold Weather lines are what most of the best ice-anglers go with, as they are specially formulated for ice-fishing.

Make sure your auger is going to cut when you get on the ice. If the blades were getting dull at the end of last season and you didn't sharpen them then, be sure they're sharp now.

If your power auger was starting right away when you last used it, and if you stored it properly, it should start right away. The StrikeMaster augers that I use have always started right up at the beginning of a new season. I always like to start with new gas and oil in the motor if possible.

If you are going to be fishing out of a new shelter this year, assemble it now if you haven't already done so. Newer ice-shelters are relatively easy to put together, but they become more difficult to assemble when you're hurrying to get it together because everyone else is already on the ice. If you're in the market for a new ice shelter, be sure to check out the Ranger series from Frabill. They're portable and built with lots of input from expert ice-anglers.

The most important thing for early season ice-fishing is safety; the second most important thing is having your equipment ready. If you keep the above ideas in mind, you will have dealt with both of these issues and the ice-fishing season will be off to a good start for you.

Author Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen is the host of the Fishing the Midwest television series, a series of television fishing shows that highlight fishing locations and techniques throughout the Midwest. He also writes a syndicated fishing column and does fishing seminars throughout the Midwest. He is a former fishing guide and tournament angler. Visit Bob's web site at
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