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Keeping your Body warm in Sub Zero Temperatures, Cabela’s X-Bionic Base Layer By Gary Howey

  As an outdoorsman, I spend countless hours outside when it’s cold. In the winter, we’re on the ice, while in the summer, our crew is on the water and as fall arrives, you’ll find us in the field, and in deer stands.  I’ve always had problems keeping warm, especially in the late fall when hunting waterfowl, ice fishing and .

   If I wear the heavy bulky clothing I used to wear in these conditions, I have trouble bringing my shotgun up and just moving around in bulky clothing.   

  When we have to walk great distances as we do when calling predators or getting to our deer house or stands, if I layer up, by the time I reach where I want to set up or get to the deer stand, I am sweated wet and will be cold from that point on.

  During the late pheasant-hunting season, in early winter when you are one of the walkers, if you dress too lightly, you’re cold and if you dress too heavy by the time, you reach the end of your first field you’re overheated and are cold. 

  I’ve tried everything, layers, long johns, polypropylene long underwear and almost everything available, but some are not enough while others are too much.

  Later last fall, I’d heard many good things about Cabela’s X-Bionic Base layer First-On-Skin-Energizer that was developed by Swiss scientists, the system they scientifically proven and patented.

  The advertisements indicates that the 3D-Bionic Sphere System maintains your body core at an optimum 98.6 F no matter what the temperature.

  I’d tried everything else, so why not try the X- Bionic base layer. When I opened the package from Cabela’s, it was obvious these were like no other base layer I’d seen as they are constructed much differently. The advertising on the X-Bionic indicated that it was designed to turn perspiration into therm-regulating power and I was looking forward to see if what they said about it was true.

  Woven into the chest and back area is there 3D-Bionic Sphere System that starts working as soon as you start to sweat, to cool you when you’re hot and warms you when you’re cold but without over-cooling.

  Built into the material, there Air-Conditioning Channels, a ventilation system that continuously carries moisture away, keeps you warm,  allowing the air to flow to parts of your body not normally accessible when wearing other base layers. [Read more…]

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Ice Fishing at 50 degrees By Gary Howey

  There’s something to be said about ice fishing when it’s fifty degrees, it’s not the type of weather you usually associate with ice fishing.  For one thing, your hands and the rest of your body isn’t as cold as those minus thirty-three wind chill days you had been on the ice. That day when we traveled five hours north with a film crew and had to film as we had been invited up by one of our sponsors and the day before wasn’t as bad with the weatherman indicating that the following day wouldn’t be all that bad!

  On fifty-degree days, you can fish without heavy gloves, making it easier to untangle your lines and easier and quicker to tie on or bait ice fishing micro baits when you don’t have to wear gloves.

  The best thing about it is you don’t have to bribe your friends to go ice fishing with you.

  When the forecast for Friday February 10 was for fifty-degree weather and little wind in the morning, it sounded like a good time to hit the ice.

  Some of my fishing partners were worried about the ice and not having enough ice but after I assured them that there was eight inches a few days before, they were all in.

  Dani Thoene and I hit the ice first, with Dani punching holes and me following up behind him to clean up the ice mound around the hole and scoop them clean.

  Larry Myhre, Sioux City, IA. pulled in shortly after we arrived and set up on one of the holes to the east of where I was fishing.

  Ten minutes later Anthony Thoene arrived and began fishing not too far from where Larry had set up, with Melvin Kruse rounding out our crew.

  We’d be fishing on a privately stocked pond in northeast Nebraska, one that I’d fished in open water and knew there were some big fish patrolling the depths as on one occasion, I was fishing with heavy line and was broken off when a big fish hit my lure and broke me off in open water.

  We all had Vexilar locators, showing letting us know when fish moving in on our baits, but as many fish do in the winter, they weren’t overly aggressive.

  I rigged up a live bait bobber rig with a minnow and jigged with another rigged tipped with a wax worm hoping to entice a crappie. Larry, Dani and I were doing a number on the smaller bluegill and bass, with two or more of us pulling fish up at the same time.

 A thick red line, indicating a fish moved up under my bait, I raised my bait just a bit, as I waited for the fish to move up to the bait, I watched the sensitive spring bobber at the end of my rod as it will indicate a bite long before you feel it.  [Read more…]

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Tricks for finicky late-season fish By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

There’s one thing you can take to the bank if you are an ice fisherman during the month of February. Catching fish is just going to get tougher.

The bloom of early ice is off. Gamefish have settled into the doldrums of winter. If you are going to catch your share, whether it is bluegills, crappies, perch or walleyes, you are going to have to fish smarter.

Generally that means lightening up. Smaller baits, lighter lines, more precise presentation all play a greater role late in the ice fishing season.

