This is the time of the year when I get the ice fishing itch.  This year it is affecting me more than normal.  Every morning I watch the weather forecast for even the slightest inclination that we are in for a deep freeze.  The other morning, I heard the weatherman, joyfully explain that the 10-day outlook is for above normal temps.  When I heard this bit of information, I groaned.    My wife asked what the groan was for, although she already knew the answer to that question.  I told her that I want to see it get cold and stay cold and that I didn’t want to see any more of this warm weather.  That little comment was all it took to confirm what she had long suspected.  I was officially nuttier than a fruitcake.

Normally, I make my maiden ice fishing trip somewhere between the 1st and 10th of December.  It is possible that I am jumping the gun a little.  I am guessing that I am not the only one that feels this way.  Northeast South Dakota is home to legions of ice fisherman.  Some of whom are undoubtedly waiting for the ice to form.  While it is true that we can’t get on the ice and many lakes are too frozen on the edge to launch boats, there are things that would help that first trip out on the ice go a little smoother.

I believe that most people do the basic things.  They service the auger, clean up the sled shacks, pack the wheel bearings in the wheel house and organize the tackle box.  However, in our rush to the ice, we may overlook some less obvious, but no less important items.  Here are a few that have come back to bite me in the backside over the years.

The ice fishing equipment that was hastily thrown into storage should be taken out, cleaned and maintained. We all know that winter weather is brutal on our equipment.  Putting it away dirty and grimy and letting it fester all summer is equally tough on it.    A little time spent cleaning, oiling and restringing those reels and tip-ups will help ensure they perform when needed.  Losing a fish due to rusty tip-ups is enough to drive you mad.  I know this from experience!

Since we are on the subject of rust, it might be a good idea to take a look at those ice fishing jigs.  Did a few of those get rusty over the summer?  My advice is to throw the rusty ones out because they multiply like rabbits in a tackle box.  Inspect the rest of the jigs and hooks that you have and run a hook sharpener over them.  It is very easy to dull a hook while bouncing across the lake in a tackle box.

Those propane Buddy Heaters are a great investment for a shack, but they require a little maintenance every year.  If yours is a couple years old, it is about time to pull out the owner’s manual and give it a quick cleaning.  It’s simple and will provide a little piece of mind.

If you use a hand-held sonar like a Marcum Lx-i   or any other battery powered device, change out the non-rechargeable batteries.  You won’t get a whole year out of them anyway.  Better to change them now and start fresh than to have them die on the ice.  Vexilar batteries are a constant issue for me.  I opt to change them out at the beginning of every year, which is a little expensive.  I would rather pay a little more upfront than to realize that my Vexilar can only ice fish half as long as I need it to.

A little bit of effort at home can save a whole lot of headaches on the ice.  My motivation is more important than any headache.  A little ice fishing maintenance will get me out of the house.   My wife already believes I am nuts.  I see no reason to sit around the house allowing her to prove it.

About The Author

neil jensen

Weekly radio host, outdoor columnist, seminar speaker, fishing guide