Ice Fishing Readiness

The ice is inviting, and the mood is exciting. It's winter in the northland, and the fish are biting. Are you ready?

Nothing ruins the prospects of a great day faster than an auger that won't start, a flasher or an underwater camera with a dead battery, an ice tent with a broken pole or a reel filled with brittle, weak line.

It's no way to start the hard-water season, and it doesn't have to happen. As the old saying goes, an hour of prevention is worth days of the cure. Take care of business now, and you won't be the embarrassed angler looking to borrow an auger or trying to fix a tent while everyone around you is catching fish.

Here are a few guidelines that will help you achieve a state of ice-fishing readiness:

Shop early. Remember those Lindy Techni-Glo Frostees and that certain Northland Buckshot Rattle Spoon that you couldn't find a month into the last hard-water season? Now's the time to go through your tackle box, make a list of what you need, and stock up. Replace those rusty jigs or hooks, and make sure those Lindy Tazers and Glo-Buster Bluelights you use to charge up those glow lures are still working.

Make sure your rods and reels are good to go. That means using Q-tips and inspecting the guides of your ice rods for nicks, cleaning up and lubing reels with non-freezing oil. This year, re-spool with fresh line designed for ice fishing like Berkley Trilene Micro Ice.

Get your flasher on the charger, and make sure the battery is taking a full charge. If not, you'll need to replace it, and that's far easier to do now than it is the night before you leave for the lake. If you've never had your flasher serviced, it might be time to take care of that, too, even if it seems to be working fine. The experts at Vexilar recommend servicing every five years, and for $39, they'll go over the unit from top to bottom. Do it now and you will get better and faster service than a month from now.

Ditto for that Aqua-Vu camera. Charge the battery, and check it with a voltage meter to make sure it's supplying plenty of power. Power the unit up and make sure the picture is okay, and you might want to pick up any accessories you've been considering.

Ice tents typically don't require much maintenance, but it's still a good idea to set up those Clams and Fish Traps, and clean them out. It's a good idea to wipe down the aluminum poles, and apply a light coat of lubricant at the junctions. If the mice have made a winter nest of your tent, contact the manufacturer for a repair kit.

Dust off and fire up those Coleman heaters, and stock up on plenty of the 1 lb. propane cylinders. Comfort is a key ingredient of an enjoyable winter outing.

Drain any old fuel from your power auger and replace it with fresh gasoline and the new StrikeMaster smokeless oil. Start it up, and make sure it's running well and has plenty of power. If not, get it in for adjustments. Depending on how much use your auger gets, it may be time to replace the spark plug. Its probably time to replace the blades, and you can always get the old set sharpened and keep as a back up.

What about safety? If you don’t already own a set, pick up some lifeguard spikes. Do you have a safety rope in the pocket of your Ice fishing Coat?

Speaking of Ice fishing coats – Carhartt Extremes Arctic Jacket with a set of matching bibs could make you the warmest and the coolest cat on ice!

Last but not least, don’t forget the slippery foot gear that gave you frost bit toes and kept you from enjoying last year’s ice. Pick up a pair of Irish Setters Versa Trax – the ones with interchangeable, metal, ice cleats and stand your ground with plenty of warmth.

With a little preparation and the right gear, there’s no reason to get cold feet over this ice fishing season - Just plenty of reasons to enjoy the greatest time of the year.

Editors Note: On Ice Tour, co-founded by Chip Leer and Tommy Skarlis, is an extensive effort focusing on generating excitement for the great sport of ice fishing. For more articles, fishing tips, info on the latest and greatest ice gear or a schedule of On Ice Tour Pro Staff appearances, log onto