If you have been fishing four pound test, you might consider switching to two pound. But even more importantly, you need to fish fresh line. Monofilament has a memory. That memory means the line comes off your spool in curls. Your tiny ice fishing jigs or teardrops are not heavy enough to take out those curls, so you are never in direct contact with your lure.

One thing underwater cameras have shown us is how lightly late winter panfish hit lures. We’ve watched bluegills and perch swim up to a lure, inhale it and spit it out all in one motion.

If you are using a camera, you can probably hook that fish. If not, you won’t even know it inhaled the bait. Sure, you can see the fish on your flasher, but you can’t tell if he has the lure.

One little trick I use is when I see the fish signal merge with my bait signal I began raising my rod tip feeling for pressure. Quite often, especially this time of year, the fish has taken the bait with no indication even if I’m using a bite indicator.

So here’s the thing. Having coils in your line severely complicates the catching of light biting fish.

I could make a strong argument for changing your line each time you go fishing.

That doesn’t mean you put on an entire 110 yards of new line each time. If you are fishing 30 feet or less, put on 40 feet of new line, using a blood knot to join the old with the new.

Once you are on the ice, it is a good idea to hook your lure on something heavy like your ice shack or snowmobile and stretch the line to remove the memory coils before fishing.

A good argument can be made for using one of the new “super” lines for ice fishing. There will be no coils in the line and no stretch, so your sense of feel will be greater. The deeper water you fish, the more important it is to use a super line.

Are there other ice fishing tricks that will help you take late-winter fish? You bet. [Read more…]

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Cold Weather It’sTime To Be on the Ice Gary Howey

  As the wind howls through the Black Hills Spruce in my front yard, I busy myself re-arranging gear that I’ll need to load in my Dodge Ram.  I call this the “In Between Time”, when I and other outdoor people are coming out of one outdoor activity and getting into another.

  Since we just returned from a late season pheasant hunt in the Watertown, S.D. area,  I still have my shotguns, shells, chaps, hunters orange and cold weather clothing loaded and once the wind dies down a bit, I will transfer it to my office loading dock.

  Once it is unloaded, I will get ready for my next outdoor adventures, “Ice Fishing” starting to load my Vexilar locator-underwater camera, five-gallon buckets, ice sled, rod & reels, tackle and auger.

  I love ice fishing, and with the gear and clothing we have today, it takes a lot to drive me off the ice. I really do not enjoy being out in ten below weather when a strong northwesterly wind is blowing my ice fishing sled and me all over the ice.  However, when the wind lies down and the sun comes out, I am game for any kind of ice fishing.

  In Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota there are numerous bodies of water that I love to spend time on ice fishing.

  In Nebraska, several lakes in the Valentine area hold excellent numbers of fish taken through the ice. Merritt Reservoir is one of these, as I like to fish it for walleye, crappie and bluegill. [Read more…]

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Catch ‘happy hour’ farm pond crappies By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

It was well into what I call the “happy hour” of ice fishing. The sun was falling rapidly behind the hills to the west of the small farm pond upon which I had set up my Fish Trap shelter.

My depth finder suddenly lit up with the arrival of a big school of crappies. I tried to hold my jigging rod steady so the horizontal jig tipped with a minnow head would entice one of those fish that had encircled my lure.

A coyote suddenly howled on the hillside to my right, surely not more than a hundred yards away, and I flinched at the sound, jerking the rod. I felt the satisfying pressure of a good fish.

“I’d rather be lucky than good,” I mumbled to myself and soon pulled a nice pound crappie onto the ice.

I dropped him into the plastic bucket sitting alongside my small heater and sent the jig back down on a mission.

Forty-five minutes later, the sun was long gone, and nine nice crappies, all about the same size, were flopping in the bucket. I folded back the Fish Trap, put my power auger, bucket and heater into it, and began pulling it behind me on the way to the truck a couple hundred yards away.

I love catching crappies through the ice, and farm ponds are one of my favorite places to do it.

Most farm ponds do not contain crappies because the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) does not stock them. Crappies compete directly with largemouth bass, so the DNR feels it is better not to introduce them.

However, crappies have found their way into a lot of farm ponds in both Iowa and Nebraska.

Crappies tend to cycle so there is always a dominate year class in these ponds. If you keep track of them you can concentrate on the ponds with the biggest fish.

The best crappie ponds that I know of have a lot of submerged timber in them. Crappies like to school alongside something, and wood seems to be their favorite. The best fishing is usually in the upper end of these ponds where the flooded timber is. You need to be careful in these areas, however, because most ponds are littered with underwater springs, especially in the shallow end, and this can mean thin ice.

