March 01, 2019While ice fishing is fun, it's not always easy. Extreme weather conditions can make for less than ideal equipment failure moments, which not only means you're hampering your catching ability but increasing the possibility of going home with broken gear.
Probably the number one reason some new students at my ice-fishing schools might struggle to catch fish at first is because they haven't learned all the little tricks my pro staff and I have over the years when it comes to keeping our equipment in good working order. We've all learned the hard way over the decades.
It's quite amazing, actually, just how simple some of these tips are; but man, do they make life easier on the ice.
Nice Going Slick!
The author, Mark Martin, quickly drilling holes on Michigan's Houghton Lake during his Ice-Fishing Vacation/School; without sharp blades, this would have been a chore.
Nothing works as well in below-freezing temperatures as it does when warm. Shanty poles contract and are harder to slide; zippers stick; line and guides can freeze up.
One of the best products I have found to remedy all this is to spritz Blakemore's Real Magic liberally on all moving parts of my shanty, as well the spools of my reels and guides on my rods.
Originally designed to reduce fishing line memory and increase casting distance during the open-water season, ice anglers have found Real Magic helps keep water from gathering up in spools and line doesn't freeze up nearly as bad. It even helps keep my Berkley FireLine Micro Ice free spooling when air temperatures are well below the freezing mark (superlines tending to freeze up more than monofilament or fluorocarbon). When sprayed on guides, any ice that collects on them just pops right out.
Before heading out on the ice, I'll erect my Clam Voyager X Thermal Ice Team Edition shanty and spray Real Magic on all its framework where it slides in and out from one another, and, at all pivot points. This has made a huge difference on how easily the shanty goes up and down, which is a blessing when the weather's not perfect. Also, by saturating the door zippers, getting in and out is a breeze because water vapor doesn't collect onto it and synch things up. I also spritz the swivels of the seats to keep them spinning freely and keeping them quiet.
One of the simpler yet overlooked aids are ice anchors to hold your shanty down.
Just this year, one of the instructors of my ice-fishing school on Houghton Lake, Michigan, literally just leaned forward a little to adjust his sonar while fishing in high winds, and within the blink of an eye his shanty toppled over. His fishing gear was scattered for yards, some broken, and his shanty severely damaged.
Clam's Extreme Ice Anchor Kit would have been a day saver, for sure. These heavy-duty self-tapping anchors are designed to keep shelters secured in the most extreme conditions. There's also an Extreme Ice Anchor Installation Tool, which enables you to easily screw your anchors in with a cordless drill; great for those days when moving around a lot is crucial to catching fish.
Power augers are a must this time of year now that the ice is at its thickest of the season. But if it doesn't cut holes efficiently you'll be wasting your time and getting frustrated.
Sharp blades make all the difference in the world; and that's why I always make sure to have extra blades with me for my StrikeMaster 4-stroke Honda 35cc Lite auger. Damage can be caused by the littlest things, such as dropping the auger down onto the hard ice blades first, or, when drilling in shallow water and hitting the lake's floor. I've had to go back to the vehicle and change out blades before; without the extra set, the trip would have been over.
How you start a 4-stroke motor can make a difference in how long your auger will last, as well. It's best to lay it down on the ice to start it (like a chainsaw) rather than holding it upright; this way the unit's oil is where it needs to be the moment it's started. Upright and the crank case starts up dry.
Walking on the ice has its dangers, with slips and falls the most obvious hazard.
I make sure to have ice creepers attached to my IceArmor Sub-Zero X boots every time I'm ice fishing; even when the lake's surface has a layer of snow on it. Korkers, for example, have Extreme Ice Cleats with quick-release buckle system and straps for easy on and off at your vehicle. There are 28 push-through spikes on the heel and ball of the foot for bigtime traction where it's needed most.
Think It Out
While ice fishing is fun, it's not always easy. Extreme weather conditions can make for less than ideal equipment failure moments.
Make sure you think out every little nuance that could occur while on the ice before you head out, and then prepare ahead of time. Lube up those moving parts on your shanty and moisture-proof your line and guides. Anchor down that shanty. Have spare auger blades on hand, just in case. Lastly, wear those cleats!
Mark Martin is a professional angler who lives in the southwestern corner of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. He's also an instructor with the Ice-Fishing Vacation/Schools, which are held on several of the state's frozen lakes. For more information, check out his website at markmartins.net.