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Month: January 2014
Chances are pretty good that if you’ve started to read this blog post, you’re one of the many sportsmen or sportswomen who love being outdoors year-round… even if the winter elements mean that more preparation time is involved. While you may already be familiar with the basics of ice fishing safety, there are a few additional cold weather tips that can be applied when making a trip out to the shanty or ice fishing hole.
Keep in mind that the following tips are only suggestions since ice fishing safety depends on a number of environmental and situational factors.
1. Always bring along a fishing buddy. Not only is it more fun to share the thrill of a catch with a friend, it also makes good sense from a safety standpoint. In the event that you were to fall through the ice, there is someone there to call 911 for help and find a strong tree limb, ladder or rope that might be used to help pull you out of the water.
2. Keep an eye out for weed beds, underground springs, inlet or outlet streams, areas of current, schools of fish or flocks of birds. Each of these factors can cause weak spots in the ice. Always pay close attention to your surroundings.
3. Test, test, test. Test the ice thickness with a chisel or auger before you walk on it. While it is said that ice should be 4 inches thick in order to support an angler, ice rarely freezes to create consistent thickness across a lake or body of water.
4. Avoid fishing lakes or areas that you aren’t familiar with or be sure to bring along someone who does know the waters where you will be ice fishing.
5. Even if you do know an area well or are bringing along a fishing buddy that knows the area, it’s a good idea to stop and ask about current ice conditions at one of the local bait and tackle shops. Use local resources and get safety updates from people who live or work near the area on a daily basis.
6. Monitor the temperature and wind for several days in advance of a trip. Staying aware of temperature changes and wind changes is important. Just because it hasn’t quite warmed up to the point where the ice is starting to melt, it can still weaken the ice considerably. Wind gusts can also create broken or uneven ice.
The bottom line? As with any type of angling activity, practice good judgment. After all, what good would it serve to catch a trophy through the ice or hook a record number of fish if you don’t make it home safely to tell the tale?
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Are you curious about ice fishing?
In many areas of the north small figures, often with huts, appear on ice-covered lakes. Though normally I don’t approach strangers, I’m drawn to anyone holding a fishing rod. And a vast majority of my new acquaintances like to talk fishing.
Are those ice fishermen out there any different? Would I be intruding like walking into someone’s camp, or would it be just like passing any other shoreline angler?
I asked Tim Johnston, a local ice fisherman, about this approachability issue.
“Most guys don’t have a problem at all talking to other guys. We talk to a lot of people on the ice.” But he added that when drilling, anglers try to respect each other’s space.
To be successful with any type of fishing often requires some scouting and time on the water. Visit the right ice angler and you may just learn a thing or two.
For instance, as a novice ice fisherman, I always seem to notice some new set up, organization, gear, or tackle.
You can get the conversational ball rolling by inquiring about the ice thickness and condition.
And if you are lucky they might even share their technique such as what bait or lure, what depth, and how they are working it.
I noticed a couple of anglers giving their minnow a little more action by nudging the line a few times with an insulated boot every few minutes. One fellow even let me photograph this technique, which lets you keep cold hands in pockets and not have to bend down. He grinned and said, “I don’t usually like to give away secrets.”
Even if you are not yet into ice fishing, I recommend you grab your ice cleats and polar ice picks and experience a slow walk on some really hard water. It might even be a good occasion to try out your new “it’s not my fault” joke. Or not.
For the most part, my fishing tackle collection is set. I have a small store of inventory in the garage which allows me to chase just about any fish species, any time of year. I’m also equipped with enough fishing rods of various types (spin cast, spinning, bait cast, fly) that I can serve as fishing guide for at least 6 kids. (More on fishing rod quantity later.) However, I have noticed that there are some staple items which always seem to need to be reloaded.
These items tend to vary somewhat, depending on the season but here are a few tackle basics that always return along with the milk, bread, and eggs.
The specific hook size for the current hot bite.
The right size hook can mean the difference between a successful hook set and a miss. If you want to catch small fish or are ice fishing, scale down the size of the hook. Or, if you want to discourage the little fish, upgrade. Hook size selection also is dependent on that ideal bait or lure size.
Spit shot for the rate of the current, uh, current.
For swift streams and rivers, more weight will help hold the lure in the strike zone. The right sinking rate can trigger a bite too. Split shot weights help you add or subtract fishing depth in small increments.
And, a fresh pack of the hot color of soft-plastic lures.
In my neck of the woods, dark green grubs consistently out fish other soft plastic lures for smallmouth bass. I noticed that the recent issue of Bassmaster magazine also had this lure on their short list for catching largemouth bass through ice.
What are your staples?
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