If there is snow on the ice you will not be able to see the thin spots and about all you can do is drill test holes. A few years ago I was venturing out onto a pond and my test hole drilling showed a good, solid six inches of ice. As I advanced I suddenly stopped. Something didn’t feel right. I drilled a test hole and found I was standing on about one inch of ice. One more step and I would have taken a swim.

While you can catch crappies all day long, the action really heats up during “happy hour,” that one hour of daylight just before sunset. Crappies seem to come up higher in the water column and begin feeding. [Read more…]

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Yes, Virginia, you can catch bass all winter By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the SIOUX City Journal

Largemouth bass do not need to be an “accidental” catch in the wintertime. If you search out areas which attract them under the ice, use lures and techniques they like, you will catch them with regularity.

Yes, Virginia, you can catch bass all winter.

It was a brilliantly sunny day when Gary Howey punched several holes though the ice on one of the local ponds near Hartington, Nebraska.

Within minutes they were baited up and in the water with tiny jigging lures tipped with wax worms.

Gary set out a dead rod tipped with minnow under a bobber a few feet away from his bucket.

We weren’t exactly surprised when Gary’s first bite resulted in a 2-pound bass. I grabbed a few quick photos and went back to my rod which had been sitting on my bucket. I picked it up and felt pressure, so I set the hook. It was another bass which was twin to the one Gary caught.

Later his bobber went down and another nice bass flopped out on the ice.

All these fish were released.

This was not a unique experience for us. We have caught a lot of largemouth through the ice over the years.

I’m guessing that 99 percent of the largemouth bass caught through the ice were taken while the angler was fishing for something else. But bass do not have to be an “accidental” catch.

If you want to try something different this year, target largemouth bass.

I know most people think bass go lethargic in cold water, but I’ve caught enough of them through the ice to know they can be caught, and caught in numbers. [Read more…]

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It’s time to inspect ice lures, old and new By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

If this cold weather keeps up, it won’t be long before we can venture out on the ice in pursuit of fish. With that in mind, now is the time you should get out your ice fishing lures and check them over.

First thing to look at is the hooks. Make sure they are sharp and haven’t been damaged. Look for things like bent out points or rolled in points. Either fix them or replace them.

Most of the lures made for ice fishing will fit into three categories. All are designed or can adapt to fishing vertically. They would be lead head jigs, jigging spoons and swimming lures.

First would be what I call the lead heads. This would include most panfish ice lures, such as tear drops, or any lure with lead in its makeup, including the regular lead head jigs. Using very soft plastics to tip these lures is very popular right now. And tungsten jigs are hot among ice fishermen. These new jigs, when tipped with very soft plastics, have produced a lot of fish.

Believe it or not, but there are now jigs for fly fishing. When tied they imitate insects that fish like to eat in the wintertime; they should be fantastic. I’ve used flies for ice fishing for a long time since fly tying is one of my hobbies. But these new jigs created for fly fishing are a big step up. They consist of a tungsten bead that fits onto a small jig hook with a 45-degree angle bend.

I’ve tied up a bunch of them for fly fishing, and I can’t wait to take them out on the ice.

While some of the soft plastics can be fished without bait, most lead head lures need to be fished with bait. Wax worms, spikes and minnows are most often used.

I like to fish wax worms on a gold tear drop for bluegills. I simply hook the waxie in the middle and squeeze out the juice. This adds some scent to the presentation and, since bluegills have such small mouths, makes it easier for them to get hooked. Those two flaps of skin flapping on each side of the hook also makes a tempting presentation. [Read more…]

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Early Ice Fishing Tactics Gary Howey

  It’s December, when in a somewhat normal year there’s good ice in northern South Dakota and Minnesota. Well, I’d have to say that this isn’t even close to a normal year. In our area the last week of November and first week of December, we’ve had very few cold nighttime temperatures.

  Don’t despair, as it can happen quickly when temperatures drop below zero and even colder at night, as ice can build fast once the temperatures begin to drop.

    As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, don’t get too anxious to get on the ice, make sure there’s plenty of ice to support everything you’re bringing with you on the ice.

  Once the ice builds, early season ice fishing can be the most successful time for you to be out there, as the fish are still somewhat active and not into their full winter mode.

  Years ago, the thinking was that once the ice covered the lakes and ponds, all fish dropped to the bottom to be comfortable and pretty much hung there most of the winter.

  Since the invention of Vexilar locators, we’ve learned a whole lot about where the fish will be located throughout the winter. We now know that, especially during first ice, fish are moving not just vertically, but also horizontally.

  The Vexilar locators have made it much easier to locate the fish, the depth they’re holding, the depths our baits are and to see if we still have bait on our lures. [Read more…]

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Early Season Ice Fishing, Safety First Gary Howey

  It’s November when in a normal year with cold weather when people those die hard ice anglers are looking for a place to ice fish.

  Not this year, as the weather we’ve in early November was so unseasonably warm, we haven’t had to field many questions about ice fishing.

  With the warm weather, not too many folks are thinking about ice fishing as it may be awhile before we get any good-safe ice in South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa.

  Before the colder temperatures arrive and ice starts to form, it’s not a bad idea to refresh our memories when it comes to ice safety.

 It’s just common sense to be in a hurry to get out on ponds and smaller lakes or before heading out on any body of water to ice fish, as there is always a danger when it comes to ice.

  Ice color is one of the best ways to see if ice is strong enough to hold you.  Look for clear blue ice, which is the strongest because it’s created by a sustained freeze.

  Black, gray or honeycombed ice is the worst and unsafe because of repeated freezing and thawing. Discolored or dark spots are a good indicator of open water, thin ice, or possibly a spring, all of which are dangerous.

  If there’s snow on the ice, it acts as an insulator, not allowing solid ice formation and making it almost impossible to judge its thickness.

  Snow piling on the unfrozen ground does the same thing to the ice, not allowing the cold temperatures to get down and freeze the ground or the water.

  Sure, ice may look solid, especially along the shoreline where the snow has blown clear, when in fact there’re probably areas on the lake having very little ice because of the snow covering it.

  Anything on the ice, icehouses, fishing piers and bridges absorb the sun’s heat and increase melting.  Vegetation will also absorb heat from the sun, and rotting vegetation can create its own heat as can fish, muskrats, beaver and other animals swimming under the ice can weaken it.  This is especially true in shallow lakes and rivers.

  Any moving water weakens ice approximately 15% and wind creates pumping action forces water through the breaks and cracks enlarging them and making them bigger. Be especially careful if there is a windmill or other type of aerator on the pond as these have outlet pipes under the ice creating moving water, which will weaken the ice.

  If your crossing ice on foot and you’re not sure of the thickness of the ice, it’s safer to slide your feet instead of stepping, as this helps distribute your weight more evenly. [Read more…]

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Prepare now for ice fishing season By Larry MYHRE

I sit here writing this, the temperature outdoors is pushing 70 degrees. It is Nov. 5.

If you are an ice-a-holic, as I am, you too must be wondering, “Will our lakes and ponds ever freeze over this year?”

The answer, of course, is “Yes, they will.” And it may happen sooner than you think. Time just seems to rush by any more.

With this unseasonably warm weather on hand, it is a great time to begin getting your ice fishing gear in order. As much as we like ice fishing and the cold that comes with it, firing up your auger and inspecting your ice fishing shelter is better done when the outdoor temperature is 60 degrees, not 15.

Let’s check our auger first.

There are three areas that need immediate attention. The first is gasoline. It’s best to dump out last year’s supply and start with fresh. Add the right amount of oil to the gas if it is required. Old gas is one of the things that make augers start hard. The other is the spark plug. Pull it out and inspect it. Clean it a bit with steel wool or even a small file. Use a feeler gauge to set the correct gap. You may not need to replace your spark plug every year, but that also depends a lot on how hard you use it. A lot of guys carry a spare plug and a wrench with them out on the ice. Spark plugs on small engines can get fouled easily and a fresh plug can save a lot of starter rope pulling.

Next, inspect the cutters. If they are dull, replace them. If your ice chips resemble those found in a snow cone, it is time for new cutters.

Finally, start the auger a few times and let it idle. If it starts easily, it is ready for action. If not, take it to a small engine repair center.

Most of us fish out of a portable canvas shelter of one kind or another. Take it out on the lawn and set it up. Make sure mice have not nested in it and chewed holes in the canvas. If so, repair the holes or tears. You may need to clean it out and inspect the moving parts to make sure everything is operating correctly.

When your ice fishing shack is up to specs, take a look at your heater. Most run on propane. Start them up a time or two and let them run for a while. Make sure you have enough propane tanks on hand.

Most of us carry a Vexilar flasher depth finder. Charge the battery or replace if needed and make sure the unit runs correctly.

Rods and reels will need to be inspected and checked. Replace the line if it is mono. I repeat, replace the line. It’s that important. Old mono will retain the memory of the spool and come off the reel looking like a slinky. It is impossible to fish effectively with such line, especially with light lures. I like Berkely Micro Ice in four pound test for panfish and six pound for walleyes. Remember that you do not need to replace all the line on the reel. Peel off about 75 feet and cut. Attach the new line to the old with a barrel knot.

Check the line guides on your rods to make sure they are not broken or pulled loose. Check the reel seats for tightness or apply electrician’s tape to anchor your reel. Make sure the rod is still intact. I’ve found splintered tips on several ice fishing rods in the past. Better to find that now than out on the ice.

Sort through all of your ice fishing lures and clean them if needed or sharpen the hooks if needed. [Read more…]